Last week I had an encounter that turned out to be nothing; the thing I’m going over in my mind was it supposed to be something more.
It happened when I stopped at a local convenience store to fill up. I was on my way home and it was on the route.
So I pull into the pumps, this time picking the very outside lane (about 8 lanes) and the pump set furthest away from the store door. This is the typical 2 pump lanes with a space in between each pump. This is important so keep it in mind.
As I got out of the not-so mean green machine (’97 Blazer), I noticed a lady in a van on the inside pump closer to the store. She seemed a little, well the only way to put it nicely was “off”. She was staring at something. Nothing that I could see; so I thought she might be watching the rear view mirror for someone to come out of the store.
I started the pump, retrieved the squeegee and washed the front windshield.
The lady was still staring….at something.
I washed the back windshield and returned the squeegee.
The lady was still staring ….at something.
The pump cut off and I topped off the tank. Yep, I’m one of the scofflaws that live dangerously and try to destroy the environment. No sooner then I had put the nozzle back in the holder than an older gentleman walked around the corner of the brick pylon supporting the canopy. This was at the back of my car so I was facing him as he came around and starting walking toward me.
As he took a step around the corner, I backed up a couple of steps and sort of held up my left hand and waved it. A clear signal that both of us understood.
He stopped ten feet away and said “I not trying to cause any trouble. I’m homeless and just trying to get some money to catch a bus to the homeless shelter”
The homeless shelters are about 10 miles away; not far from down town Fort Worth. Not an implausible story but one I had trouble with. There were several things that I automatically noted; his appearance was clean — as in just showered that morning clean. His clothing didn’t have any scuff marks, didn’t have any dirt or any other stains, his tennis shoes were clean, fairly new and the laces bright. Neither his jeans or his shirt was wrinkled in the least. He had the ubiquitous backpack; again not a spot on it, not a scuff or wear mark that I could see. Nor were the colors faded. He had a beard but one that appeared to have been recently trimmed.
Once I was sure he wasn’t approaching any closer, I took a quick look over my shoulder. The lady in the van was still staring…..but it might have been at him. Not sure, didn’t take long enough of a look to be sure.
Risking my soul, I told him “Sorry, Can’t help you”. He walked back the way he came and I lost sight of him. As soon as he was out of sight, I got in the car, locked the door (normal habit) and headed home. No reports that I’ve seen of a robbery, purse snatching or anything else at that location.
So….was it just a coincidence and I am paranoid?
I don’t know. Honestly, I’ve thought about it and can’t decide. In all likelihood it was probably just a homeless guy looking for bus fare and a woman waiting for someone.
But I do know that I am comfortable with my actions and responses. If nothing else, it was a chance to practice some of the things that can be done to avoid / deter criminals. It was a chance to see how people react to those things.
1. Keep the distance Open — I would have preferred a little more distance but the car length plus a couple of feet, combined with the tight space between the car and the pump, would have given me time to react.
2. Don’t have to be impolite to get your message across — Simply holding up my hand and waving it stopped the guy from approaching any closer. Had he ignored that my response would have differed greatly.
3. It is okay to be impolite — this isn’t a contradiction. While I prefer to be polite; I had no trouble telling the man I wouldn’t help him out. Most of us are taught to be polite, to help out others, to be considerate of those less fortunate. Criminals know this and take advantage of it to close the distance and select their victims.
4. Pay attention to bad vibes — the lady staring started me wondering what was going on. Could she have been waiting on someone, yes. But because of the vibe I got, I was very quick to spot the man as he came around the support. The impression of the man’s clothing didn’t add up to homeless and living on the streets. Could I have been wrong and he was simply panhandling, yes. But it did no harm to say no and go on my way.
Please join the discussion.