Thursday, March 19, 2009
What Part of "Stranger Danger" Do You Not Understand, Idiot?
We grow up in an environment where we are told not to talk to strangers. We hear stories about children who are snatched from their beds, from shopping carts, from playgrounds. We see Today Show reports every week about the new ploys child snatchers are using to lure children into their cars. No T-shirts with your name on them. No helping anyone look for his lost dog. No eating Halloween candy that looks like it's been tampered with. My parents did a good job. I was told about every single person who could potentially do me harm and how to avoid those people. My dad once handed me $10 and told me to put it in my pocket because, "If someone tries to take your money from your hand and you won't let go of it, he'll just take you instead." You know what? It worked. I was scared of strangers as a child, and I'm still scared of strangers as an adult.
I am terrified of vans with tinted windows. I'm scared of dark playgrounds and seedy bars. I'm afraid of men with so much facial hair, you probably wouldn't be able to identify them in a lineup if they shaved. So, why is it so hard for people who are strangers to me to understand why I prefer to not speak to them?
Yesterday afternoon, I was on my way back from the library and I passed this panhandler that I see probably every day. I've never spoken to him. And yet yesterday he decided was the day to get offended that I ignore him. As I walked by, he said, "So you're just not going to even look at me? Is that it?"
No, panhandler guy. I'm not. You know why? Because I don't know who you are. You could be a rapist or a murderer or someone who sleeps with his dead mother's corpse at night. Maybe you aren't any of those things. Maybe you really are just a guy who is down on his luck and needs some spare change to buy yourself some dinner. But I choose not to chance it. That doesn't make me a bad person. It makes me a safe person. It makes me self-aware. I don't feel sympathy when I look at you. I feel fear and distrust. And there is nothing wrong with that, so stop being an assface.
I once watched this Dateline special about keeping your children safe and talking to them about strangers. And there was this one kid who, when the stranger approached him, stood on top of the jungle gym and screamed his head off. The stranger didn't even speak to him first. This kid took no chances with this person who could potentially do him harm. As far as I'm concerned, he had the right idea. If having that attitude is wrong, I'm fine with being wrong. I'm okay with offending panhandlers and homeless people and guys who just give me a weird vibe. If it keeps me safe, then I will continue to be unfriendly to strangers.
If you have a problem with that, panhandler guy, maybe you would like to take it up with this can of pepper spray?