Posted in response to Safety First, a prompt asking “Share the story of a time you felt unsafe”

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Once when I was in my early teens, I awoke to hear very heavy breathing outside my bedroom door. I immediately began to frantically formulate a plan to thwart the evil plan of the drooling maniac in our upstairs hallway.

I seriously contemplated options, and envisioned my grizzly demise for a good 5 minutes before hearing a startle, a cough, and my parents bed squeaking, and then silence. I realized that the heavy breathing was nothing more than my snoring dad, whose head was directly opposite mine behind the wall of my bedroom. He’d woken himself up and rolled over to go back to sleep.

I was both relieved and ashamed that I had been so stupid and gullible.

Speaking of being stupid and gullible, another time I felt unsafe was when I stupidly made an appointment with a “photographer.” He had approached my girlfriend and me in New York City, saying we would be perfect for a project he was working on. My friend thanked him and declined, but I agreed to talk with him.

The day of the appointment something was gnawing at me, so I followed my gut and I called to cancel. Rather than being amiable or nonchalant about the news of my no-show, he was furious. He began screaming at me, cursed me out and hung up the phone. I’ve always been thankful that I listened to my instincts…I’m wondering if I would’ve wound up floating in the East River had I not.

I also remember feeling very vulnerable when I would come home late at night. The walk from my car to my front door at 3 a.m. seemed a mile long, and lined with creeps and perverts waiting in the bushes to pounce on me.

So I formed a little strategy. I would talk to a neighbor that wasn’t there. I’d raise a hand and say, “Hey Tony, it’s late to be walking your dog! I’m just getting home myself!”

Or, I’d talk to my mom as if she were sitting on the porch-anything to make a thug waiting in the darkness think that I was not any easy mark. If he tried to grab me, there’d be a witness…in theory.

I can’t imagine what it would feel like to really be in trouble. Like life or death trouble. I mean, I really thought I was a goner that night that I heard the breathing outside my door, but I was just a stupid kid with an overactive imagination.

To know true terror is something I don’t wish on anyone…but it happens every day. Kids abducted, innocent people shot by lunatics with guns, muggings, rapes.

I’ve managed to dodge that bullet for 51 years. And I hope to God my kids learn to dodge it too – or that I’m around to take the bullet for them.

 

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