May 24, 2007

The Appropriate Response

Freedom! The Juniors and Seniors were allowed "open campus" privileges and I was seeking escape from the stench of the high school cafeteria. I opted instead to spend lunch at the park with my dog at my side, finishing up an algebra assignment and snacking on carrots.

I didn't notice his presence in the empty park.

"You speak Spanish?"

I looked up, startled. A thick-set, middle aged man wearing a faded blue garage suit and a smile stood next to my bench.

"Only un poquito." I replied with an apologetic shrug. I wasn't looking for company and he didn't need to know I was in my fifth year of Spanish studies. I looked back down at my homework hoping he'd move on. But he didn't.

After an awkward pause he asked in halting English, "Do you want to do?"

"Excuse me?"

"Do you want to do."

"Do I want to do?"

"Si."

"Do I want to do what?" I asked, completely confused.

"Do you want to do the love?"

I'm not sure which emotion my face reflected, amusement or shock. He was as casual as if he was asking for the time. I had just been propositioned for sex. At that moment, I found the entire situation hysterically funny. At 15, I couldn't remember my mother ever teaching me the right thing to do in this particular situation. Stop Drop and Roll? Play dead? Pray? No, I was pretty sure I hadn't been prepped for this.

"No thank you." I said. When all else fails, resort to good manners. To my relief, he shrugged and turned to leave. I watched him walk slowly up a hill and back to his pick up truck. I'll wait for him to leave before I do, I thought. I don't want to look afraid. The man got in his car. I waited.

Rather than start the truck, the man got out again and came back down the hill to me with a determined step. Why I still sat there I cannot guess. My geriatric mutt would never think of defending me should he try force. I hoped her presence would deter him nonetheless. When he was a few feet away he held something out to me.

"Are you sure?" he asked.

I looked at his outstretched hand and was shocked to see a large wad of bills.

"I'm sure!"

"Okay..."

He turned again, walked up the hill, got into his truck and drove away.

I finished my homework and returned to school for 4th period. I shared the story with friends and got a big laugh. That evening I causally mentioned to my mother that I'd been approached at our park. Like any good mother, she went into fits and called the police immediately. A female police officer came to the house and grimly questioned me in our living room. When it became clear that there was nothing the police could do after so much time had passed, she gave me a stern lecture about how being propositioned is no laughing matter. Easy for her to say, I thought, I bet she's never been asked to 'do the love.'

Why do I share this story of my stupidity? Because to this day I cannot understand how an Honor Roll student like me with perceived street-savvy could have acted so foolishly in this situation. I like to think I'm prepared for many of life's dilemma's but you just can't think up scenarios like this. I know there is no way to guess the awful, dangerous situations life serves up but please let this particular one leave no question. If ever you are asked by a stranger to do the love, "no thank you," is an insufficient response. Try mace.

22 comments:

Annie said...

I rarely read posts that are this long. I just don't have the patience. I am glad I stuck it out.

compulsive writer said...

Or a swift kick in the groin. But only if there is an audience and you're a really good runner.

glittersmama said...

I know that could have been a bad situation, but it cracked me up!

Amy said...

I agree with glttersmama: why is this so funny when it shouldn't be? Did he have a plan for if you agreed? Right there in the park? Or in his truck maybe?

There is something poetic about the clash of worlds--privileged, studious, sheltered white girl meets frisky middle-aged, hispanic gardener. He might have been just as shocked if you had asked him to help you with your homework.

Amy said...

You better put this on the list of situations to train Penny for.

pflower10 said...

are you privileged???

Sarah said...

Well, I'm not so hard up that I needed to take his cash!

I know this is a gross, disturbing situation in summary, but yeah, the wordplay made it just plain strange. You can bet your bottom I'm going to prep Penny for this one!

Mary said...

SArah, we were never of the opinion that you were, uh, as you said, street savvy.

Susan M said...

I used to live in an inner city neighborhood where it was common to be mistaken for a prostitute.

What was scary was the old man in the kidnapper's van who would trail you slowly down the street.

Chanel said...

oh my heck, give me more things to freak out about while raising girls. we're having a hard enough time teaching them to keep their clothes on without propositions!

Rrramone said...

Hard to believe this really happened. Wow.

Anonymous said...

I had a similar situation, if you can believe it. When I was 16, I was walking the 3 blocks from high school to a friend's house, and a man said to me, very friendly, "Can I ask you a question?" Raised ever to be polite, I said, "Yeah, sure." He said, "If I gave you 10 bucks, would you F--- me right now?"

I honestly hadn't a clue what to say, and my mind went from pithy-'Hey, you only think I'm worth 10 bucks?' to 'Go away, you total sicko!'. Instead, I resorted to politeness, as you did, and just said, "I don't think so".

Unfortunately, he just didn't walk away, but I won't go into details. When I finally told an adult about what happened (you know, months later), he was angry and shocked and said I should have called the police. But at the time, I felt just like you did--totally unprepared and unaware of what to do. And after the incident, I simply just kept walking to my friend's house. I didn't even bother to get the license plate of the car he climbed into right after. Dumb, dumb girl.

citymama1 said...

I think girls are raised to be too polite. I probably would have done the same thing, Sarah, but I hope I can raise my daughter to be more of a groin kicker if ever placed in a similar situation.

Question: How to raise girls who can be polite at the dinner table, but strong and assertive when approached by crazy people?

Adrienne said...

Wow... can you believe I had totally forgotten the "Do you want to do the love?" story until just now? Didn't that become a stock response to any question after that?

"Do you wanna go see a movie?"
"I dunno, do you want to do... the loooove?"

You know, I think it wouldn't have been quite so hilarious if we'd found you floating face-down in the creek...

Th. said...

.

What was this honor student wearing?

Sarah said...

Wearing? Come to think of it, I think I was in the buff that day. I guess I was asking for it.

Adrienne said...

th: Probably The stock High School Sarah Uniform - Baggy jeans with the knees torn out, some sort of tshirt she stole from her sisters and a pair of Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Let me look, I think I have pictures...

Rachelle said...

I can hear it now...
"Penny, if someone ever asks you if you 'want to do the lovin' scream 'STRANGER!!!' and run like heck!"

I can laugh, because I was actually approached three times as a child by a man in a car who was trying to abduct me. I did the right things. He said something the first time (I don't even know if it was the same guy really) that made me laugh as a kid, but grosses me out now.

All I can say is thank God he didn't pull me in the car- if it was this day and age, he would have.
I am glad you are safe,
Rachelle

AzĂșcar said...

Having been in similar scary-now situations and funny-then, I think we're blessed with the ability to act calmly when anything else could have invited a much worse response.

Basic Black with Pearls said...

Uh, if you were only fifteen, how could you have been driving yourself to and from school? Not that I'm not all upset about the story, but come on, get it straight! Either you were 16 and driving or 15 and it was after school or a Saturday. What's it gonna be?

Sarah said...

Wow - ease up there, Mom. I guess I must have been 16 since it was lunch during a school day and thus must have driven myself.

Yer mother said...

Hmmph. Thanks. I feel better now, knowing that you weren't sneaking off with the car as a fifteen year old. Oh, and that you weren't abducted in the park! I hope you're being nice and rude to strangers who ask you to do the love these days. When Nubsy and I were in Athens, we snuck a chocolate bar out of the minibar after Dad told us to leave it in there. I came out on our balcony, approached Caroline and whispered to her, waving the chocolate bar in front of her, "Do you want to do the love?" She knew what I meant. We enjoyed that yummy treat while reclining on a lovely Athenian evening with a great view of the Acropolis. So your horrible nightmare of a weird encounter with a perv has become transformed into a rhetorical art form within the Fam. Just so you know...