We interrupt your regularly scheduled medical microfiction to bring you a personal story. If you’re here for the flash fiction and prefer to skip, you won’t hurt my feelings. Check out the archives instead, or check back later for what I’ve got cooked up next. Otherwise, pull up a chair and pour yourself a cup of coffee. This tale is true, and mine.
As some of you may know , for the past year I’ve had occasional encounters with a creep in my neighborhood who likes to follow me in his car when I’m out running. These encounters have been very rare, perhaps once every couple of months. Nonetheless, Creeper Guy’s behavior’s been consistent enough that a pattern has emerged.
The pattern goes like this: on the way home from a run, I pass by his house, which is at the entrance to my neighborhood. He sits in his car with the engine idling. I pass him, reach the intersection just down the road, and he pulls out of his driveway and begins following me. Sometimes it’s the slow, creepy, driving-right-behind you following. More often, he does a few roll-bys at around 15mph up and down the street–perhaps to maintain the pretense that he’s “coincidentally” driving in my vicinity, over and over again. Historically, having a run-in with him prompts me to radically change my running route, and sometimes stop running altogether for a few weeks (sad but true).
Recently I’ve been ramping up my training in the hopes of running some more races in the summer and fall. And since it’s almost summer in Georgia, I’ve preferred morning runs to avoid the ridiculous heat. Mornings, unfortunately, are when Creeper Guy likes to make an appearance.
This last Wednesday was going to be special. I intended to reach a new training milestone. To motivate myself, I even picked out something special to listen to: Drabblecast B-Sides #9: Connor Choadsworth–In Search of the Mongolian Deathworm. If you’re not yet addicted to the Drabblecast, you have to understand that this particular episode is unique. It’s a hilariously inappropriate parody of nature documentaries, Bono, Dune, Dr. Seuss, Christmas carols and more, narrated by a character named Connor Choadsworth who’s something like a deranged Steve Irwin.
So on Wednesday, I hit the road. Everything went great until the homestretch, 15 minutes away from home. I was running along a major road with plenty of traffic when I noticed Creeper Guy’s car drive by. It’s easy to recognize by a large, distinctive decal on his back windshield. I didn’t think anything of it until I approached my neighborhood entrance a few minutes later. This is where it gets strange. Several hundred yards ahead, his car rolled up out of the treeline as if he were going to turn out onto the major road. He looked in my direction, saw me, and rolled backwards, back into the neighborhood!
Real subtle, Creeper Guy.
By now, I was beat. It was the end of an especially hard run, after all. Now I had to stow my iPod and deal with Creeper Guy. I had to pass his house to get home. Hoping he wouldn’t mess with me today, I pretended to talk on my phone as I ran past. Sure enough, he was sitting in his car in the driveway with the engine idling. Sure enough, he waited until I reached the intersection to pull out onto the road.
At this point, my body helpfully dosed me with some sweet, sweet adrenaline, which eased the pain in my legs but made me feel woozy. I prayed he wouldn’t try anything today. I had no strength left to give.
Fortunately, another car queued up behind him to turn at the intersection, which meant I got a head start booking it toward my house. He managed a couple of drive-bys before I got there, but the timing worked out so I was able to get home without him seeing where I live (this makes more sense if you see my street). It probably helped that I gave him the death-glare each time he rolled by and kept up my one-sided phone conversation. We both knew I was watching him.
Over the last year, many of you have told me to call the police on Creeper Guy, and looking back on it, you’re absolutely right. When I reflect on it now, I had some complex reasons why I didn’t.
For one, I’ve never had to call the police before. Before Wednesday, I failed to see my own predicament as something that deserved their attention. I thought they’d be annoyed if I bothered them about this problem. While Creeper Guy scared me, he’d never done anything outright illegal.
Another thing: filing a report felt like acknowledging that a problem did, indeed exist. It’s much easier to assume it’s all a misunderstanding or coincidence. I harbored Creeper Guy no ill will. He was a neighbor, after all. We all want to believe that our neighbors wish us peace. I’ve noticed that people sometimes employ similar logic with health problems. Something doesn’t feel right in your body, but you put off going to the doctor because it’ll somehow make the issue “real”. You’ll have to deal with your lung cancer or kidney stones instead of continuing to believe you’re hale and hearty. Same with my hangups about filing a police report.
But Wednesday was different. The treeline hide-and-seek irked me. But something else put me over the edge.
It was Connor Choadsworth: In Search of the Mongolian Deathworm.
As I was talking myself out of calling the police, I noticed my iPod lying where I’d dumped it on the table. In all the hassle, I didn’t get to finish the podcast I’d saved just for this run.
Creeper Guy ruined Connor Choadsworth. And that pissed me off.
I was so pissed that I dialed the police on the spot. A few minutes later, a police officer stopped by my house. We had a nice long chat about the whole situation and came up with a plan for dealing with this guy while keeping me 100% safe. At long last, I’m reasonably confident that I won’t have another run-in with Creeper Guy, and if I do, I now have a plan in place for handling him much more effectively than I did in the past.
After the officer left, I finally finished Mongolian Deathworm. And it was awesome.
- My local police officers are awesome.
- It’s okay to call 911. Really, it’s okay! No more fake phone calls while jogging.
- The psychology between creeps and the people they harass is complicated. Don’t be so quick to write folks off as dumb for failing to take action against a creep immediately. Hindsight is 20/20. (For podcast addicts, I find this apropos to a controversial Escape Pod story that ran last month).
- Fiction is compelling. Sometimes it can reach into the real world and influence your decisions. It’s why we write, even my medical microfiction. Thanks, Drabblecast.
Happy Friday, gang. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments below. Even better, leave me a link to something fun!
- I’ve figured out the perfect way to fend off creepers (lauradonovan.wordpress.com)