Monday, July 2, 2012

Fear and Loathing In Antwerp

Hey all,

I had a very scary experience yesterday.  Something I didn't expect, yet am always on the guard for.

I was stalked.
I know it sounds dramatic, but it really happened.  I was out exploring a specific neighborhood here in Antwerp called the Zurenborg.  It's filled with beautiful architecture from every style you can imagine.  I'd spent seven hours walking and gawking, completely enjoying myself.  I'd finished up with a beer as I people watched in one of the squares, then looking at the time, I called it a day.

I had about two miles to walk home.  I was tired enough I would have taken the tram, but nothing connected easily to where I wanted to go.  So, map in hand, I headed towards the hotel.

It was an easy walk.  Right along the main drag, so there was no way I would get lost.  And my hotel stands high enough so I could see it once I got close.

About halfway home I noticed a park on the right of the street.  It wasn't anywhere close to dark, but the clouds made things a little gloomy, yet it's a public park.  And I thought it would be a nicer walk than along the street, so I headed inside. 

I didn't get ten steps before my gift was telling me to GET OUT.  I stopped dead and analyzed it.  I'd been drinking, remember.  Was I just being silly or was I really sensing something was off.

It didn't go away, and over the years I've learned the hard way to listen to that inner voice.  I turned around and left the park.

And no sooner was I a few steps out and back on the sidewalk, a man in a blue hoody came at me.  Rushed over and into my space.  He looked okay--not scary--and wanted to know if I needed help, if he could give me directions.  

I had the map in my hand still, but I was fine, other than my spidey-sense tingling all to hell.  I thanked him as I backed away, and told him I wasn't lost, I didn't need help.

He pushed a bit, and I think he was trying to tell me he was a part of like a neighborhood watch and worked with the police.  Well, even if he did--which I had and still have serious doubts--I didn't need help and told him so.

Then he asked me out for a drink.  WTF?  He's gone from hero to potential date?  *insert roll of eyes here* I do what I always do...point to my wedding ring and smile.  "Husband."  Usually they grin and back off.  Not this guy.  He responds with, "Me too."  Which I took to mean he was married, but to a female.

Now I'm not only feeling a little hassled, but disgusted, too.  Like both of us being married makes it okay?  Seriously?  I flat out told him no, turned around and walked away.  Last I saw of him he was hoofing it back down the street.

But it doesn't end there.  About five minutes later I realized I'd taken the wrong road, so I had to turn around.  I kept an wary eye out for the guy, just to be safe.  And a good thing I did.  As I was walking down the main street I heard a shout and saw out of the corner of my eye, him trying to flag me down.

Well, hell no!  I grabbed up my phone, and put on my production power walk.  He was too far away to catch me and there were other people around, but when I saw him trying to cross the street to get to me, my stress level hit a new high.

I had Jonathon on speed dial.  He might not be able to save me, but the thought chased through my mind he'd know where to find my body.  Morbid, you think?

And it's STILL not over.  I glanced over my shoulder once, and then again, and finally began breathing a little easier when I saw no sign of a blue hoody.  I kept on walking fast now, because not only was I a little scared, it was starting to rain.


Finally got to a major corner and there was this beautiful little church.  Lots of people around, so I felt better and went over to take some pictures.  I turn around from getting a pic of these dead people and to my shock, my "admirer" is right behind me.  And this time he was driving.

He has now gone from irritating guy in a blue hoody, to creepy stalker dude in a car.   Now I was seriously scared--and a lot pissed off.  If he's a creepy stalker dude then I'm ready to kick his balls to Canada if necessary.  But if he's a regular-albeit stupid-guy who just wants to go out with me, why the f**k won't he back off?  Doesn't he understand he's making it worse?

In this day and age a guy should know that while persistence in finding a woman can be a good thing, chasing her down a street in a car after she's said no several times IS NOT attractive.  And it can scare the hell out of her.  Even if I were single, and he was an Antonio Banderas clone, I'd rip out his eyes, just on principle.

So creepy stalker dude is shouting how he wants to help me.  He wants me to get in the car so he can take me to the police.  I'm being stubborn.  It's raining.  He wants to take care of me.

Now, I'm nowhere near the car and backing farther away as he's talking.  There are lots of people around, including two guys at a tram stop who were watching suspiciously, so I wasn't in any immediate danger.  But I was mad and scared and I was SOOO done with him.

I told him, NO I didn't need any help.  NO, I didn't need the police.  NO, I wouldn't melt in the rain.  And YES, I was very stubborn.  I said thanks but no thanks.  I don't need you.  Leave me alone.  Then, my courage deserted me, and I pushed my way through the crowd and sneaked around the side of the church and watched to see if he'd leave.

He couldn't come after me in the car--I'd gone behind him--so he had to make a big circle around the block and by that time I'd put my speedy feet on and gotten out of there.

I never saw him again.

But, for the first time in a long time I was scared.  Scared to walk down a street alone, even though there were dozens of people around me.

Was he the reason my gift said to get out of the park?  He WAS coming in after me and if he'd been persistent on the street with everyone around us, would he have not taken no as an answer in the park?  

I have to say I've never been so glad for my empathic gift.  God told me to get out and I listened.  And I honestly believe this story could have had a different ending had I not.

So the moral of this blog is two-fold.  

One-- Ladies watch were you are at all times.  Be aware.  If a guy seems nice, be careful.  Ted Bundy was nice and we all know how that turned out.  Listen to that inner voice we all have.  If it says be afraid... LISTEN.  What have you got to lose?  Your pride?  Better that than your life.

Two-- Guys.  Yes,  women usually love to be chased.  But please, keep it light and easy.  Don't push so hard if they say no.  And for God's sake, don't stalk them or chase them down a street.  You could be the nicest, cutest, bestest guy on the planet, but the moment you cross the line, you change into Creepy Stalker Dude and you might find yourself on a plane to Canada to retrieve your nuts!

Whew, that was cathartic.  I guess I needed to vent.  But if one woman can learn from my lesson, I'm happy I could share it.

Until Wednesday!


CJ England
Follow Your Dreams


The Whistler said...

Glad you acted wisely and are okay!

Anonymous said...

Fabulous advice! very practical.


Miriam Newman said...

Whew, C.J. That's heavy. I remember my mother telling me when I was still a little girl to always listen to that voice, and I always have. Pathetic that we have to do that with our daughters, but we do. Recently a guy on FB wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. Sure.

Ray said...

I am so glad you were able to pick up on getting out of the park and noticing your surroundings. Bad as it was and scared as you were you will be more alert from now on. When you mentioned that you were looking at your map it said unfamiliar with the area.

I am surprised that happened outside the US in a city. I know there is street crime, but usually the non violent kind. Getting in a strange care is always a no no so if the guy wasn't brain dead he should know he was in the wrong.

Women are not the only ones who need to beware. In Souda, Crete one night I saw a bunch of biker kids or is it scooter kids loitering on the sidewalk. I crossed the street to get away from them. One of my shipmates got beat up later that night. He was drunk and thought since he was American he owned the sidewalk. The teens disabused him of that idea. Knowing how obnoxious he was when I had to treat him I wondered why they didn't hit him harder.

Once in the LA area I was trying to get from MCAS Tustin to Manhattan Beach to visit my wife's great aunt. I hitched a ride. A woman in a van picked me up and when I told her where I was going she said if I didn't mind her picking up her child at day care she would take me right to the doorstep where I was going. If I remember right it was about thirty miles or more. When I got back to North Carolina I heard on the news that male hitchhikers were being picked up and killed on the LA freeways during the time I was there.

I hope your scare won't keep you from enjoying yourself. It makes me nervous just to hear about it. Still you are probably 100 times safer than you would be in a large American city. I walked everywhere I went in Europe, but I am very cautious of where I do it here.

Phylis said...

Wow CJ! That's very scary! I am so glad you are ok! When I was very young ( I was, I swear) we are talking tomboy age young there was a park in our neighborhood. Probable about 3 or 4 blocks from home. My best friend and I were playing in the ditch collecting poly wogs and putting them in a bucket. I had gone up to the swings and was swinging and my friend was still in the ditch. This guy started walking towards me and he was muttering and stuff. I heard push you on the swing but couldn't make sense of the others. My instinct kicked in and I jumped off the swing, hollered at my friend and ran home. Left my flip flops and ran on gravel and tar. I told my mom what happened and she called the cops. It turns out the guy was on medication and he hadn't taken it. So don't know if he would have hurt me but my sense told me to leave so I did. I can still remember sitting in the bathtub shivering after the police left. I am so glad you are ok. Keep an eye out for that guy! He could come back. ((((((((((((hugs)))))))) Love ya!

Janice Seagraves said...

Good job listening to that inter voice and telling that guy no. Great list of advice too. As women we have to be careful.


D. Musgrave said...

That's scary and I'm glad you got away from Mr. Creeper.

Suzie said...

CJ, good advice. I was stalked 2 times and one of them had me fearful for months since the guy worked in the same area as me.


Ray said...

This is the day after I first read the blog. I am so glad you made it to safety.

Phylis, Although in the distant past your story is just as scary. I am glad there are now programs in many schools that teach children to be wary of anyone that strikes you as odd even if it is someone you know. When I was growing up if you were not taught by your parents you never learned. Sometime in the 1940's a man and woman came to the farm looking for work. They had a car with a rumble seat. I thought it would be cool to ride in it so I showed them where he was working that day. They didn't get hired and I learned from Dad, physically that you do not interact with strangers when you are a little kid. Because of your awareness you are here to tell the story.

felinewyvern said...

This is so like what happened to my daughter it's spooky. What is it about certain guys that they just don't understand no means NO and that some women actually DO respect their marriage vows?

So glad you listened to the voice that told you to beware and that it all ended better than it could have. Just keep on listening and taking care please.

CJ England said...

Thanks, Robert! It bugs me I have to be more aware, but I surely am more careful now.

CJ England said...

Thanks, Kitty. If I can help just one...

CJ England said...

Oh Miriam, a FB stalker. Those are just as scary. Listening to that little voice is something we all should do, and sometimes don't. And we usually regret it.

CJ England said...

It' funny, Ray. I feel pretty safe. Even in the parts of town where it isn't as busy. Until that day. And he did it when there were lots of people around, so he wasn't the brightest stalker on the planet. I'm aware, but I refuse to allow myself to be spooked. Then he wins anyway.

CJ England said...

Phylis, That is scary. Especially for a kid. Innocence was lost that day and it hurts.

I'm going to keep my eyes open. He may have followed me home and I not know it. Jon's put his foot down and I'm not to go out alone after dark. Not a problem, since I'm usually home earlier than that. And I'm carrying my knife again. Deport me if you will, but I want to be safe!

CJ England said...

Janice, It pisses me off that a simple day of walking turned out to be such a scary one. You're right, we shouldn't have to worry, yet because we are women, we do. Even more than a guy would. Irritates me to no end, but it is what it is.

CJ England said...

Thanks, D. Mr. Creeper can stay on his own side of the park. I'll stay on mine!!!

CJ England said...

Oh Suzie,

That's even worse, knowing he was close by. I may be hyper aware, but I'm hoping it was a one time deal. To know you could see him at any time...terrifying!

CJ England said...

Ray, your story made me laugh. Showed you physically! LOL My mama spanked me good the first time I talked to a stranger. I learned that lesson well as a child. It's too bad as an adult we sometimes have to relearn it again.

CJ England said...

Exactly, Ilona. I'm married. Full stop. Or so it should be. Am I supposed to be impressed that you want to break your vows? IMHO, having sex isn't the only way to cheat. It's in the heart and mind as well as physically. A healthy fantasy is one thing, but taking it that next step, is where so many things can go wrong.

Herbert Grosshans said...

That was some scary experience. Glad you are okay. Maybe you turn it into a positive thing and write a book around it. Too bad we live in such dangerous times. I remember back in the Sixties we left our doors open, walked down dark alleys without worries. Sure, there were always creeps around but not like these days. Now you have to keep your doors locked, you need alarm systems and cameras to feel safe.

CJ England said...

Thanks, Herbert. I agree. I think it wasn't just being scared that bothered me, it was knowing I had to be. That I couldn't walk down a street in broad daylight without being accosted. Bring back Mayberry. We need the simple life again!!!