Photo by: Shutterstock

The Stranger is in Danger

by ML of "I Miss You When I Blink"
Photo by: Shutterstock

This one goes out to the guy in the elevator who had no idea how close he came to being mauled to death by two small children and their babysitter (who is actually their mother, but is so youthful in appearance and demeanor, I’m sure you thought she was the babysitter). This is for you, sir.

It had been a long afternoon. True – we may have been a smidge on the antisocial side when we stepped into the elevator. We didn’t say hello or ask how you were doing, pass out party favors or ask for song requests. We just settled our collective gaze onto the floor.

It didn’t occur to me that maybe you were waiting for me to say something. (You seemed busy anyway, cramming that granola bar into your mouth like a tree branch into a chipper-shredder.) But I did pick up on your hostility when your head turned and your eyes aimed right at our little three-person huddle. Not a quick gander, mind you, but a lingering, purposeful glare from two feet away and for a full minute.

I don’t like being stared at. Moreover, it ain’t cool to stare at my offspring. So you were already giving me the heebies before you piped up with this:

“HELLO to you, too. YEAH, I get it. Strangers are DANGER, right? Especially with ‘kids’ around.”

Quick note here, Creepy McCreeperson: You don’t need air-quotes around “kids.” They’re not “quote-unquote” kids. Not metaphorical kids. Actual kids.

Pause. Now I need to back up to the night before so you have some context to why you almost died in the moment following that comment.

Perhaps you’ve heard the news reports about some guy who’s been driving around attempting to snatch kids out of their front yards? We have. The evening before, we had a family chat about what to do in that case. In as matter-of-fact a way as possible, we ran through a few situations: What if you’re in the front yard and someone drives up? What if they say they know your mom or dad? What if they have a gun? Same instructions, no matter what: SCREAM and RUN.

Brother and sister followed me around for the next two hours posing scenarios, such as: What if the stranger is on the roof? What if the stranger is hiding in the mailbox? What if the stranger has an invisible car? What if the stranger pulls his face off and he’s really an old lady in a mask and she looks like Mrs. Claus?

Me: Scream and run.
Her: But first, I should probably poke his eyes out, right?
Me: Nope. Just scream and run.
Him: I could do like this in a really deep voice, “You will BACK AWAY NOW OR I WILL LOOK INTO YOUR BRAIN AND MELT YOUR MIND.”
Her: Or I could punch him and punch him and punch him until he throws up all his guts, and swing my book bag and cut off his legs and be like, “BAAHAHAAAA!” (wild karate moves]
Him: And I could be like, “I WILL SET YOUR SOUL ON FIRE!”
Me: Just scream and run, babes.

That night, my husband and I chuckled, knowing that our son was probably upstairs practicing firestarter-eyes in the mirror, while our daughter was carving a shiv out of a doll’s leg to stick in her sock, just in case.

So you see, sir, when it was just the four of us and ‘Rhythm is Gonna Get You’ on Muzak in the elevator, you probably didn’t realize what you were up against. You could not have known you were in the presence of not only a mama bear willing to go all kinds of apesh*t on your ass to protect her cubs, but also a child who believes he can kill you with his thoughts and yet another who fancies herself Chuck Norris.

Otherwise, you’d have known that using the terms “stranger” and “danger” with this crowd was like cracking a bomb joke right next to the most violent little TSA agents at the airport.

You may not have noticed the split-second my daughter looked up at you, wide-eyed, and then back at me, like, “Is this it? Is this WHAT I’VE BEEN TRAINING FOR??”

You may not have even felt it when her brother began incinerating your insides with the powers of his mind.

And it probably went undetected when I slid my hand into my purse and uncapped an EpiPen. Yeah. That’s how people with allergies roll.

But you were aware of none of this, I suppose.

The chime sounded…the doors opened…and you just stepped out. You didn’t even break into a run.

Lucky timing for you, stranger. Lucky timing for you.

ML Philpott is a mother of two, an award-winning freelance writer and editor, and the author of the humor column, I Miss You When I Blink.

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