Today’s trip to our local park was a real eye opener for me. Besides being uncomfortable at the masses of people there, I realized mid-trip that I have watched entirely too many episodes of Criminal Minds. Mind you, this fact is reminded to me weekly by my hubby when I regale the paranoia I encounter almost nightly after dark, but today I believe I brought it to a whole new level – a level in which it was possible that police could have been called had I not controlled myself.
When we arrived at the park, my heart sank (like normal) when I saw how many Toledo citizens agreed with me that the mild temperatures created the perfect park day. On top of the mass conglomeration of kids and their parents, there were also more dogs than I was comfortable with. Well, in all fairness, one dog is more than I’m comfortable with, but that’s beside the point. Trudging across the grass (too long and filled with clover so thus, filled with bees), only one son was excited to play so we thought we’d ditch the people and go for walk in the woods.
The trail to the woods was littered with a few solitary walkers. I kept the kids close and found every reason to leave the trail toward the park side whenever those creepy, smiling hikers came close (read: single people are always suspect to me). Yes, we even explored the inside of a grill to keep from interacting with what I was sure was a soon-to-be abduction attempt.
As we approached a not completely hidden fork in the trail, two men stood talking smack in the middle of the intersection. The mother and BAU profiler in me was convinced this was all a ploy to make me (yes, I was sure they singled me out!) think they were just normal, nature-lovin’ folks, mindin’ their own business until BAM! One reaches out, grabs a child by the arm and tosses him into the van barreling out of the woods. Just like that, in a literal blink of an eye, my world would be over. Staring at them from afar (yeah, I gotta be able to describe them down to the five o’clock shadow pattern) but looking down as we passed them, I fought back the hyperventilation flirting with my lungs and pushed on. The boys, completely unaware of the dire situation entirely within my head, tripped over each other, laughed and pulled on my hands when . . .
“Hi boys! Is your mom taking you for a walk?”
Breathe, breathe, breathe. That man, that certain molester/murderer/vagrant, just engaged my children! I forced a smile void of eye contact and pushed them on – literally, I had to place my hands on their backs in puuuuush. My head twitched to the side every two seconds or so, looking to make sure he wasn’t following us. He wasn’t, but I still had my hand on my phone all the same. Just in case.
This encounter today made me question: at one point is it okay to call the cops? My irrationality was overwhelming my sanity, which knew deep down that nothing bad was going to happen; but my body was in fight or flight mode anyway. With a mother’s instinct, when should one ignore it and chalk it up to paranoia?