Earlier this week, I had to go into downtown Annapolis for an appointment. When I got there, the office was not yet opened so I stood outside of the door and waited in the winter sunshine.
A man spotted me from across the street and called out, crossing the street in the middle of cars. He walked with a slight limp, had very few teeth and was carrying a paper bag molded to the shape of a bottle. In broken speech he asked me how I was doing. I politely answered; not exactly comfortable but trying to remind myself that having not done anything but ask me how I was doing, he deserved a respectful answer to the question.
Maybe it would have been better to be curt or dismissive... because he appeared to suddenly believed that he knew me and inched closer and closer as he attempted to guess my name. Several guesses in, the owner of the office I was waiting for arrived and quickly opened the door for me. I politely said goodbye and closed the door, ignoring the fact that he attempted to stick his hand in the door as it closed.
An hour and a half later, I walked out that door and headed towards my car, which was parked in a garage several blocks away. I looked up to see the same man ahead, with his back to me. Slowing down, I watched as he turned left and crossed the street. I breathed a sigh of relief as I crossed straight and went on my way.
Suddenly, he was behind me again... he must have seen me, crossed back over the street and was now following me, waving his arms and calling, “Hey! You!”
I walked a little faster, refusing to turn around or acknowledge him. He continued to shout and follow me. I came to a parking garage a block before mine. When I glanced in and saw the figure of a person standing in the attendance booth, I dodged into the lot and approached the booth. The man followed me in, still shouting.
The woman in the booth did not see me but she saw him. She busted out of the booth, yelling to him that he needed to stay out. I got the impression that it was not her first encounter with the guy. He seemed to think about it for a minute, then turned and left. I quietly called out to the attendant and explained that he had been following me, that I was sorry but I didn’t know what else to do.
Initially startled to see me standing behind her, she quickly smiled at me and said, “oh honey, it’s no problem. I’ve seen him before and you can never be too safe. Here, let me just walk you to your car to be sure.”
And that, my friends, is exactly what she did. She left her post during her work day, walked me another block to my garage, down four flights of stairs and across the garage to my car.
As we walked, we talked about how we want to give people the benefit of the doubt but unfortunately it doesn't always seem safe to do so. I told her I had little kids and she said “oh honey, you can’t take your chances. Better safe than sorry.” When we got to my car I asked for her name and if I could give her a hug. As we embraced, I thanked her and she smiled at me and left.
Her name is Ceil. The garage she works at is owned by Loughlin Management Group and she has been an employee there for 32 years. I know this because I called them and spoke to the owner of the Annapolis branch.
Calling her boss still doesn’t seem like quite enough. Perhaps it seemed small to her, but it was no where near small to me. She didn’t NEED to help me. She didn’t NEED to drop what she was doing to ensure that this semi-paranoid mama felt safe. Yet she did- without hesitation.
My kids may get great grades, they may become awesome athletes, earn scholarships to the best schools and eventually have jobs that make them lots of money.
I will always be proud of them for any accomplishments they achieve, big or small. But to watch them grow into adults who will willingly and selflessly help a stranger- now that is what will make me feel like we did a decent job with this parenting gig.
Thank you, Ceil from Loughlin Management Group. Thank you.