Sticky Situations and Warning Bells

When I was about 14, a friend of my parents introduced me to his nephew. “Nephew” was a good-looking boy of about 17 years old, and he paid me a flattering amount of attention. I remember feeling mesmerized by this person telling me how beautiful I was, how smart I was, and so on. I had never had a boy pay so much attention to me before.

Long story short, I had a gut feeling about this nephew; I couldn’t have put words to it, but I felt deeply that something was “off” about him. I didn’t think much more about it, but I wondered why I felt the way I did.

My parents ok’d a skiing afternoon for me and the nephew; my dad said that he would drive us to the town ski slope, and would ski with us. To my 14 year old self, it sounded exciting and just a bit dangerous. But my dad was with us, so I felt safe.

After a few runs, the nephew wanted to try one of the many trails on the slope. There were several, but the one he asked about was the most difficult one. I’d skied it before; it was very fast and a bit narrow, and you had to keep your ski poles in tight so that they wouldn’t snag on any branches.

After Dad skied down, we headed for the trail. Halfway down there was a tiny spot where you could stop if you needed to fix a binding or just rest a while. The nephew steered me into it, and started talking to me about something I really had no interest in; world politics.

While I wondered why he wanted to stop and talk about this, he got closer and closer to me. Suddenly I felt in danger. I started to move away from him, but he edged in closer. I tried to agree with him so that we could just finish going down the trail, but he wouldn’t stop talking.

An internal alarm bell I didn’t even know I had sounded in my head. Suddenly I felt that I had to get away and fast. I babbled something about being cold and wanting a cup of hot chocolate down at the lodge. I didn’t even listen to his answer when I edged around him and took off down the rest of the trail as fast as I could go. Luckily, I ran into Dad who had been waiting for us.

After I told my parents what had happened, they immediately put a stop to their friendship with their friend after telling him what his nephew had done. It wasn’t as if he threatened me, but he did scare me, and that was enough for my parents.

Being so young and inexperienced, I felt that I had done something wrong and that the encounter was my fault. My mother quickly told me that it wasn’t, but that this was a lesson to remember: if you feel that something is wrong, it probably is.

I was very lucky that nothing happened that day, but I did learn from it. Never again would I go against my instincts when my own warning bell went off. I never knew what happened to the nephew and what his life turned out to be. But I never forgot that “fight or flight” feeling I had with him.

Again, if you feel that something is wrong, it probably is.




Hold Your Head Up – Pay Attention

Are we becoming a land of hunchbacks? It seems that everywhere we look, everyone is walking, sitting and (Heaven help us) DRIVING with our heads down to look at our devices. As with anything, this can become a habit with pretty serious consequences. Not only is this habit bad for necks and shoulders, but it could be a potential killer.

There is actually a name for this condition: “distracted walking.” Some call them “dead walkers” because by not paying attention, they can easily become DEAD. The numbers rise every year for people who have walked into traffic while reading that all-important text or image. I remember a video that went viral about a woman in a mall who was so focused on her cell phone that she fell right into a fountain. You could hear the security folks in the background, laughing their heads.

And, if you can believe it, the woman had the gall to complain about those who laughed at her! She said, “I could have been seriously hurt, and they are laughing about it.” <Insert wah-waaaaaaahhhhh> sound effect here> Seriously, if you are so engrossed in your device that you can’t be bothered to look where you’re going, expect people to laugh long and loud when you fall into a fountain.

I’m no expert, and I don’t even own a SmartPhone (FYI, I have an old-fashioned flip-phone). But I know how addictive things like this can get. And we all have our little addictions, don’t we?

Jim Gaffigan, one of my favorite comedians, had a great monologue about McDonald’s and things that are like McDonald’s. Here’s a clip from it:

“I’m tired of people acting like they are better than McDonald’s. It’s like you never set foot in McDonald’s, but you have your own McDonald’s. Maybe instead of buying a Big Mac, you read US Weekly. Hey, that’s still McDonald’s. It’s just served up a little different. Maybe your McDonald’s just telling yourself that your Starbucks frappe-latte is not a milkshake. Or maybe you watch Glee. It’s all McDonald’s. McDonald’s of the soul.”

So if we do not want to be hit by a speeding SUV while checking Face Book as we amble across a busy street, how about we save the phone checking until we cross that street, pass that fountain in the mall, and so on. It could mean that you don’t turn into a hunchback. Or worse, a dead hunchback.