Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Stranger Danger? In My House?

As we parked the car, her naptime seemed so close I could taste it.  I desperately needed some child-free peace after a morning at the Children’s Museum and lunch at one of our fave city restaurants, Coalfire Pizza. 

And Lady A was thumbing her nose at me. Sadistically and maddeningly thumbing that little button nose at me as she took her sweet ass time sitting in every seat in the car before I lost it and pulled her tiny butt out. 

She dilly-dallied up our front stairs before deciding to run back and forth on our front landing. 

And then it started to rain. 


I held our very heavy front door and shouted at Lady A to, “Come in, _____!” My scolding of my children had begun to have strange silences, i.e. Get in your (pause) bed.  I am so tired of this (pause)!

I never saw her coming.  Almost magically, as if she’d sprung from a brick, a woman dashed inside ahead of my kid. She was a kindly-looking 50-ish woman wearing a floral pink blouse and pink slacks.  And I do mean blouse and slacks, not pants and a shirt.  There is a difference.


“Can I help you?  Are you Sheila’s mom?” I asked.  After all, maybe she was totally legit and knew someone in our building.  The last time I asked someone what they were doing sitting on my stoop, it turned out to be Sheila’s brother, who thinking I was engaging in racial profiling, got all indignant with me. 

I decided to tread lightly even though I had the right to ensure that my home was safe.

“No,” she said merrily, with a matter-of-fact air.  “Just coming in out of the rain.”

Okay?  So you ran ahead of a toddler to enter a private residence where you don’t know anyone to get out of the rain?  You didn’t ask boo, shit or howdy, you just scooted on in?!  Are you insane lady? 

How I wish I’d said, “Honey, you might as well getcha self a bar of soap, because you gon’ get a shower!”

The thing was, she didn’t seem dangerous or criminal, just unbelievably stupid.  But this was 2012 and Chicago, and you never knew. 

Maybe she had a carful of thugs waiting outside to hold everyone in our building hostage!  Maybe she was a grandmotherly con-lady who would gain my trust and force her way into our apartment!

Lady A began handing this simpleminded woman a package that had been left for a neighbor and some phone books.  She also began chatting up our seemingly harmless trespasser, who seemed quite taken with her advanced for a two-year-old verbal skills.

I tried to straddle the line between short answers and rudeness.  Starting an argument with a stranger who knew where I lived seemed like a super bad idea.

Practically tripping up the stairs and tossing phone books out of my daughter’s hands, I then tried to race my child, a diaper bag, a tote bag and a box of pizza up the stairs to our condo.

We rushed inside and I hurriedly put on the alarm.  From our sunroom I could see the building’s front door.  She stood, watching the downpour, with her body pressed against the glass.  In a few minutes, as the shower tapered off, she peeked up at the sky and skipped out, holding one of the grocery store circulars left in our lobby. 

Her story was true. 

I felt angry with myself for if not making her leave, then letting her know that I felt uncomfortable -- that while she seemed a nice woman who was genuinely seeking shelter from a downpour, the way she went about it was all wrong. 

Had I watched too many movies/given too much credence to the local news, or was I being legitimately wary about city life? 

My new blogging acquaintance over at the fabulous MotherhoodWTF? wrote about stranger danger and lamented her desire to be polite instead of confrontational.  Why is being eager to please even when we’re uncomfortable something we women tend to resort to?

What would you have done?  Would you have kindly, but firmly stated your case, while letting her wait out the rain?  What?

Tell me.

And imagine if something like that had happened in some gun-happy, stand-your-ground lovin’ community. 

I shudder to think.


  1. I remember this day. And you calling me, fairly rattled, afterward. I get it. Maybe some people wouldn't... But living in a big city means being cautious and maybe even suspicious. I think she should've found the nearest bus shelter. Or convenience store. Or umbrella. But a private residential building? No, indeed.

  2. I guess I don't understand. Why was "the way she went about it all wrong?" Maybe she heard you say "Come in ____" to your daughter and misunderstood and thought you were inviting her in. What is so terrible about wanting a place to shelter, even if it is in your private residence? It is weird to be sure, but shouldn't be terrifying. These little kindnesses between strangers used to be commonplace.

    I live in Dallas, a big city, and a big "gun-happy, stand-your-ground lovin' community" and if this happened to me, the southern hospitality code would have not only demanded that I let her stay, but also that I offered her coffee or tea while she waited.

    I can sympathize though. I've been in situations (with a little one in tow) that just felt "off" and there is an overwhelming fear and desire to just get out of there. For me, I don't think this would have been that type of situation. Just a different perspective, I guess.

    I like your blog very much, by the way, especially the dance interviews. Thanks!


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