October 21, 2014

I Told Him I Wanted to Be a Leopard, but I'm Kind of Afraid He Wants to Kill Me

This is me.
Almost every day, I get outside during my lunch break for a walk. I do this 1. to control the size of my butt and 2. because usually I can catch a good downtown DC protest, or at least someone with a megaphone.

Yesterday was no different; like usual, I was outside looking for the guy with a megaphone. But yesterday, the walk itself was a bit different.

As I was crossing the street, a strange man in a butt-length trench coat and what looked like technology-friendly gloves sidled up next to me. The conversation went something like this:

Man in Trench Coat: Hello there, I just had to stop you and tell you that you're super cute. I'm Alex. *extends hands*
Me: *shakes hand* Nicole.
Man in Trench Coat: So I have a very important question for you: If you could be any animal in the world, what would you be?
Me: Uhhh... I don't know. A leopard.
Man in Trench Coat: Oh, I see. So I'm guessing you're fierce and powerful, but with a lot of grace?
Me: No, I just like leopard print.

The conversation went on for a few more minutes, him asking me about myself and me giving answers as close to "leave me alone, please" without saying "leave me alone, please." Eventually, he did leave me alone.

Now, I could say that the reason I didn't want to talk to him was because he was a bit odd. Or because I've reached my friend quota and am currently not looking for any more.

But the truth is that I didn't want to talk to this unfamiliar gloved man because I was afraid.

I was in the middle of a sunny DC park, surrounded by tons of people (and probably the Secret Service, if I looked hard enough), yet my first instinct was fear. My first thought when this guy started talking was that he was up to something fishy at best, sinister at worst.

And as he asked me relatively general questions to which I gave even more general answers, all I could think was that he was mentally cataloging my answers so that he could later enter them into his murderous stalker technology with his technology-friendly gloves so he could find, stalk, and eventually either kill me or use my identity to buy more trench coats.

My question is: is this everyone's reaction to a friendly although strange social encounter, or would most people just brush it off as an annoying side effect of city living, like pigeon poop and street vendors?

Is it just because I'm a woman? Or is it because I live in the 21st century, where college students go missing daily and parents don't let their kids eat pixie sticks on Halloween? Have our natural reactions always been mistrust, or is this something new?

And if it is something new, why? Is there more evil in society than there was 100 years ago, or are we just more aware of it because technology makes us more aware of, well, everything?

Unfortunately, you got all the way down here for me to tell you that I don't know. I don't know if I'm a paranoid walker with a trench coat bias, or if my reaction was the norm. But I would like to know your opinion if you have one. What would you have done if Inspector Gadget wanted to know YOUR favorite animal?

PS - I'm taking a different route tomorrow afternoon.