February 16, 2015

Why I Own a Stun Gun

There are certain "firsts" in a girl's life that she will never forget. Her first day of school. Her first school dance. Her first kiss.

Her first can of pepper spray.

Now, I can't remember much about my first kiss besides that it was messy, and my first day of school is a massive black hole. But my first can of pepper spray? I remember that like it was last week.

Though I guess that's not surprising seeing as it was.

You see, last Wednesday, Derrick (my boyfriend) told me that I had something in the mail and that it was definitely not a Valentine's gift, so I should open it as soon as I got home.

Now, I have received many gifts in my life that weren't for Valentine's Day but I had never before gotten one that was so deliberately a not-Valentine's Day present. Needless to say, all day I was curious about what it may be.

I had many ideas but I can honestly say that a "runner-friendly" can of pepper spray and a baby pink 7.8 million volt stun gun was not one of them.

Turns out though that that's exactly what a not-Valentine's Day gift is.

When I asked Derrick why in the world he was giving me personal weapons for not-Valentine's Day, he told me that he should have done it years ago when I moved into my first apartment. Or at very least, 2.5 years ago when I moved to Chicago alone.

The reason he decided to give it to me this year though, was a story that I'll admit is a bit creepy.

This story starts about ten months ago, when I first moved to Arlington. I was standing in Whole Foods for the first time, looking at its olive bar like someone who has just seen Whole Foods' olive bar for the first time. I was mesmerized.

I must have been standing there for a solid five minutes deliberating on which of the 19 olive varieties I was going to get when this guy walks up to me and says, "You should try the black olives."

Now, this guy wasn't ugly, but wasn't particularly attractive; wasn't old, but wasn't my age either. In fact, he just looked like a standard guy with a pretty standard taste in olives.

I said thanks and we chatted for a bit, mostly about how we both had just moved there and we both enjoy a good olive. Eventually, he asked if I wanted to eat with him upstairs in the Whole Foods cafe. I politely declined and said, "Actually, my boyfriend will be home soon so I'm going to eat with him." A complete lie and basically my way of gently saying no, not today, and also no forever.

He then asked me for my email address, which I gave to him, figuring that I could easily ignore any emails. Which is exactly what I did when he emailed me a few hours later.

So fast-forward ten months to a January evening around 6:30 on a Thursday night, where I was standing on the subway platform, waiting for the metro after work.

A guy walks up to me and asks me where the blue line and the orange line split. This guy wasn't ugly, but wasn't particularly attractive; wasn't old, but wasn't my age either. In fact, he just looked like a standard guy with a pretty standard public transportation inquiry.

However, to my extreme displeasure, after I told him, he began chatting about how he had just moved there and how he was still trying to figure out the subway. I was tired and didn't want to talk, but it wasn't like I could just say, "Sorry, I'd love to chat but I actually have to go stand five feet over there while we both wait for the same train."

So instead, I chatted politely.

When the train finally came, he asked me if I had a business card. I told him no (which I would have said regardless of my business card situation). He did have one however, which he gave to me.

Now, it took me the whole train home to recognize the name, connect the dots, and search my emails from ten months ago. But right as I got to my stop, I realized unequivocally: this was the same man from the Whole Foods' olive bar ten months ago, right down to the middle initial.

I called Derrick immediately, a bit worried. Was this just an absurd coincidence, or was I dealing with a particularly lackadaisical stalker? Derrick told me that it was probably nothing to worry about but for good measure, I should stop talking to men on dark subway platforms.

Oh yeah, and to also carry around the not-Valentine's Day gift he sent me a week later.

Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about the weapons. On one hand, it's nice to know I have something more than my impressively underwhelming biceps to use against predators. But on the other, I am now without a doubt the type of person in the type of situation who might potentially need a stun gun.

And that is a scary thing to without a doubt be.

As far as cities go, Arlington and DC aren't the worst places for a single girl. I mean, they're no Chicago. But then again, my friend did have his car stolen three months ago... so I'm not living in a baby pink bubble.

So I guess all I can do it be as prepared as I can be, avoid black olive-promoting men on subways, carry around my baby pink taser, and hope that "first time stunning a criminal" never goes up there next to my "first day of second grade."

It's no baby pink outlook on life, but it's a lot more realistic.

I'm curious to know: do any of you have personal weapons? Do you feel like you should? Am I just paranoid? Please share!