I imagine most parents are a lot like me, wanting their kids to be safe, and make good choices in life. We preach it, we drill it, going over scenarios like “what would you do if a really nice lady came up to you and wanted to show you her adorable new puppy, waiting in her car??” We watch the hesitation on our kids faces….and are ready to yell out the ALWAYS right answer…
“Run away!! Yell for help!” “Don’t touch the puppy!!!”
You would think these lessons, harped on for YEARS, would sink in and kind of, I don’t know…work! Right??
Enter my sister.
She is not a preschooler. She is in fact, a grown up. She is THIRTY.
I happened to call her today on my way home from work. She answers but the connection isn’t great. She tells me she just got to New York on a business trip and is heading to her hotel, wants to call me when she gets there.
I was getting dinner for the kids when she calls back.
“Do you know why I couldn’t talk to you before??? I thought I was being kidnapped!
She tells me the following:
She got to the airport, and was getting her luggage. A nice looking, well dressed man walks up to her and asks her if she will need a taxi. “Well yes!, I actually DO need a taxi!” At that moment, she is probably thinking about how nice New Yorkers really are, not like the rumors at all.
This guy, let’s call him Mystery Cab Man, then asks her to follow him.
She is alone. She follows him. As he walks AWAY from the taxi area… all the way to some service elevator.
She feels a little hesitant, but doesn’t want to be rude, so she follows. Because God forbid, we hurt the feelings of our potential kidnappers, rapists… whatever.
They take the elevator to a parking garage. Much better place for foul play…
She asks, probably timidly, why isn’t he parked with the other taxi drivers? Apparently he has some sort of understanding with the airport and doesn’t have to stand in line with all the other drivers.
By now, she is feeling nervous.
I love this next part… she calls her husband as the guy tells her to wait while he gets the car. She doesn’t run away…in case you know, he’s not really a killer. She calls instead to run it by her husband so he can tell her what to do. But, mystery cab man comes back too fast, so she quickly pretends she’s great, everything is perfect, she’s safe in New York. “Hey honey”, she tells her husband, you know that tracking app I installed on my phone? I installed it on yours too, so you will be able to see where I am in New York at any time!” Very smooth.
There is no way this guy is going sell her into sex slavery or murder her in cold blood now! Jesus, she’s invincible!! He definitely WON’T just throw your phone with the *fake* tracking device in the garbage can before getting rid of you. She’s a genius, that one.
As they drive to her hotel (hopefully), she notices that she is not in a cab. She is in a Mercedes. It’s not yellow. It’s older, his window doesn’t work. There is no meter. There is no typical taxi stuff inside. She asks then for some identification. He gives her a business card, no photo ID.
After some more questions about random things in the city, her way of deciding if he is legit or not, there is silence. She is in the back of his car, pretty sure at this point that he is taking her to some dirty warehouse or a dock somewhere. This is when I call her. She needs to hang up because her phone is almost dead, and she needs to stay on google maps to track his progress.
Because if she notices that he is not going to her hotel, she is in the absolute best position-in his back seat, on the highway-to do something about it.
She is officially waiting for the announcement of impending death. And hoping he won’t kill her because “people know she’s here”.
Well, she made it. Doesn’t even know how much he charged, paid him whatever. Called me when she got to her room, explained that she really couldn’t talk until she knew for sure she wasn’t going to end up in a ditch.
I marvel at her politeness in the face of being potentially kidnapped. It is really RUDE to tell a strange man who is leading you into an isolated area that you may not want to go. Far better to just go along with it, and hope for the best.
Now, as I alternate between laughing at her lack of judgment and berating her for it, I have a pit in my stomach because she has just demonstrated my worst fear. How am I going to stop my own kids from being taken advantage of when we have all, at times, allowed things to happen that make us uncomfortable or even scared? Because we don’t want to be rude, or cause any commotion…lest we bother someone or hurt their feelings.
So we need to step up our stranger danger games. I’m adding in the mystery cab man scenario. I clearly need to give little sister a refresher course. She will learn. And thank God this time she was lucky, but better safe than sorry. When I’m done with her she won’t be taking rides from any shady drivers, and won’t leave home without her mace and rape whistle.