In 1997 I read The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. He appeared on an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show which got me thinking about trusting my gut when it comes to creeps who prey on women. Well, who knew that 15 full years later all of that invaluable knowledge would come into play?
The crux of The Gift of Fear is learning to pay attention pre-incident indicators (PINS)— charming manipulation, too many details, forced teaming— also known as the signs that someone is up to no good. de Becker implores women to NOT be nice to everyone, especially people who make you feel uncomfortable and NICENESS is exactly what gets a lot of women in trouble.
I booked a room at Gorda Springs Resort just south of Big Sur. Nothing was available in Big Sur proper so I took the ONLY room available within the outside range of my budget. The place had TERRIBLE reviews online but I gambled because I really wanted to spend a few days in the area. I’m glad I did because Gorda Springs Resort is just fine. It’s clean, it has a comfortable bed and a fireplace in the room. It’s perfectly fine. There’s no cell service though and if you’ve read this blog you know I’ve promised some special folks that I’ll check in every night. Without any cell service or Internet it can make this difficult.
Turns out, Gorda Springs Resort isn’t as much of a resort as it is a room on top of a general store. The view is great– straight out to the Pacific– and the price is right. The door to the room locks. Safety was sort of on my mind since my cell phone didn’t work. Luckily, I found a pay phone on the side of the general store and planned to make a call as soon as I put some stuff in my car.
I was on the driver’s side of my car when I heard someone someone trying to get my attention. I noticed the
man in the shiney, black, BMW 7 Series parked in the next spot gesturing to me through his partially rolled down window. I can’t tell you exactly why, but this bugged me. When our eyes met he tried to wave me over and said, “I have a question for you.” I just said OK and continued with my business. I thought, if this guy wants to talk to me he can get out of his car.
I was standing at the back end of my car with the hatch open when this stranger dressed in khakis and a golf shirt approached.
“Hi ma’am, how are you today?”
Fine. Again, I can’t tell you why but this guy bugged me. It was like he was standing way too close to me or something.
“Can you get a signal around here? I can’t get a signal around here and I really need to get in touch with some people, so I was wondering if…”
I can’t get a signal. I can’t help you.
“I know, I know. We’re in the same boat. We both need a signal, right?”
There’s a pay phone. I managed to avoid the guy’s intense stare and overwrought smile.
“Yeah, I know. We can use that if we need something.” Nervously laughs. “But, see, I’m trying to get in touch with some people who are wiring me some money…”
I slammed the hatch and looked him in the eye— I can’t help you.
Seriously? The “wiring money” line? That line is an actual example in The Gift of Fear. It’s like the guy wasn’t even trying to be a good crook.
“Oh, ok. Well, I see you’re traveling. Where are you from? Oh, I see, Florida. What part?”
I ignored him and made sure my car was locked. It was such a mistake to stand behind my car with the door open so no one could see us– he could have clubbed me in a hot second. I practically invited the guy to see everything inside my car. And, he got a good look at my license plate. Ugh, was Oprah’s work in vain? Did Gavin de Becker teach me nothing?
I was so pissed. This guy disrupted the good thing I had going at Gorda Springs Resort. I’d just started to feel ok about staying there and then he and his nefarious ways interrupt the whole thing. I went to the pay phone and called the hotel where I really wanted to stay to see if they had any cancellations. I didn’t want to take any chances now that this guy had me unnerved and knew the contents of my car. As I was being turned down by the other hotel I noticed him approaching another woman in the parking lot. There was a single man standing not too far away but the creep didn’t approach HIM.
I went inside the general store to see if someone in there could tell him to scram. The only person working was a woman who could have been 17 or 45. We started talking and I realized she leaned more toward 17. She told me he’d approached her too and asked her how old she was and if she had a boyfriend. Since no one else was working the only person with any authority was the man who managed the place next door. She went to get him. It really chapped my ass that this guy in the parking lot thought he could target women for whatever he was up to. But, it chapped mine even more that we had to get big Daddy Manager next door to take care of it.
As Daddy Manager was summoned I made my I-made-it-here-in-one-piece call from the pay phone. While I was talking, I heard the creep call out to another unsuspecting woman. She ignored him. He let out an odd cackle. The hair on the back of my neck stood up.
A minute or two later, while I was still on the pay phone, he walked by and said, “Hey, Florida. I’m sorry I upset you.”
As he interrupted my conversation I noticed the manager walking toward us.
The person on the other end of my conversation said, “What? I think I lost you for a minute. What did you say?”
Daddy Manager towered over the creep and was making the point that he should move on. I exhaled.
Oh, I’m sorry, I’m here. I was just calling to let you know I’m safe.