The Harrowing Drive Home From the Grocery Store

The four mile drive from the grocery store this afternoon was harrowing.
Being the sometimes too polite in a crowd person I was hurrying to return my cart to the cart stand, return to the car, and get out of my parking space because it was busy and three cars were stacked up so the first car could have my parking space. I notice things like that and feel responsible. Somehow compelled to action for another’s convenience.

So I quickly wheeled the cart to its designated space, and with keys in hand, popped into the car and prepared to back up. Too quickly I glanced and began backing up. I glanced again and saw a woman doing a James Brown hot steppin’ with her cart backwards.

I stopped yes, but not before all blood drained from her face and a look of complete fear overtook every feature. I motioned her to go, but why should she trust the idiot fool driver (me)? I mouthed sorry, sorry, sorry to her. She had managed to swallow once again.

Three quarters of the way home I berate myself. Whenever I do something foolish while driving I re-enact, tell myself what better action could be chosen and remind myself what possible consequences could have come from it. I put myself on trial. I do not want to kill another human by silly error.

And I hate inconveniences like talking to policemen when I’m at fault, paying for damages (beach vacations are so much more fun), and being without a car if it’s damaged.

I wasn’t home yet. The last stoplight is a big left turn onto a boulevard (fancy name for this street), with sidewalks on either side that back up to a six foot cement wall that goes forever to hide private backyards. Not one house faces the street here.

I see a girl about two feet tall on the sidewalk. What? Thirty, forty pounds? Even I could pick her up. Long blond hair swinging. A simple summer dress that looks worn, maybe second hand. Alone. I note traffic. Many cars. All with strangers who can wait because this street often is without traffic (witnesses). I am on the wrong side of the street to stop. I may frighten her. I may look like a pedophile. I may be making a big deal over nothing. I HATE decisions like this. I make my left turn in front of her because I am in traffic. I don’t see where she goes.

Should I go back? She’s a little child alone. Kindergarteners are theoretically old enough to walk to school. I drive about twenty feet and turn around. She is walking down my street in the opposite direction of my house.

Another big decision for me here. How to approach a little girl alone without scaring the bejeebers out of her. So I pulled up alongside, fiddled with my windows because I always get them confused when I’m nervous and finally get it open.

“Are you okay? Would you like a ride?” Yes! I know! Don’t get into cars with strangers. Luckily she told me no. “I’m going to my grandma’s.”

“Okay. I’ll watch you.” I stayed behind her and watched her walk passed about ten houses and then turn in. I came home thinking how fragile everything is. And if that little girl tells grandma a stranger followed her well, that’s okay with me. Maybe next time she won’t be alone. At least not until she’s a little heftier and older looking.

I don’t like making these decisions and I don’t like that it no longer feels safe for a little girl to walk down the street. What happened??? I walked down the street alone to and from school at that age and I loved it. I loved the dawdle time, the kick the rock time, but if this is the new face of driving home from the grocery store, I’m going out to eat more.

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21 Responses to The Harrowing Drive Home From the Grocery Store

  1. katecrimmins says:

    Reminds me of an incident quite a while back. I was driving back to work and passed a very old lady hanging on to her purse walking slowly on the street in a development. I stopped and asked if she needed a ride and she got in. She gave me a non-existent address. I drove her around a couple blocks trying to find her daughter’s house and then she said I took her money and she needed to get out. I let her out, drove to work (less than 2 minutes) and called the police. They were looking for her. She had mild dementia and had gotten out of her daughter’s home. I was all tied up in knots the whole afternoon. Should I have driven her to the police station? Did I do the right thing letting her out when she asked me to? Still don’t know the right answer. Hopefully they found her where I told her she was.

  2. I certainly sympathize with you. A hundred arguments pro and con go on in your head. But I would say you showed compassion and that says a lot. I’m sure it turned out okay or you would have heard about it in the news, I would think.

  3. Both your story and Kate’s are nightmarish, and I pray neither you nor I have to experience anything like it again. As for the right thing to do, that’s a very tough question to answer. I take some comfort in knowing that your intentions regarding the girl (and Kate’s regarding the elderly women) were good. Outcomes, well, they are up to providence.

  4. That is certainly true about providence and I think that’s a lot why we pause sometimes. Thanks for commenting and sending us good karma thoughts.

  5. Carrie Rubin says:

    I like that you kept an eye out for her. Seems like the best solution in that case.

    • Well, I think we all need to do that with each other’s children, but it seems too much can be misunderstood and I was brought up to be a pretty fearful person. It’s hard to overcome early programming. I’m not blaming anyone–that was my interpretation, not necessarily the message.

  6. What if someone else hadn’t kept an eye out for her? What if they hadn’t been as careful.But that couldn’t have happened because you WERE careful and watched her all the way home. Harrowing experience but maybe feel better now? ❤ ❤ ❤ I hope there are lots more people out there like you so you don't have to worry.

  7. Thank you so much. I do feel better now. Getting caught up in drama just isn’t my natural bent, but I know children need looking after. In the real scope it is unbelievably silly. OF COURSE, we watch for the safety of children, but our neighborhoods have become strangers to us, not people we know. That is, just wrong and very disappointing. If her grandma lives down the street, I should know her well enough to offer a cookie.

  8. mihrank says:

    your detailed was very successful to learn and read. Bravo!!

  9. tchistorygal says:

    I had almost the same experience as you did parking last night. There were no spaces, and no way to exit the parking lot except to back up. I looked in my mirror, and started backing. My friend beside me was laughing because there were people behind me. I looked and didn’t see any car backing up, so thought I was ok. The people were on foot. Fortunately they saw me because I sure didn’t see them! I think my friend would have shouted at me if they were in danger, but my heart came into my throat when I finally saw what she was talking about! 🙂 Don’t give yourself too big of a bad time. 🙂

  10. Thanks. I’m sure it happens a lot. Pedestrians are hard to see. I’ve learned to be more watchful when walking in parking lots just because of such experiences on both sides. Thanks for letting me off the hook a little bit. The talk to myself is a habit to try and keep myself a careful enough driver because I see people taking such risks every that it just astounds me. Running red lights with their children in the car. What are they thinking?

  11. Well, one way of looking at it: it is always better to relive a near miss than hit someone. But I know the feeling. As for the little girl, I suspect the odds of something happening to her is no greater than it was something happening to us. 24/7 media focus on everything bad has taught us differently. –Curt

  12. Curt, I agree with you completely on the 24/7 focus. I believe in the basic goodness of people and yet that 1% nagging doubt makes me feel responsible for my action or inaction. I love your travel writing.

  13. Well, I would have parked and gone to the door to tell Grandma what I did and why. But, I am an old social worker who has absolutely no shame. Chuckle… I saw a teenager and a much younger child walking at 2:00 in the morning along the main highway into town. I thought I should go back to ask where they were going or offer a ride. Before I could make that decision, a police cruiser passed me going in the same direction into town. He had to have seen these kids. Why the hell didn’t HE stop? I would have called the police station if I’d had my cell phone. I did neither, and it nags me today. We do the best we can, I guess. Good for you to watch that child until she was safely at Grandma’s house! I love your stories, by the way! 🙂

  14. It’s difficult to know when or if to get involved. I know my recent volunteering with foster children has ramped up my awareness of the truly awful, everyday things that happen to some children. Funny how we remember little scenes like you do, but I would think it turned out fine. Those truly are the odds. Thanks for mentioning you like the stories. And thanks for commenting.

  15. It shouldn’t be so hard, but of course, these things aren’t always as easy as they seem.

  16. True, but we writers have to conjure drama too, don’t we?

  17. Argus says:

    I’ve done similar. I envy people who can simply live life without analysis. I envy the truly selfish who milk life for all they can get, and with a clear conscience. There was a time once when the innocent were safe out in public by themselves—but that was back in the days before so many people with ‘social consciences’ were telling us what to do; we just knew what was right and did it …

  18. You make an interesting analysis. I don’t know. I do think we are about as safe today and yesteryear. Reading real history of societies is a lesson in real danger every day.

  19. This post certainly brought back a flood of memories! First of all, my hub is the nice one in stores/parking lots, I’m the impatient one. And what do we do when we see someone in potential danger? As much as our instinct is to help, we now have to be mindful of self-protection-beingl falsely accused of molestation, theft, all that is TOO real! I only call the police now, I don’t get personally involved like I used to. (Well, unless it involves animals) Hub used to be a soccer coach for a girls team and we decided that he should not do that anymore after we saw another coach at another team get falsely accused in inappropriate behavior all because a little girl had an unrequited crush. Eventually, he was found completely innocent, but the toll it took on himself, his family, his job, his finances — the damage was horrendous. No thank you. Sad state of affairs, right?

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