Posts Tagged ‘strangers’

Our Thanksgiving dinner spread the length of a couple of tables near a stand of moss covered oaks and cypress. The thought of not sitting at a table with china and silverware at first seemed odd, but then I thought back to the first Thanksgiving. Our setting was much more in tune with the Pilgrims and Indians. This arrangement had an unexpected bonus, too, the chance to meet new people.

The camper in the next site saw the bald eagle as I was moving closer to get a photo. When it flew back into the trees he thought he saw where it landed, so we moved farther into the grove as he told me he had never seen a bald eagle in Florida. He was in his thirties, olive skinned, and his dark eyes lit up at such a sighting. Unfortunately we didn’t see the eagle again. The only birds above us were a flock of buzzards. They didn’t mind having their picture taken.

Do you have any idea how much you can learn about a person in a few minutes while you walk back to camp?

“See that small tent?” he said, pointing to a dark green, small pup tent by the larger one. I’m working on a design for a bear proof tent. That one is much stronger than our large, commercial one, but not strong enough.

“My next one will be made from high tensile strength airplane cloth.” This is where he got really excited. “With that cloth you can make a hole only if you really hammer something into it, and then to rip it takes 600 pounds of tensile strength.”

I took it word for it that that was really strong.

I asked what he did when not designing bear-proof tents. He had been a pilot for a cargo company before the economy went down. Now he buys and sells cars. That led to a discussion of the economy and presidents’ effect on it. We were on opposite sides of the political spectrum, but discussed the influence of Obama, the Bushes, Clinton and Reagan, agreeing on some points while remaining a chasm apart on others.

As we neared our camps I wondered about his wife, still sitting in her camp chair. Did she have these conversations with him—or with strange men she wandered into the woods with? And was she hot sitting there wrapped from head to foot in a long garment with a scarf around her head? So yes, you can learn a lot in a short walk in a campground, but you can also end up with a lot more questions than answers.


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I am the Barney Fife of Neighborhood Watch captains. Last week I shattered every safety rule. Well, two of them anyway, all the while telling myself this was the right thing to do. Now I know the most natural thing in the world is to make excuses that compromise your safety. What is unnatural is suspicion when people are doing every day things. What is unnatural is imagining an attacker is going to jump from a bush or hide in your car or worm his way into your home. You don’t really believe that can happen to you, do you? So you listen to your better angels. I can only hope those better angels are protecting you if you ever compromise your safety rules. Mine were.

I won’t go into details, but unknowingly I locked myself in the house for two hours the other night with a registered sex offender. I had an overpowering reason in my mind. Only after he left did I decide to run a Google check. He behaved as a gentleman and everything ended well, but I am totally disappointed in myself for being so stupid.

While still wearing a hair shirt for my deed, I did it again the following day. Again it was dark, and I questioned the unseen man knocking on the door. My rule is to ask a stranger to step to the kitchen window so I can see him, but he sounded as if he were straining with the heavy box he said had been delivered to his house by mistake, so I opened the door. In my defense, I knew the screened door was locked and could give me time, but that’s not good enough. Now I couldn’t see my name on the box, but once this man I had never seen before told me he lived at 105 up the street, I opened the door and took the package from his hands. Pause for a moment to picture that. My door is wide open, my hands are full of a heavy box and a stranger is standing at the door. Good thing he was a neighbor.

I am exposing my stupidity in the hope that you will remember this the next time this happens to you – and it will. Don’t let your guard down; don’t be polite at the risk of your life. Do the unnatural thing: imagine the worst and don’t take any excuses from yourself.

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