*Plays Law and Order theme music*.
I had a small incident last night that has me a bit on edge. When I look at it from a logical perspective, it really doesn't bother me, but when I let my imagination wander, I'm not going to lie, I get a little freaked out. I don't actually know if it's too many crime dramas for me or if it's my womanly cautiousness kicking in, but I'm taking a few more small precautions when heading out on my own.
Last night Emily and I attended another swim session with a local triathlon club. The practice starts at seven and by the time I get back to Tenie's flat to retrieve Glacier to walk home, it is after nine. Normally this wouldn't be so bad, but it gets dark right around four or so at this time of year and so I'm already a bit nervous. The route I take to and from the girls' flat to mine is well lit and is along main roads which makes it safer, and I've never felt uncomfortable walking it before. There are always people out walking and cars on the roads, but last night I got a small scare.
Before leaving the girls' flat, I stopped at the park across from their flat and had Glacier relieve himself for the final time of the night. It was late enough and I knew once I was home, tucked away in the warmth with a cup of Sleepy Time tea, I would not want to leave. Looking back on it now, I am really glad I had the forethought to have him do his business because it meant when I reached my flat, I could just go right in without having to stop in the small park across the street. This small thing was a bit of a saving grace.
We turned out of the park and walked briskly along the outside of the huge park. There were a lot of cars driving and so I didn't feel worried about being so close to the park. Our whole walk up until about three blocks from my flat went very well. Glacier had fantastic crossings, was excellent at guiding me around obstacles and stopped at curbs cleanly. Even at our quick pace, he is able to stay alert enough to avoid scaffolding out on sidewalks and puddles that have accumulated. It started snowing/raining, a little thing I like to call "snaining," but I didn't really mind. I had had a good practice and was still warm from the earlier physical activity. Not to mention, our speediness also leads to elevated heart rates and consequently, warmth.
Upon reaching the busy crossing that leads to the bridge I have spoken of before, a young man approached me and asked me for the time. I was slightly caught off guard, but got my Iphone out and told him. Most people in Edinburgh are usually quite friendly and forward, so I initially didn't think much about it. He said something about it not being as late as he thought and I confirmed that was good. He said something about being more buses, which struck me as odd as the buses don't stop running until after midnight and even then there are "night buses." The "night buses" cost a bit more, but they are still available.
The crossing at the bridge is quite busy and slightly complicated. Sometimes it is hard to tell when it is safe to walk, so I made the mistake of asking the man if the "green man was up. I have asked people this question before at this crossing and so thought nothing of it." He said it was not and then stood there talking to me until the green man appeared. Then he insisted on walking me across the street in order to ensure I got there safely. I have had people do this before and didn't think much of it. As long as no one is holding on to my elbow and hauling me across the street or in the opposite direction, I usually allow people to walk along side me. I figure there's no point in being rude and maybe one day I'll actually need help. If I am rude to those who ask to help me now, they probably won't be around in the future when I really need them. Once across the street and on the bridge though, I started feeling uncomfortable. The man kept talking to me and asking whether or not he could walk me home. I insisted quite fervently that I was fine and that I knew where I was going. I almost said, "I walk here all of the time," but caught myself.
I fell into my quick step in the hopes of losing him, but no such luck. He walked across the bridge babbling about where I was going and that I should really be careful because drivers are crazy. We got to the next road and I thanked him and said I would be good from here, but he wouldn't leave. We walked along, me urging Glacier to "hop up," which means "go faster" and the man yammering away. He asked me a few questions about myself, but I answered vaguely. When he asked my name, I gave him a fake one, one that I can't even remember now and I again told him that I was fine to walk from here. We past one of the many pubs that line the streets that lead to my flat and he suggested we go in and have a drink. I mentioned about getting home to my husband. I thought it would get rid of him, but it didn't. I wish I could say I stopped and told him assertively to please stop following me. I wish I could say that I told him to scram, but I didn't. He was creeping me out and my brain was a jumble. The block that my flat is on was coming up next and all I could think was to get home. A thought of walking further than I needed away from my home crossed my mind, but we had passed through the area I knew well and I was worried about wandering down a street that I was unfamiliar with.
In hindsight I realise that I could have turned into one of the bars, ordered a drink and called Mr. K to come meet me. That plan would have stopped the man from seeing where I live and also got me an escort home. But, your brain doesn't always work when it needs to.
I crossed the street, thankful I had parked Glacier before leaving the girls' flat. If he had needed to go he would have turned left into the little park, instead of turning right to find the curb and bring me home. I didn't want to be in the park with this stranger that I could not get rid of. As we walked I had managed to calm down enough to notice that he slurred a bit when he talked and I had deduced by the construction of his sentences that he probably had a mild intellectual disability. This comforted me at first as I figured that it probably meant that he could not completely comprehend proper social interactions and that he was violating social norms by following a strange woman most of the way home.
He started asking me if I had Facebook as I waited for the light to change and stop traffic so I could cross the street. I told him I didn't and he said that I should get it and look him up. He told me his name and spelled it. This kind of solidified the notion that he had an intellectual disability. For some reason the light wasn't changing and I was getting impatient. There was a lull in the traffic and even though the audible signal was not indicating it to be safe to cross, I ran across the street. Before I fled, I thanked him for walking me home and that I hoped he caught his bus safely. There was no need to be rude; I wasn't sure how well aggressive behavior would effect him.
When I was across the street, he yelled his name to me again and spelled it, saying again that I should look him up on My Space and Facebook. I waited for the traffic to start moving before I walked down the sidewalk and turned the corner of the building that I live in. I wanted to make sure he couldn't follow me across. My thought was that if the traffic was moving, it would give me enough time to get inside just in case he decided to follow me to my door.
This whole exchange took probably less than five minutes, but it had me all worked up. Part of what makes me nervous is that he got that close to where I live. I have no idea if he crossed the street after me or not. I also have no idea what he looks like. I could be out walking and have no clue he's around. Plus, Glacier and I are not hard to miss. I am a smallish blind woman with a huge white Yellow Labrador. We do not blend into a crowd easily. There are a few things that make this uncomfortable situation a little more comfortable. The first is that I do not go outside without a dog, whether it is Roscoe or Glacier.. Glacier is a big pussy cat, but he is big as far as Labradors go and hopefully his size is a bit intimidating. Roscoe will growl or bark at people if he doesn't like them and they are getting too close to me in the dark. I've taken him out to "park" during the late evening and he growled at a guy across the street who was yelling drunkenly. The dude was actually just singing because he had one too many pints, but I know that if I take Roscoe out with me, he'll at least sound scary. I also go out with Mr. k and he is also a good shield because he is huge and he usually has Roscoe. A big man with a big black dog is scarier in the dark than you think. The other thing is that I carry my phone on me at all times and when leaving places to walk home, I always text Mr. K to let him know I'm on my way. I also text the girls if I am headed over. So, if I don't show up within twenty minutes of my text, they would know something was wrong; let's just hope it doesn't come to that.
Again, I am kind of over reacting a bit and writing it out like this makes it sound a bit scarier than it is. It was just a good reminder to be aware of your surroundings and to let the people you are meeting know that you are on the way. It's not going to stop me from leaving my flat, but it will make me a bit more hyper vigilant for the next little while. I know I am well taken care of and even if Glacier appears to be a big push over, I wouldn't want to tick him off. He IS the dog who tore strips off of a hockey puck in less than seven minutes. Guide dogs are not aggressive by nature. In fact, they would not become guide dogs if they were, but even the nicest creature, human or dog, could become protective if his/her family was threatened. So, I will continue to go about my life, but with a bit more caution and may stay in the next couple of nights to ensure he doesn't see me out around the same time.