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Finding the unexpected

Posted: March 20, 2012 11:13 a.m.
Updated: March 21, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Times have changed. Recently, when I heard of a young lady being robbed on the campus of the University of South Carolina, I was not surprised. Since the time was early morning -- about 1 or 2 a.m. -- and she was walking alone, she had certainly not used care. Then I had to laugh because I, in the ’80s, attended night classes there. When I parked the car after driving from Camden, the location was far away and often along ill lit paths. When I parked, it was early afternoon; when I left after classes, night had fallen. I, however, was not afraid nor anticipating danger.

Loaded down with a huge cassette player, I was making my way slowly and laboriously to my car along one of those dark paths, when a tall male slid in beside me and kept perfect step. I began to plan my strategy. His words, “You should not be walking out here alone by yourself,” did not relieve my apprehension. I decided he was either a young man who, because of the darkness, had misjudged my age and inclination or was attempting to put me at ease. His next move was to tell me the player was too heavy for me and relieve me of my burden. (I had thought I would throw it at him if he made a move.) My plan changed. I decided I could run much better without it. When we passed my daughter’s dormitory, I gazed in that direction hoping someone might be coming out. He asked, “Is that your dormitory,” presenting me another verbal weapon. “No,” I replied, “it’s my daughter’s housing.” He laughed, not believing I was serious but started acting differently. He walked me all the way to my car, still carrying that monstrous machine used for the language class, put it in inside, and warned me again not to be walking alone at night. He explained he belonged to a fraternity taking care of women walking alone. Little did he know the woman for whom he was caring had already thought of bringing the machine down on his head or giving him a karate kick in a very delicate place!

Still another night, I had been lucky enough to get a parking place near the class in a lighted area. Still burdened with the monstrous machine, I gladly was placing it in the back seat of my car when two massive arms encircled me and effectively penned me. I looked back to see a bearded man whom I did not recognize. I determined I had one kick and had to place it well so the stranger would help me call for help. Then the monster, a former student who certainly had not had a beard when I taught him nor been the massive size, laughed. We had a nice chat, bringing forth many old and fond memories. Little did he know that he had almost discovered his English teacher also had learned physical fitness moves!

As I have aged, I have learned to fear encounters of the previously mentioned sort. I do not go out at night unless an emergency arises. I would not have been at the university late if I had not had to teach until 3 p.m. and then take classes toward my Ph.D. until 10 or 10:30 p.m. Local news has told of a young man beaten while jogging in Five Points. A couple of women have disappeared, and at least one robbery has taken place. I do not go searching for danger.

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