I was walking to work this morning. The time around 6:30am.
It was dark.
There were barely no cars on the road and even fewer people on the street.
I was just listening to a podcast and strolling along.
As I crossed the street I noticed these two bogan looking guys stumbling across the street on my right. They looked drunk and the silent alarm bells started ringing.
We kind of turned up at the corner of our respective street crossings at the same time so, I did the usual girl thing of making sure my phone was in reachable distance whilst trying not to draw too much attention to myself and the vulnerable position I was in - 2 drunk guys vs 1 girl.
I tell myself to continue walking calmly as I try to convince myself that every bad situation I'm now imagining is just me overreacting. I instinctively start calculating an escape plan, you know, just in case.
All of a sudden, one of the guys stops me by putting his hand out in front of my face. I stop dead in my tracks. Half in shock at what's happening and half in sheer terror. It's literally all my fears being realised. What do I do?
I calmly take out my earphone like being stopped in the street by a drunk guy at 6am is the most normal thing in the world. I keep thinking I should just be nice and not do anything that might aggravate or provoke him. That's my game plan: be nice. He extends his hand and introduces himself as Sean. I obviously shake his hand because not doing so might unduly upset him. I awkwardly smile and add "pleased to meet you"... because, you know guys don't attack women who engage in such niceties.
Sean slur/asks where I'm going and I cheerily tell him I'm on my way to work while nondescript pointing down the street in no real direction. Give the illusion that work/a safe place/protection is close by, I tell myself.
When Sean starts to tells me how nice I look I start to freak out. This is escalating fast. I look around, there is no one there but me and the drunk guys. How am I going to get out of this?
All of a sudden Sean's friend pipes up and says to him, "mate, what are you doing? you're being weird!"
His comment takes us both back and, we all kind of just look at each other.
Stunned Sean looks at me apologetically and just says, "oh".
While Sean was saying nice enough things to me I honestly don't think he realised how vulnerable and uncomfortable I was in this situation of his making. His friend's comments to him were his reality check that effectively told him to pull his head in. There's no way I could have said that to Sean in that situation without fear of the consequences. I mean, tell someone they were being weird didn't really fit into my "be nice" strategy. His friend had effectively saved me with a simple piece of third party commentary.
With a new found sense of relief, I took my cue to leave and I can't stop smiling - one, because I was still being nice and two, because I couldn't believe what his friend had done for me. As I walk off, Sean yells out, "you have a good day, you really do look beautiful" and, I turn around and say "thank you" - one, because I was still being nice and two, because I was saying it to his friend who had by this stage turned his back on the whole interaction. His work there was done.
I walked away at that perfect speed we girls have mastered that says I'm walking normally enough because I'm not scared and fast enough because get me the hell out of here.
Even though that story could have ended so much worse; it's just a reminder that women are constantly fearful something might happen when we walk down the street alone and, all we need is for people to have an awareness of that... even if it comes via a drunk guy telling his friend he's being weird.