“Excuse me, miss?” a man says, as he comes out of the shadows on the deserted street.
I inwardly curse, all my southern baptist upbringing going straight out the window. How did I missed this lurker? I’m usually so vigilant, but there are so many blind spots at the church next door to my job that it’s hard to see everything in the middle of the night.
“Miss, I’m not a bum,” he says coming toward me, as I picked up my pace, walking backward to keep an eye on him. “I’m not a bum, I swear.”
I took stock of this man. He’s carrying a suitcase, and wearing several layers of dark clothing and a red flannel shirt. Could this be the man to finally mug me as I make the trek alone into my office? I’d long since started parking in lot that belongs to the church next door, only about a minute closer to the door, but closer, nonetheless.
Wait. Should I be looking behind me right now? I’ve heard of situations where one person distracts you while another comes up behind you.
“I’m sorry, I can’t help you,” I reply. I am sorry, but more than that, I’m afraid. The fear wins this round.
I turn around and briskly walk up the steps to my office, quickly punching in the access code and all but running until I reach my desk.
This wasn’t the first time I’d been approached by a stranger, seemingly emerging from nowhere. I worked for a news wire service during college and for a year after graduation, during which I left the office around midnight. Alone. Then, I worked for a newspaper that scheduled me to come in during the afternoon on weekends—in a neighborhood that wasn’t particularly known for its safety—and leave late at night. Alone. Actually, I’ll amend that. We stopped being allowed to leave alone after a disgruntled man got physical with one of the female photographers in the parking lot one night.
I really wish I could write a story on how to get your bosses to take your security seriously, but that’s something I’m still struggling with. I come to an empty office in the middle of the night in a downtown area. Since I work in the news, I know how many people are getting mugged or whose homes are being burglarized just blocks away (or even on the same block) from where I’m punching in the door code in the middle of the night.
When I try to bring up my worries to a superior, it’s always met with a bit of condescension. “Awww. The poor little girl is scared to come into the office all alone at night. Would it make you feel better if I gave you your bottle first? Or maybe we should call your Mommy.”
Do I wish I could just help someone out if they needed it without being suspicious first? Of course. That incident was months ago and I still feel terrible about running from someone who may have been in need of help. But I shouldn’t have been put in that situation outside of my office. I doubt it’s healthy or productive for my adrenaline to always be on the rise when I make a mad dash from my car to the building. Unfortunately, some people don’t care about situations that don’t impact them. Obviously, they’re not realizing that if I get stabbed by someone who’s a known stalker of one of the news anchors, they’ll have one less employee.
While I don’t know how to get your superiors to take threats to your safety seriously (It’s just your LIFE, after all.), my advice is to keep bringing it up. Sure, they may see you as a bit of a nag or whisper about how you complain too much, but hopefully they’ll concede enough to give you something that will increase your sense of security. I still enter the workplace under less than ideal conditions, but my insistence did get me permission to park in the garage. Sure, the door stays open long enough for a gang of people to slip in behind me, but at least my walk isn’t as far and I’m less exposed.
Maybe one day we’ll live in a world where women can stop and listen to people who approach them in the middle of the night without having to worry about being mugged, kidnapped, raped or attacked in any way. Until then, it would be nice to have our security taken seriously.