I am a fairly vigilant person, and take precautions against the world’s dangers. I have locks on my windows. I don’t give out personal information over the phone. I make sure to shower with my clothes on so that if I slip and die, the paramedics won’t have to look at my naked body.
I love to hike, and there is an inherent risk in being in the wilderness. Falling from great heights, changing course and getting lost, and wild animals that think your flesh tastes better than a Jack In The Box taco.
The woods also seem to attract homicidal maniacs. There are no shortage of films highlighting this fact:
High altitudes make people cray cray.
So it’s not surprising that I’m extra careful when I venture out into the forest. Sunblock? Check. Epi pen? Check. Water? Check. Not that any of this will help me avoid a murderous sociopath, but it’s nice to avoid sunburns, fatal allergic reactions, and dehydration.
Not long ago I went on a hike in Forest Park here in Portland, an impressive park boasting 80+ miles (128 km) of trails, and ample opportunities for wildlife spotting. I’m lucky not to live far from it, and frequent it as much as I can. Because of its vastness, it often feels more remote than it is.
As I got out of my car, a man came into my view at the trail head. He was either just getting done with his walk, or saw me in my baggy t-shirt and raggedy workout pants and thought, “Damn, I gotta get me some of that.”
We did the “Oregon nod” (mandatory friendliness between Oregonians) and I went on my way. The smell of the trees was intoxicating, and all I could hear were birds talking to one another.
Then I heard crunching noises, the sound of branches snapping beneath someone’s feet. I turned around, but didn’t see anything. Figuring it was just Sasquatch, I continued on.
Snap. Snap. Snap. This time I could tell it was someone walking, and not an animal. Again, I scanned, but nothing.
“What kind of Alfred Hitchcock fuckery is this?” I thought to myself.
I started to feel my anxiety building, but I’ve been good about calming myself down recently. You can only worry about your appliances rising up in the middle of the night and killing you so many times before you realize you have a problem.
Breathe. Happy thoughts. Rationalize. Center myself.
“See? Nothing to worry about. This was like that time you thought your tits would fall off for no reason whatsoever and stumped doctors would have to name the ‘Jenbreastitis’ disease after you.”
CRUNCH. This time I turned around and saw someone approaching me. I focused my eyes and recognized the figure as the man I saw at the beginning of my walk. Why was he back on the trail when he had already finished his hike?
I picked up my pace, wanting to put some distance between us. I was trying to think of all the possible reasons he was there: he’s an exercise freak who just couldn’t get enough, he walked in the wrong direction and ended up at the wrong trail head, he wanted to kill me.
Obviously it was the last of the three.
I walked even faster, closer to a slow jog; this isn’t something I do unless I’m really scared. All of that bouncing doesn’t look good on a body like mine. A little bit of breast jiggling is sexy, but mine look like Mexican jumping beans when I really get going.
man murderer was closing in on me, and I knew I was out of options. The only way back to my car was the way I came, and that wasn’t feasible with Hannibal Lecter on my tail.
He began calling out to me, “Hey! Ma’am? Stop!”
Oh, right. Why don’t I just take the cleaver and slice my own limbs off while I’m at it?
Now he was running. Great. Why couldn’t I have run across one of those killers who is out of shape, and whose definition of running is of the gun variety?
He was only a few yards behind me when I decided to turn around and confront him.
“NO! DON’T HURT ME! I’m 31 and I have Life Alert! The authorities are coming!” That was a lie, nobody was coming for me. Well, except for the Grim Reaper.
He looked at me quizzically, almost stunned. “Hurt you? No. You left these in your car door.”
He extended his hand, and at the end were my keys. My keys. FUCK. My keys. He was trying to return them to me, knowing that leaving them there could result in the theft of my vehicle.
“Whoa. I’m sorry. I watch too much Law & Order. You’re very un-murdery. Thank you so much.”
“Right. Okay. Well, have a good day.”
He left, and I stood there contemplating my overactive imagination. After the huge wave of shame finished washing over me, I headed back to my car.
Cost of gas to get to the park: $1.00
Cost of cross trainers used on the hike: $80
Cost of accusing a good samaritan of being a complete psychopath: priceless