The Great Escape

8 Aug

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.


Donatella Versace’s permanent sunburn: scarier than any murderer

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.

TMF-FFHT2126LW-34V_950; renamed FRT21G2NW-34V_214


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.

The 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.

Fava beans and Chianti are Hannibal's favorite post-hike snack

Fava beans and Chianti are Hannibal’s favorite post-hike snack

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

95 Responses to “The Great Escape”

  1. Soul Walker 08/08/2013 at 10:45 am #

    I have actually had this happen to me more than once. I was the “good samaritan” that is and it was obvious that the person I was trying to help was scared of me. I have even run to give someone their keys before… of course, to my dismay– once I start talking no one ever remains scared. (sigh)

    • Jen and Tonic 08/08/2013 at 4:17 pm #

      You want to be scary and intimidating? May I suggest a Nixon mask while you’re running after people?

      • Soul Walker 08/09/2013 at 8:37 am #

        “Ma’am slow down! I believe this thousand dollar bill is yours! Stop running away from me! I just want to return it! Seriously, I saw it fall out of your pocket!”

  2. Ashley Austrew 08/08/2013 at 10:28 am #

    Not even going to lie: I totally would have reacted the same way. I am paranoid, and damn those good samaritans. Good samaritans and anxiety don’t mix.

    • Jen and Tonic 08/08/2013 at 4:16 pm #

      You know what else doesn’t mix with anxiety? Episodes of Criminal Minds. Or vodka. Or sleep. Or breathing.

  3. Twindaddy 08/08/2013 at 10:26 am #


  4. Maggie O'C 08/08/2013 at 9:53 am #

    Jen…..Mace. If you are going into Forest Park or Tryon Creek or any of those places alone….Mace. But most of Portland isn’t going to fuck with you 🙂 xo

    • Jen and Tonic 08/08/2013 at 4:15 pm #

      Oh yeah, Tryon Creek! That’s another place I’ll need to bring my glock.

  5. J_Gill 08/08/2013 at 9:43 am #

    This is great. I love the list of movies, by the way (it inspired to me to “acquire” ‘Halloween’ via internet download as I type this). I don’t blame you for having your suspicions, though. It’s a wild world out there and you never know. Better to be more aware of your surroundings than not. I go for walks/runs on a trail and find myself ready to punch anything that would jump out at me – be it a small puppy or raging lunatic who escaped from prison for collecting the ears of the victims he murdered and strung them on a necklace and… you get the point. Bottom-line: I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself about the acquisition. Maybe next time consider wearing an “I HAVE HIV” shirt to better detour any potential maniacs. Awesome story. Keep it up!

    • Jen and Tonic 08/08/2013 at 4:13 pm #

      The thought of you running with your fists up, Rocky Balboa-style, is hilarious. I’m going to start doing that too. That and tucking a huge gun into the waist of my shorts.

  6. celeryhills 08/08/2013 at 8:53 am #

    Seriously, he could have called out to you or something. Who knows what kind of wacky madness you can come across in Forest Park.

    That picture of Donatella Versace? I have old penny loafers from Nordstroms from the 80’s that look better than her!

    • Jen and Tonic 08/08/2013 at 4:12 pm #

      I’d rather run into a killer in the forest than Donatella Versace. I’d have a chance of getting away from a psycho, but the image of her tan up close would paralyze me.

  7. Bill McMorrow 08/08/2013 at 8:52 am #

    Jason Vorhees would have made a copy of your keys.

    • Jen and Tonic 08/08/2013 at 4:11 pm #

      WTF?! Come to think of it, there is this creepy guy who keeps lingering around my apartment. Oh, wait. That’s just my roommate.

  8. daniheart21 08/08/2013 at 8:49 am #

    Jen… I so would have thought the same thing. These days you can’t be too careful. So glad he was just returning your keys. Whew!!!!

    • Jen and Tonic 08/08/2013 at 4:11 pm #

      I was actually prepared to throw myself down the hill. Stop, drop and roll isn’t just for fires!

  9. Rutabaga the Mercenary Researcher 08/08/2013 at 8:42 am #

    I’d have felt just like you – it’s funny, I’m about to post a story of my husband in the same situation as that guy – and his amazement that someone was scared of him… are you reading my thoughts? REDRUM! REDRUM! Glad you got your keys and not a clever to the bresteses.

  10. Melanie 08/08/2013 at 8:41 am #

    I miss Law & Order, the original Law & Order, with the bad hair and shoulder pads.

    • Jen and Tonic 08/08/2013 at 4:10 pm #

      Me too! It was such a simple time in crime *stares in the distance wistfully*

      • Melanie 08/08/2013 at 5:12 pm #

        There might be an L&O marathon in my near future.
        But on topic, I probably would have just died right there, as a preventative measure, I would have been so sure I was going to anyway.

  11. La La 08/08/2013 at 8:35 am #

    So funny! Imaginations can get crazy and this is why I still can’t watch certain scary movies. I’ve had that feeling before and had it be someone giving me the change I accidentally left on the counter at the store!

    • Jen and Tonic 08/08/2013 at 4:09 pm #

      I can’t watch ANY scary movies. Every irrational fear I’ve ever had is always validated. “SEE? It’s possible to get your hand severed from a rogue garbage disposal that resented me for throwing egg shells down there.”

  12. Kayjai 08/08/2013 at 8:00 am #

    Dammit! Good Samaritans freak me out…glad you weren’t irrevocably maimed or slashed. That would hurt…a bit.

    • Jen and Tonic 08/08/2013 at 4:08 pm #

      I know. Good Samaritans with their smiles and giving natures. Losers.

  13. midwestkite 08/08/2013 at 7:19 am #

    Too funny! I am so jealous of your proximity to Forest Park. That area sounds amazing.

    One night about 10PG (Pre-Garmin), I got lost on the back roads of Kansas, winding up with my car stuck on a washed out dirt road, between 2 corn fields, only able to get cell phone reception a few feet away from my car, knee deep in mud… ONE WEEK AFTER WATCHING WRONG TURN. A small town cop came to my rescue, and while I was in the back of his car, told me he was taking me back to his house to get cleaned up. CUE IMPENDING DOOM. Fortunately, he didn’t chop me into tiny pieces, his wife was very hospitable, and I was able to de-mud myself, giving my Dad enough time to figure out where in the world I got myself stranded THIS time.

    A few years later, in South Texas, I was pulling out of my Wal-Mart parking spot when this Mexican man started excitedly waving at me. I gave him a really nasty look, thinking ‘OH GREAT, ANOTHER CREEPER,’ before realizing he was just trying to tell me I had left an entire case of Pepsi on the bottom rack of my cart.

    Gotta love those foot-in-mouth moments!

    • Jen and Tonic 08/08/2013 at 4:07 pm #

      WHOA. That Kansas story sounds like something out of a horror movie. Young girl. Country road. Car breaks down. Crusty town sheriff. Old house in the countryside.

      I think you’ve beaten the odds. You need to play the lottery.

  14. Is Everyone an Idiot but Me? 08/08/2013 at 6:35 am #

    This was hilarious. I have the same assume the worst anxiety – better safe than sorry right?

  15. El Guapo 08/08/2013 at 5:52 am #

    Even better, he gave you a great weapon (keys) to use against the real psychopath!

    • Jen and Tonic 08/08/2013 at 4:05 pm #

      It’s hard to grab the weapon from murderers, but I’d never go down without a fight!

  16. makewayforlindaj 08/08/2013 at 5:50 am #

    Jen –

    I’m guilty of having a overactive/paranoid imagination on occasion too. And I don’t have to be in the middle of the wilderness to set it off either – it could be in the frozen foods section of the grocery store. I spy a suspicious character that I think is capable of evil intent, and I’m suddenly scanning the aisle for weapons of opportunity…. then realize the only things available are chicken nuggets and tater tots.

    I thought this particular variety of paranoia was just a by-product of growing up in New York, but apparently you Oregonians are no slouches in the murderous imaginings department either. Makes me feel better.

    • Jen and Tonic 08/08/2013 at 4:05 pm #

      I also like to case the joint I’m in, making sure that I am prepared for any kind of emergency. Once of my favorite things to do when I get to a hotel is to see if my room is above a lower roof that way, if there’s a fire, I can jump out on to it.

      I grew up in California so perhaps that’s where I get that fear from. Big city neuroses.

  17. Katie 08/08/2013 at 5:47 am #

    Who really makes me nervous are the people on bikes. I’m not Sporty Spice enough to outrun a murderous mofo on a bike.

    • Jen and Tonic 08/08/2013 at 3:58 pm #

      Bicycles are psychos on wheels. NOT a good combination.

  18. PinotNinja 08/08/2013 at 5:37 am #

    “I have Life Alert!” Hahahaha. Did you also start screaming “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” to spring your life alert saviors into action?

  19. donofalltrades 08/08/2013 at 5:29 am #

    You found cross trainers for $80? Oh and your breasts sound aMAzing! I’m glad they didn’t fall off.

    • Jen and Tonic 08/08/2013 at 3:58 pm #

      I’m a super, super, super sale kinda girl. And yes, I’m glad my breasts stuck around too. Imagine how awkward a first date would be if they just fell off in the middle of dinner.

  20. speaker7 08/08/2013 at 5:21 am #

    I would have acted completely the same way only I would have found a branch or a rock and started swinging it around. I’ve seen enough Datelines about missing women to harbor this irrational fear of all men.

  21. Elyse 08/08/2013 at 5:19 am #

    Jen, it might have been worse —
    Glad it ended in only embarrassment!

    • Carrie Rubin 08/08/2013 at 5:34 am #

      I agree. And I would think the man would have recognized why you’d be frightened. What woman wouldn’t be nervous hiking alone with a man on her tail? But you told the tale brilliantly, Jen. Thanks for a good morning laugh. 🙂

      • Jen and Tonic 08/08/2013 at 3:50 pm #

        If I was a man, I would have stayed 100 yards back and yelled, “I come in peace! I bring keys!”

    • Jen and Tonic 08/08/2013 at 3:49 pm #

      It could have been. Writing a blog from the afterlife is much harder.

      • Elyse 08/08/2013 at 4:54 pm #

        Considerably! And I’m not sure they are quite as funny when they have that halo effect.

        • UndercoverL 08/09/2013 at 8:21 am #

          And God totally would censure the language and content…

  22. The Waiting 08/08/2013 at 5:14 am #

    You poor thing! There is nothing worse than being pursued by good Samaritans. You’re just minding your own business, then BOOM, they are there trying to help you find your lost dog.

  23. iamfunny2 08/08/2013 at 5:12 am #

    You have nothing to be ashamed of. He could have still been a psychopath but you scared him off with that life alert comment. Or maybe he was only interested in killing someone under thirty.

    Oh and thanks for letting me know Jack in the Box has tacos. I don’t go there often and didn’t realize that. Might have to try them.

    • Jen and Tonic 08/08/2013 at 3:48 pm #

      DAMN. Men always want women under 30, even when it’s for nefarious purposes.

      Oh, and put that taco on your bucket list. They are two for a dollar, and despite looking NOTHING like an actual taco, they’re the perfect sinful snack.

  24. Stacie Chadwick 08/08/2013 at 4:15 am #

    OMG that is so funny, and SCARY! I was just recently walking down a dark road late at night with my daughter. Backwards to make sure anyone in a Jason mask lurking in the bushes would get a Charlie’s Angelesque karate chop to the neck before he had the chance to bludgeon us to death. Good think he decided to stay put. =)

    • Jen and Tonic 08/08/2013 at 3:47 pm #

      Imagining you karate chopping an attacker is an image I hope never leaves my mind.

  25. Le Clown 08/08/2013 at 4:08 am #

    You forgot Cabin in The Woods…
    I could see the keys in the man while I was running behind him in my clown make-up, with my Jack-in-the-Box ready to make a killing. I’m glad this ended up well for me. On my part, I walked with my head down, looking at my big red clown shoes. Sigh.
    Le Clown

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