Paranoid and Lovin’ It

Clearly there is danger lurking behind every bush, tree and building.

We were visiting our friend Eddy at his bookstore.

Eddy, lounging about in the doorway. Photo by Bruce Walker

My husband was holed up at the back of the store, leafing through old photography magazines. Eddy and I were lounging in the front door of the place exchanging anecdotes about how paranoid we both are.

On the way home I began thinking about how paranoid I tend to be.

It really all started when I was child. My father really WAS paranoid and would pass on various helpful pieces of advice.

He would show me how to wrap a one and half foot piece of hollow rubber tubing ( garden hose) in black electrical tape at one end, which he would then fill with lead (shotgun pellets). Once filled, he would seal the open end with more tape. Thus weighted you could use this handy device as a cosh. Why you might need such a weapon, my Father thought, was in case an intruder came in the middle of the night.

My bedroom window faced our side garden. Along the wall grew a huge stand of Arum Lilies. These plants had an uncanny way of squishing back and forth in the night air and sounding a lot like stealthy footsteps. During the day one didn’t notice the sound because so much else would be going on. I would wake up in the middle of the night and the stealthy squishing sound would terrify me. I would get my flashlight and cosh from under the bed and clutch it, rigid with fright.

Luckily no such intruder ever skulked around our house, but I knew that I was fully prepared if they did.

One of my Father’s biggest fears was that another war would happen. As a result he wanted to make sure that all of us kids had a trade of some sort. I learned some limited Morse Code, which he said would be helpful if all other forms of communications were down and I was in a dire situation. It would also help me to get a job with the army since skilled Morse Code people were in demand (during a war). Other trades my father felt would be good during a war were: cook — people always need to eat and the army will always hire cooks; truck driver — the army always needs those, and barber/hairdresser — people need haircuts even during wartime. I was also required to learn how to type. This skill, my Father told me, would always provide me with a job, either in business or, naturally, with the army! (I did eventually become a hairdresser, and so fulfilled my Father’s wish that I have a trade.)

My mother added her own ideas in. She said I should learn to write with my toes in case I lost the use of my hands (presumeably due to a war incident),

She also made me practice getting around with a blindfold on — in case — you guessed it — I ever became blind — again probably due to a terrible wartime incident.

My mother had additional warnings of course: Always wear clean underwear in case you are in an accident and have to go to Hospital; make sure and wear a clean, mended nightgown, in case there is a fire and you have to get a fireman’s lift. Apparently dirty socks or ones with big holes in them were also a problem in case of an emergency arising.

Additionally, my Father had a long list of warnings among them, these: Never buy a house on the top of a hill — it could get struck by lightning;

Never buy a house at the bottom of a hill — it could get buried in a landslide;

do not go horseback riding, you might fall off and break your neck; Do not marry a poor man — you will have nothing; (my mothers response to that was “All that glitters is not gold”); do not touch electrical items with wet hands, you might get electrocuted.

I feel that it is little wonder that I grew up with a well established sense of paranoia.

For a long time I continued the practice of having a lead shot filled cosh handy. After all, one never knew when one might need it. After some years of never needing it, I dropped that. I tried to keep up writing with my toes, but this became increasingly difficult in colder climates where one wore socks all the time. The practice of learning to walk around the house blindfolded ended up with some pretty spectacular fails, so I dropped that also.

I did not however, lose my paranoia, I just channelled it differently.

When out shopping, I developed the habit of glancing in the store windows to see if anyone was following me. I was vindicated one day when a would-be purse snatcher was revealed and I was neatly able to evade him by going into the first store I came to. How do I know he was a purse-snatcher? I don’t for sure, but he was slouching along about a foot behind me and just had the look of an undesirable. There had been a few purse-snatching incidents in that area, so I felt that being extra careful was a good plan. When I dove into the store, I looked him full in the face and he did not look happy. As a matter of fact, he took off at high speed. I still follow that process.

I always lock my car even if in our own driveway and me a few feet away. There have been few instances of quick car thieves marching up and stealing cars almost from under the owners noses. Sure, if you leave your car running and unlocked and leave it unattended, that would be an invitation to thieves, but surely there would be no reason to worry if the car is off and you are standing right there. I figure there IS a chance that some swine of a thief might rush me from behind and grab the car keys and take off. I feel there is less of a chance if the car is locked. The fact that I drive an old beater does not reduce my fears of having it stolen.

When I go for gas, I pre open the gas flap, get out, lock the car, fill it up, and go and pay. The car remains locked until I am ready to leave. Am I being over-cautious? I think not. Who knows if there is some desperate person looking for an old Subaru wagon held together with duct tape.

I have a well developed sense of personal space. If I feel someone is too close it makes me very uncomfortable. Once, I was standing at a bus stop in a fairly lonely location. A wall behind, and a busy road in front. I suddenly had the feeling someone was close behind me. I didn’t question that feeling,

I spun around and clobbered the guy with my rolled up umbrella using a recently learned Judo chop. At that point, thankfully, the bus arrived. The guy I hit ran off, and the bus driver said he thought the guy had planned to grab me. So my paranoia paid off there. Of course it would have been unfortunate if the guy was simply waiting for the bus and was one of those people that has no idea about personal space. Oh well, maybe he won’t crowd people in future.

Since there are a lot of pick-pockets and purse-snatchers about, I have developed a plan to thwart them. I attach my keys to my bra strap with a dog-leash hook. My wallet is stuffed down the front of, again, the bra. (Who knew how many uses a bra can have?). I have no need to carry a purse, and if I am carrying some sort of bag, it will not be holding anything valuable. I readily admit that this method is not the most comfortable.

I know of one lady who was out walking her dog in our local park. She was passed by a guy riding a bicycle who deftly snatched her purse. She found the purse again a few hundred feet away. The joke was on him. She used her purse, a ratty old plastic thing, to tote around her doggy poop bags and it was full. I bet he won’t be a hurry to snatch a dog walker’s purse in the future.

Occasionally people will pull over on the road and lean out to ask directions. I never go within arms reach. I stand well back from the car and speak to them from there. I don’t suppose everyone pulling over to ask directions is a potential kidnapper, but I do not plan to put myself at risk. Are my fears unreasonable? I don’t think so.

A rather amusing incident happened a few years ago. It was summer, and I was standing at our local bus stop. Another person was waiting also, a tall young man with a huge Afro.

My guy’s afro was much bigger! Photo by Alex Holyoake on Unsplash

While we were waiting, he pulled what looked like a knife out of his pocket. I shrieked and jumped back, he shrieked and jumped back, then I realized it was a metal tail comb that he planned to primp his hair with. We both collapsed laughing in relief. He probably thought I was mad. but at least he didn’t get me with his tail comb …

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