Apparently, lots of schools teach the students to scream “STRANGER DANGER” if someone tries to grab them or get them to go with them. Parents warn their children about strangers and to never go with someone they don’t know. I personally remember 20/20 episodes warning against trying to find lost puppies because the perp then lure the kid away and takes them.
But my parents didn’t do this. I never learned about stranger danger and never had talks about what to do if someone tries to give me a ride in their car and I didn’t know them. It wasn’t because they didn’t love me or hoped some psycho would take me off their hands. They just didn’t have to.
Because I was afraid of everyone.
For as long as I can remember, strangers terrified me. And even now as an adult, I’m not great talking to people I don’t know and I get creeped out easily.
I didn’t even order my own food at restaurants until I was probably 14 and started going places with my friends and their families and I wasn’t about to ask their parents to order for me.
We would go to Thanksgiving and it would take me close to an hour before I would leave my mom’s side. I remember being small enough that I could hide behind her legs and trying to get away from people when they tried to talk to me or touch me.
I remember when I was about 9, and I was playing with a big bouncy ball. This thing was probably 2-3 feet in diameter. It got away from me, and in my mom’s neighborhood, all the front yards and driveways had a drainage ditch. So, under the driveways out towards the street, there was an open drainage pipe. Well, the ball got away from me and I couldn’t catch it before it rolled into the middle of one of these open pipes in front of this old man’s house. I was on my hands and knees throwing rocks at it trying to get it free, but since it was in the middle, I couldn’t reach it and it wasn’t moving.
Well, the little old man must have seen me, so he came out to tell me he would get a broom to reach it. I remember him saying something to me, and the minute he turned around to go back inside, I ran home, crying hysterically because this man talked to me and I didn’t know him. My mom was mortified when the man came walking down to our house, ball in hand, and apologizing for scaring me. My mom had to explain to him that I just was afraid of strangers and thanked him profusely. She still makes fun of my for that story.
And looking back, I can’t remember why I was afraid. I don’t even recall what he actually said to me. But I remember being in hysterics and hiding upstairs when he came to bring the ball back.
See? I was afraid of everyone. No one had to worry about anyone luring me to a car. I would cry if a family member tried to get to close to me at family functions before I loosened up on my own. Even family I saw often, it would take me a few minutes to warm up to them.
And forget me asking someone I didn’t know for something. Waiter or waitress? I wouldn’t say what I wanted to drink or to eat or anything. I would be sick to my stomach for days if my parents wanted me to ask my teacher something, especially for help if I was having trouble. But at the same time, I was often teacher’s pet. I guess I picked who I trusted and who I didn’t.
Seems amusing as a child, but it’s still a big problem today.
I seem to be able to suck it up and do it for work situations, but otherwise I avoid talking to people I don’t know. When I was a long term sub, a parent asked for a parent teacher conference due to poor academic and behavior issues. I remember crying at lunch that day because I was so scared and nervous about meeting with them. And these parents weren’t even mad at me. They agreed with me, and this was more a way for the student to see the parents and I as a united front.
Call to order a pizza? I’ll either do it online or make Mr. A do it. If I have to, I work out every. single. detail. before I get on the phone and kind of rehearse it in my head. And if they ask me other things, I get all thrown off.
Need to look into something about my phone? Make Mr. A do it, or at very least go with me because then I can pass the questions off to him. Or I extensively research it online before ever stepping foot into the building so I know exactly what I need.
I still haven’t changed a credit card into my new name because that involves calling the credit card company and talking to someone and them possibly telling me that I can’t do it until the balance is paid off or needing to fax in the marriage license or something. Heaven forbid I have to do more than just say, “Change my name to this.”
And if it has even an ounce of confrontation involved, forget it. I basically turn into a puddle of mush and my stomach is in knots for days. Talk to a professor about a problem? Mr. A basically had to force me to the door and shove me inside so I didn’t have a choice.
And now I’ve had 4 months of not talking to people. And here I am about to step into a retail position that pushes selling and such. When I’m shopping, I love it when I get crappy employees who don’t talk to me. Sure, say hi and tell me you’re there to help if I need it, but then don’t talk to me unless I come up to you. And now I have to be the semi-pushy sales person and try to get you to sign up for a store credit card and suggest other items for you to buy. I have to be the person I avoid at all costs.
The weird thing? I don’t know that I have ever been described as shy. I like talking to people I know. And if a stranger, especially in work situations or when meeting new people, are good at holding a conversation and are nice and funny, I’m usually good. But those one-time instances scare the pants off of me.
Maybe this job will help with some of that since I will be meeting and working with new people every single day. But I still won’t help you find your puppy. Sorry.