Am I Crazy?

I’ll be the first to admit I’m sometimes (often/most of the time) a crazy, paranoid, overprotective parent, which is something I vowed I’d never be. Like, I actually annoy myself. I’m self aware though. I know this about myself and try to temper it. In any case, child trafficking is currently out of control in Southern California. Cases have surged even more this year, since the pandemic and the borders closing. It’s something I’m very aware of, as for an example of how close to home this is, there was an abduction attempt of a two year old from his carseat as the parents were backing out of a parking spot in OUR Costco parking lot in broad day light two days after I was in the exact same parking lot. I don’t let this fear run my life, obviously, but it’s something I’m cautious of. I’ve read articles, listened to podcasts, watched documentaries, and I know the tricks they pull when these people abduct children, so my head is on a swivel when I’m out with the kids. It’s too close to home.

In any case, last night I was going out to pick up pizza from a local pizza place, and my 2 and a half year old wanted to come. It was dark and rainy, and I pulled into the small, fairly unlit shopping center, and the only area available to park was in between two restaurants, without lighting. There was another spot open on the passengers side (the side Trace’s carseat is on), and then there was a car in the spot next to that, with a man sitting in the driver’s seat. He was a clean cut, good-looking man, probably in his late 40’s. I initially figured he was waiting for someone, or just getting ready to pull out of the spot. I sat there for a minute after I parked and waited for him to either get out or leave. I don’t know why, but I had a slight moment of wondering if I should move my car after I opened my door to finally get out. I didn’t give the feeling too much acknowledgement, and continued to walk around to get Trace.

The man’s window was down, and as soon as I walked around the car, he called out to me. “Hi! What kind of SUV is that? It’s so nice!”

I’m like uhhh… really? “It’s an Escape.” It’s not that nice. It’s very average. The man continues talking, being flabbergasted it’s an Escape. He was asking questions about the year, and model, etc when I was like “I’m not completely sure, I just got it. It’s a company car.” I’m quickly trying to put Trace’s mask and shoes on to get outta there because we are in a dark area where no one else could see us, and I just had a strange feeling of being uncomfortable. He continues asking me about my job, saying he used to be in sales, and then looks at Trace and says, “And you have a little one. You do that job with a little one? Wow.”

Dude… what? Since when can’t you do a sales job with a child? Once he addresses Trace I’m like ok, please stop talking. I wasn’t planning on bringing my phone in, but I picked Trace up, and went around the other side to grab it, said goodbye to the man and walked into the pizza place. Once I got in there I called Ginge. After explaining the situation, he’s like ummm ok. I’m sure he’s thinking “you’re calling me because a man is asking you what kind of car you have?” I’m like… “Well you know where we are. I just need to let you know I feel weird.” He’s says “Ok, well call me when you’re walking back to your car.” (probably rolling his eyes).

When I’m standing at the door to the pizza place, I’m looking around, because I know how this stuff works. People work together. There was a man standing by the counter looking straight at us, and talking on his cell phone. I peek out the door and the man in the car is also talking on a cell phone. I waste time in there. I wanted the man in the car to leave. I didn’t want to let Trace out of my arms, but I put him down and made him hold my hand while I grabbed the pizza and paid. Then I stood next to a table by the door for a minute, and FaceTimed Ginge. I really couldn’t properly hold the 35 lb monster toddler plus the XL pizza and bag with meatballs at the same time. I had Trace hold my phone to FaceTime with one hand, and held his other hand to walk back out. The man was still in his car. As I got closer to my car, he got out. He walked toward the sidewalk where I would need to walk to get to the other side of the car and stopped, facing us, and waiting. I literally just stopped walking. I bent down, picked Trace up with one arm, balancing the food on the other hand (a skill I never quite mastered in my waitressing days), and started walking straight into the street. He starts walking our way and says, “Hey, I’m about to go in this bar to watch the game, can I help you?”

The man had been in his car for at least 15 minutes at this point, and it seemed he was waiting for us to come back out. I said “no thank you, we’re good,” and stood in the middle of the street holding Trace until he was clearly inside the bar. Now Ginge, still on FaceTime was weirded out. He saw and heard what was going on. I quickly got Trace in his seat, got in my side and locked the door.

“You don’t think someone could hide in the trunk do you?”

Ginge, the super chill one, says, “Uh, you wouldn’t think… but I don’t know…”

Dammit. I got out and checked the trunk. Clear.

I drove home on edge. I felt weird. I had this weird intuition before the man even said a word. It wasn’t his looks, or the car he drove, or any other indicators. He seemed to be a completely nice, normal man. He most likely was. I just felt off. Is it the murder podcasts I listen to? Is it the pandemic making me weirdly awkward and paranoid? Is it the stories from co-workers in SoCal who have inside knowledge of local child trafficking rings? The fact that Ginge was also concerned and weirded out made me feel slightly justified.

I re-played the situation over and over. What if he just expected me to come out of the pizza place with Trace walking next to me, and pass him by in the dark spot in between our cars? He could have grabbed him and thrown him in his car so fast. No one would have seen. With Trace in my arms, it would have complicated things. With me standing in the middle of the parking lot, with Trace in my arms, it would have complicated things. I could also just be being a lunatic over absolutely nothing.

I don’t know why I’m writing this. I wanted to text my friends and tell them, and see what they thought, but I feel like I couldn’t properly explain the situation over text. I just felt weird and off all night. I guess it was more the feeling of the whole thing than the actual situation. I don’t even know. Maybe I listen to too many murder podcasts.

I’m interested in feedback here.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Andrew Drossos
    Dec 29, 2020 @ 14:02:01

    You should absolutely be a crazy, paranoid, overprotective parent in this situation.
    Trust your gut, and you did. Otherwise, you are not a crazy, paranoid, overprotective parent in general.

    Liked by 1 person


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