Certain questions should not be randomly asked of total strangers. It can create quite a panic at worst and a feeling of embarrassed awkwardness at best.
I was at the gas station filling up the car and seemingly minding my own business. Out of nowhere, I’m sideswiped by a question I’m totally unprepared to answer. I made the mistake of having a fleeting moment of eye contact with an average-looking young woman who looked lost. From all appearances, she was a nice, polite, law-abiding citizen.
“Excuse me,” she asked hesitantly. “But do you know how to get to the parole office?”
What do you say to that?! If you eagerly give directions, you brand yourself as someone who has regularly frequented the premises. If you don’t say anything and turn away, you are rude and judgmental.
When someone takes me by complete surprise, my mind goes blank for a suitable response. After some hesitation, I told her I didn’t know and perhaps they could tell her inside. It felt like such a cop-out though, passing the buck to the next guy.
I’ve thought long and hard about this incident and two things prominently stick out. First, the woman asked it as freely and innocently as if she wanted directions to the post office. The other, perhaps more important point, is I now fear I may somehow look like a person who readily knows the answer to that question.
This disturbing thought has caused me to take a long look at myself. No tattoos or scars. No hard look on my face. No shifty eyes. I don’t think my posture or body language give off that gangster-type quality. My Honda Accord with front-end cartoon license plate and toy-littered backseat could hardly be considered a suitable get-away vehicle. My outfit that day looked like the average person running errands on a Saturday morning.
If all the above is true, this must be one of those random freak incidents — like getting hit by falling toilet waste from an airplane. But there will always be a small part of me with a nagging doubt… am I missing out on the opportunity to be the female half of the next Bonnie and Clyde or to be profiled on America’s Most Wanted?
Then again, I like sleeping in the same bed every night and not constantly looking over my shoulder. I’m afraid to even cheat on my taxes or park illegally. Somehow, holding up a bank or burglarizing a house just doesn’t seem to fit my personality. No, I fear my days as a criminal are over before they’ve even started.
Sadly, I still don’t know how to get to the parole office. As a citizen of this town, I really should know more about where everything is located. After all, like being prepared for a meteor strike, I could be asked this question again!