Encounters with friends & strangers

Showering You With Awkwardness

, , , , , | Friendly | CREDIT: Garan-Coristar | July 6, 2021

I’m at a campground. I’m on my way to take a shower because I got sweaty while hiking. I find the last open shower. I am about to get undressed when I hear a knock at the door.

Me: “Who is it?”

Woman: “Ugh, can you hurry up? My darling [Child] needs his shower before he goes to bed.”

Me: “Ma’am, I was just about to start. You can look for another shower if you want.”

Woman: “Ugh, but there are no bathrooms left! You can go after my darling [Child]! And I won’t take no for an answer!”

Jeez, this lady is persistent. I hear a tinier voice.

Child: “Mom, it’s fine. I can go after him.”

Woman: “No! Gentlemen are supposed to let ladies go first always! You should get out of there, b*****d!”

I just ignored her after that. Little did I know, I forgot to lock the door.

This lady just walked in like nobody’s business, and even worse, her kid came pre-naked. I shielded my eyes and yelled, “Get OUT!”

She ran out of the shower and finally let me be. I don’t know why she thought she could come in anyway, or why anyone would undress their kid in their RV and let them run around naked, but I’ll always lock my door from now on.

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Not Just A Bigot But A Stupid One At That

, , , , , | Friendly | July 4, 2021

I am a white-passing femme-presenting person. It’s winter and it’s snowing, so I’m wearing a matching knit set of gloves, beanie, and scarf. Since my hair is kind of short, I like to make sure my neck is 100% protected from the cold wind by wrapping the scarf and tucking it against the lower edge of the hat firmly, leading to it vaguely looking like one long piece of knitwear.

Some old guy is standing in the middle of campus whining about democrats, Obamacare — which isn’t even available in this state at the time — and tuition, face as red as a toddler throwing a tantrum. He’s yelling at some very disinterested-looking young people who are unfortunately waiting for the bus and are thus a captive audience.

Man: “I don’t want to pay for your college! That’s your problem! It’s not fair to make me pay for your liberal arts degree! You need to pay me!

I glance back at the sign for the dental school’s building, not twenty feet from him, which is very much not considered a liberal arts program

Me: “Sir, you’re disrupting anyone taking their pre-dental classes in that room. Please quiet down. No one cares what you think.”

Man: *Yelling* “AND WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, YOU [ARABIC SLUR]?”

Me: “I’m a Native American. And I’m also paler than you. Maybe you should go back to your own country.”

He loses steam; he is clearly not used to being challenged by people half his size.

Man: “Uh, well! Well! The f*** do you call that dumb thing on your head?!”

I unwrap the scarf a little bit, speaking slowly to mock his intelligence.

Me: “This part is called a ‘scarf.’ The other part is a ‘hat.’”

The people waiting for the bus started laughing, causing this gigantic toddler to kick the pole for the bus sign in rage, then cuss in pain and limp away. Whenever I saw him harassing my fellow students after that, he’d put his tail between his legs and hurriedly leave like I was Satan himself.

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Touching My Hat Will Make You See Red

, , , , , , | Friendly | July 2, 2021

When I was about nine years old, I had a massive hay fever flare-up after playing in a meadow all day. In addition to other symptoms, my eyeballs swelled up and went red. I didn’t have any sunglasses at the time, so the next day my mother took me into the nearby village to buy some. I wore a baseball cap pulled down low over my eyes to hide them.

It is regarded as rude by some people for a man or boy to keep his hat on when indoors, and as we walked into the shop, a complete stranger decided that he would teach me a lesson by taking my hat off for me. I reflexively looked up at him with my swollen, red eyes.

I’ve never seen a person leave a place so quickly in my life. Apparently, he didn’t think that there might be some reason why I kept my hat on — until he saw those eyes.

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There Are Many Ways To Reach Your Students

, , , , , | Friendly | June 30, 2021

Over a decade ago, when I was nineteen, I attended a college in which the various buildings were quite spaced out through the downtown area; there was no real central campus. This meant that, one summer day, as I stopped to get lunch while walking to my next class, I passed a city bus stop just outside the sandwich shop I was heading for. A man at the bus stop saw me approach, smiled in a casual, friendly way, said something like, “Hey, looking good!” and held up one hand for a high-five.

Call me clueless, but without thinking, I high-fived him back. Maybe it just seemed the path of least resistance, or maybe as a girl who had literally never been hit on once in her life, it was a bit flattering. Either way, it was over in a moment, and I was off into the sandwich shop for my lunch.

Then, halfway through the “What else would you like on that?” process, the employee making my sandwich paused, his face suddenly serious, as he looked past me out the restaurant window.

Employee: “Hey, uh, don’t look now, but there’s a guy outside who’s, like, really staring at you.”

Without turning to fully look, I worked out that the guy I’d high-fived was indeed staring nonstop at me through the window behind me, and I informed the employee that, no, I did not know him, and we both proceeded to act as though we hadn’t noticed him. Internally, I was now extremely nervous, of course. What the heck had I just set off? What was I going to do now? There was only one door to the place, so I would have to pass this guy if I left. As the minutes passed and I paid for my sandwich, the guy apparently did not intend to enter the restaurant, content to just watch me through the glass, probably waiting for me to leave.

Panicking a bit, and having no prior experience with directly creepy men, I chose to sit inside the mostly empty restaurant and eat, facing away from the guy and pretending I didn’t see him. The whole time, he never came inside. I believe the employee kept an eye out for me, too, but there were no further actions taken. After finishing my food, I stayed put and looked at my phone, still steadfastly refusing to acknowledge the guy’s presence, but with that deep sick feeling of panic in the pit of my stomach.

Then, I got a text from a classmate. I’d spent so much time in the sandwich shop that class had started, and my professor was wondering where I was. They were small classes, my professor was a sweetheart, and it was not like me to be late or miss class. I filled them in on the situation, told them I was too nervous to leave the shop, and was immediately told:

Classmate: “Hang on for just another minute! [Professor] is coming to get you!”

And now I must explain a few things about this professor. He is probably the kindest, gentlest soul I have ever known. He once described himself as “Bobby Hill” — from the show “King of the Hill” — a sweet, sensitive, non-athletic, creative child from a family of incurious rednecks. He was fairly short and somewhat overweight, and he kept his hair quite long. He was beloved in his department for encouraging his students and nurturing their creativity and growth, and he was also well known for being a huge fan of a certain very cutesy cartoon character mostly aimed at young girls. He would even dress as this character every Halloween.

So, this is the man who did not hesitate to hop in his car and drive the four or five blocks to my location and charge into the sandwich shop. His timing could not have been better. Since I was watching out for him, I gathered my stuff as I saw him coming, and as soon as he entered, I stood to leave. Together, we started walking right back out the door, just as the guy from outside decided to finally come in. We passed him on the way out and booked it down the sidewalk.

The guy actually followed us, staying a few feet behind, through crosswalks and down the block. After less than a minute of this, my professor turned on a dime, got up in this dude’s face — which was about a foot higher than my professor’s — and spat out, “Can I help you?”

The guy mumbled something and FINALLY backed off. My professor later said the guy had reeked of booze, something I’d never picked up on. We made it safely back to my professor’s adorable little Prius, where I got to deep-breathe through the remains of my scare while enjoying [Character] seat covers and floor mats on the way back to class, and I was about the most grateful to someone I’ve ever been.

I always feel like such an idiot looking back on that incident, and I’m fully aware it could have been much worse! That professor will always be my hero!


This story is part of our Best Of June 2021 roundup!

Read the next Best Of June 2021 roundup story!

Read the Best Of June 2021 roundup!

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They’ve Got The “Kind Strangers” Thing On Lock

, , , , , | Friendly | June 28, 2021

I was quite the road-tripper post-college and very notorious for locking my keys in my car — my very old, no-frills, manual 1991 Corolla with crank windows. So notorious was I that, after going home for Christmas, my parents made me half a dozen extra keys to hide or give to more responsible people. Problem solved, or so you would think.

I was driving back to Utah from Arizona and stopped at a small gas station just south of the Utah/Arizona border. It was 3:00 am and I just needed one more tank of gas to get home, so I got out of the car and habitually locked and slammed my door. Just as it clicked shut, I realized that I had just locked my keys in the car.

I had no cell service, I was six hours from family and friends going either direction, and there were no other buildings for at least twenty miles. This Hitchcock-esque gas station was the only place with lights and people. So, I did the only sensible thing any twenty-year-old solo female traveler would do: I walked into the convenience store and said, “Help!”

Immediately, the only people there — the owner and his cousin — sprang into action. Apparently, the cousin had just relocated there from California looking to get a fresh start. Lucky for me, because he said he had lots of friends who locked their keys in their cars so he had a lot of experience breaking into cars. This sweet, wonderful, large, heavily tattooed man spent over an hour working to get into my car. And when he finally managed, neither he nor his cousin would take any money from me, not even for the hot chocolate they gave me while saving me from my own mistake.

I never saw either of them again on subsequent road trips, but I hope they both got every break the universe could offer them.

I wish that was the last time I’d gotten myself locked out of my car. It wasn’t. It wasn’t even the most dramatic. But it was the sweetest.

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