If You’re Going To Call The Police, Just Do It And Go Away

, , , , , , | Friendly | April 5, 2021

I am scheduled to visit a friend, but when I arrive, I find her hopped up on pain meds and only half-lucid. It turns out that she had unplanned emergency dental surgery today and is still recovering. I offer to take her younger son out to play for a while so she can get some sleep until the meds wear off.

For the record, the boy is black while I’m so pasty white I could be mistaken for a ghost, so it is clear he isn’t my biological son, not that that means much considering he was adopted, anyway.

I take the boy to a small playground shared with the other apartments right outside their home. At one point, one of the boy’s friends comes up to play with him so I back off a little to let the friends play.

Little Girl: “Can you please push me?”

I have never met the girl before. She is young enough that she probably can’t swing on the swings without being pushed, and she doesn’t appear to have any parents there to watch her. Having nothing better to do while watching the child I am babysitting, I agree to push her a little. I’ve never had the heart to say no to a cute kid!

A few minutes later, my kid starts to run off toward a different playground, at which point I politely excuse myself from the girl to follow the kid I am supposed to be watching.

Around the same time, a slightly older boy that I presume is the girl’s brother shows up and tells her she has to go back home. The girl complains that she was told she could play but the boy insists that her dad wants her home immediately, so they leave together. I don’t think much of this.

Just a few minutes after that, three large and burly men come down from the same area. They all have a very demanding demeanor. The man in the middle is clearly “in charge” of the other two.

Man #1: “Hey, who are you?”

Me: “Huh?”

Man #1: “You, what are you doing here?”

Me: “I’m playing with my friend’s son so she can get some rest.”

Man #1: *To the kid* “Is this man bothering or hurting you?”

Kid: *Confused* “No.”

Man #1: “Do you know him?”

The kid is now starting to sound more afraid than confused.

Kid: “Yeah, he’s our friend.”

The man doesn’t seem satisfied by this; he is looming over the poor child looking quite angry. As a man who regularly volunteers with children, I’m unfortunately used to dealing with lunatics who decide I must secretly be a pedophile because there is no other reason a man might care about children, so I know what is happening here. I can also tell that the kid I am babysitting doesn’t know what is going on and is clearly scared of the looming men, so my main goal is to avoid the man upsetting him any further.

Me: “Why don’t we talk over there so we don’t bother [Kid] while he is playing?”

I start to wander off in the indicated direction, hoping to draw the men away from the playground and the scared child, but one of the two men flanking the spokesperson cuts me off when I only get a little ways away.

Man #1: “Don’t run away. You didn’t answer my question.”

Me: “I’m not running anywhere. We can talk where we aren’t disturbing any children.”

Man #1: “How do you know him?” *Pointing to [Kid]*

Me: “He’s the son of a friend of mine.”

Man #1: “Then how do you know this friend?”

Me: “She’s my friend. I like to visit her and the kids. I’m not really sure what else you expect me to say about her.”

Man #1: “How did you meet her?”

I originally met my friend through some volunteering I did. I’m quite confident my friend would not want me disclosing the details as to her personal situation or why she originally needed my help. I take the promise of confidentiality in my volunteering very seriously. Thus, despite the clear threatening actions of the three men and my general resolve to cooperate to avoid escalation, I am not going to violate her privacy by sharing those details.

Me: “I’m sorry, but that’s private.”

Man #2: “What’s your name?”

Man #1: “Yeah, let’s see your ID.”

Me: “My name is [My First Name], and I don’t have any ID with me, not that you have a right to demand it, anyway.”

Man #1: “That’s a lie. Everyone has to have an ID. Show it to us.”

Me: “I intentionally leave my wallet and keys in the house when I bring the kids out to play so they don’t get in the way or lost.”

Figuring this is getting us nowhere, I decide I’ll get them to hurry up and make their real accusations so I can answer them and hopefully resolve this sooner. So, even though I am quite certain what this is all about, I ask:

Me: “May I ask what all this is about?”

Man #1: “Why were you pushing my girl on the swings?”

Me: “She asked me and I had nothing else to do! Why shouldn’t I help someone who asks nicely for something?”

Man #1: “I didn’t say you could!”

Me: “I didn’t see you around to ask. But if you don’t want me to push your daughter, I’ll be sure to tell her that I can’t if she ever asks me again.”

Man #1: “What about that boy? You couldn’t keep your hands off him!”

Me: *Honestly confused* “I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”

Man #1: “You were chasing him all over and grabbing him.”

Me: “He wanted me to try to tickle him, so I chased him like he wanted! That’s how kids play.”

Man #1: “He was screaming.”

Me: “Kids scream when they’re having fun, especially when being tickled! He already told you he knew me and I wasn’t bothering him, so clearly he wasn’t hurt by playing with me.”

Man #1: “Where is his mom, then?”

Me: “I told you, she is resting.”

Man #1: “So go get her to tell us that.”

Me: “She’s not in a good condition to talk right now and I’m not waking her up.”

Man #1: “I want to speak to his mother now or I’m going to call the police.”

Me: “I’m not forcing her to get up and come out here because you demand it. Please go ahead and call the police. I’m sure an officer could sort this out.”

What I don’t point out is that I have every intention to report all three men for assault if an officer does get called in. Compelling someone to do something (like answer overly personal questions) through implied threat of physical force is a textbook example of assault, and the fact that this man waited until he could round up two lackeys to help intermediate me before he confronted me is pretty strong evidence that the threat was intentional.

Me: “Look. Neither child is hurt in any way. [Kid] already told you who I was and that he is okay, and besides that, statistically, a child is in drastically more danger with their own father than some random stranger, anyway. You’ve proven—”

Man #3: *Cutting me off* “How would you know that?”

Me: “Because I volunteer with kids! I’ve done training on how to identify, report, and handle potential abuse. I have to know those statistics!”

During this time, the three men have kept closing on me to look more intimidating, and I’ve been slowly backing up every time they moved in on my personal space. This is mostly intentional on my part to drag them away from the playground and the poor child they scared, but as a side effect, we have now backed up enough that we are practically standing next to my friend’s apartment.

Apparently, my friend has overheard their voices, because around this time she appears at her bedroom window, sticking her head out. Her few hours of sleep while I watched her son apparently helped, because I am surprised how much better she looks and sounds, compared to how she was when I first arrived.

Friend: “What are you all doing?”

Man #1: “Do you know this man?”

Friend: “Yes, what’s wrong?”

Man #1: “Did you ask him to babysit that kid?”

Friend: “Yes, he often watches my kids.”

Man #1: “Okay, fine, whatever.” *To me* “You’re lucky.”

I still don’t know how I was “lucky” for being assaulted and threatened by three men for watching a child, but all I cared about was that the three men finally left. I brought my friend’s son back inside after that, and luckily, he was young enough that he mostly forgot about the odd encounter without my needing to do much to comfort him.

However, the man in question was clearly not appeased. Numerous times after that when I was out with my friend’s kids, his son was sent over to ask who I was and what we were doing. The kid was too young to be good at deception, so it was blatantly obvious that his father was the one who sent him over to ask the questions. The man never seemed to accept that I knew and could appreciate visiting the kids without any intent to harm them.

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