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  • Claudette Melanson

Scared in San Diego: The Downside to my California Trip

I’ve said it before; I strive to be a nice person. Maybe that’s why I’m so flabbergasted when I encounter another person with such a complete lack of human decency. I’m not completely naïve—I do watch Criminal Minds. I know there are bad people out there. All in all, everyone I met in California, when I travelled to attend the InD’Scribe Conference, was so very nice. I even met a couple at Six Flags Magic Mountain who accompanied me on more than one ride, so that I wouldn’t have to spend the day alone—thank you Ben and Jennifer! But, on my last day, I found a little bit of human indecency right before flying back home to Ontario. This is the unfortunate story of what happened to me—a situation which left a grown woman feeling like a helpless, terrified child.

I won’t go through the long story which brought me to Extreme Pizza on Clairemont Drive in San Diego, but will just say due to my craptastic hotel failing to have neither wifi nor phone available, I ended up here, being unable to call for delivery. I was so tired from all the super-long conference days, a 103 degree day at the amusement park and a two-hour drive back to the city of my return flight the next morning. And I felt hungry enough to gnaw off my own arm. My exhaustion and frustration turned to delight when I learned Extreme could provide me with a gluten-free pepperoni and extra cheese pizza! I wouldn’t have to resort to self-cannibalism after all.

There was a man standing at the counter with me. I’d been so focused on ordering food that I hadn’t really noticed him before. He was probably in his late fifties—old enough to know better—short, but stocky and muscular with a shaved head. He’d heard me say to the owner of the restaurant that I was from Canada and proceeded to tell me he had relatives in one of the provinces, and told me a story about one of his visits. I’d met so many nice people, so I merely assumed he was being friendly, like my companions from the park. He was drinking a draft and asked me if I wanted to drink with him. I answered no, citing I had to drive back to my hotel. He asked me where I was staying, but I was smart enough to keep that to myself.

“Do you need someone to drive you back?” he asked. Ummmm, no…definitely not.

“No, thanks. I need to let my husband know I’m okay and made it from the park.” At this point he was a little too insistent for me, and I just wanted to distance myself. I looked on my phone for a wifi connection, and lucked up—unlike at my questionable hotel, which was really more like a camp for displaced humanity. I connected and proceeded to text Ron, letting him know I’d made the drive without running off any hillsides and explaining I had no wifi to allow for communicating at the hotel. The few times I’d had to turn my cellular on out of necessity had resulted in $200 in roaming charges (which Telus waived $150 of…thank you, Telus. I’m eternally grateful!).

The man had asked when I sat down to wait, dead on my swollen ankles, if he could sit and talk with me while I waited. It’s very hard for me to be rude, so I mistakenly said it was okay, though hesitation weighed heavy in the tone I used. He’d talked to me about how he was originally from Poland and asked me a couple of other things, but I was starting to get uncomfortable. He kept asking me if I wanted a beer, and I insisted I wouldn’t be consuming alcohol of any kind…although his insistence and overbearing nature really made me want to.

He, quite suddenly, became aggressive when I told him I needed to talk to my husband. He said, “You’re a cutie,” reaching out like he was going to touch my face.

“Don’t touch me,” I growled in warning. I could see the anger and frustration become more prominent in the set of his mouth and the flare of his beady, grey eyes.

He stood and held his mostly-finished beer out to me. I was getting angry myself, but I knew I was alone in an unfamiliar city with no one to back me up. “No, I said I don’t want any,” I told him firmly.

He stood up and moved around so that he was standing over my right shoulder…so he could read what I was texting!

“Can I help you with something?” I asked, absolutely incensed.

“I want you to drink with me,” he insisted again. “I can drive you back.” That was when I noticed he was very drunk. He stumbled and almost missed when he put his glass down on the counter.

“I told you I really need to get in touch with my husband.” I looked down at my phone, determined not to look back up.

This is when the scary stuff came out. There aren’t many humans more frightening than those who have a complete disregard for how they make other people feel and refuse to respect the fact they’ve been told no. This guy was determined to pull a reaction from me, with no regard for my feelings. He sat back down and started making loud noises, nearly shouting gibberish, making me jump and then smiling about it. He’d say something like, “Hey!” shouting loudly so I would look up, startled. He said something else, and I said, “What?” He just grinned back at me in a very evil way.

I started to shake a little. It disturbed me that he couldn’t respect me and leave me to my texting, resorting to scare tactics to get my attention. He was so insistent on getting his way that he’d resorted to harassing me. I started to wonder if he was insistent enough to try to follow me back to my hotel. Home suddenly seemed even farther away. I made up my mind to keep my head down. He stood back up when he couldn’t get a rise out of me. He walked around to my right side again, placing himself between me and the open door, and fairly screamed in my ear. I must have given quite the look, because he said, “Why you look at me like you wanna kill me?”

I said back, “I think you know why.”

He moved closer and rubbed the back of his hand across the backside of my bare arm. It made me nauseous, and I felt even more helpless at his determination to put his hands on me when I’d expressly asked him not to.

I was enraged, but also terrified. The store owner could hear him. He was being too loud not to be heard. Yet, he did nothing to aid me. If this guy took things further—we were the only three people in the shop—would he even do anything? It made me think about that quote which comments on the evil in doing nothing when you see something bad going down. I longed for the protection of the notorious Popcorn Man…or my bunbaby Pepper’s razor sharp teeth.

I’d stood up at this point, utilizing what I hoped was my formidable height, and said to the man behind the counter, “I really hope that’s ready to go.”

Luckily it was, and I made it out of the pizza place and back to my hotel with no other incident. But I was shaken and couldn’t help wondering what I might have done if I’d been attacked or followed.

It’s a sad statement that a woman can’t go on a business trip, even try to have a little fun, without being harassed and made to feel frightened. I’d felt completely confident and happy the entire time, before this incident. Wherever you are, Mr. Drunk Loser, shame on you for the way you made me feel. Shame on the business owner for not saying anything—Drunk Loser had mentioned at one point they knew each other. I didn’t realize until the next day, when I was Face Timing with Ron in Starbucks, how much it had shaken me up until I started crying when I told him about it. “I just want to come home,” I told him. And I did. To the safety of my writing couch, surrounded by the bunnies who love and always respect me. I won’t let this keep me from traveling in the future, but now I really hope I don’t have to do it alone—and I really shouldn’t have to feel that way.

#Bullying #Harassment #California #InDScribeCon #Author #ClaudetteMelanson #Pizza #SanDiego #PopcornMan #Scared #Travel


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          Claudette Melanson         Author of Award-Winning Vampire, Dark Fantasy & Children's Books

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