Years back, when I was waitressing and smelled like garlic bread, I would often return home at midnight or later. Car jackings were big in the news, and also that story about the rapist who hid under cars and slashed women’s feet to bring them to the ground, and my future husband started feeling worried about my safety.
He briefly thought I should own a gun. I’ve never liked guns, though I have nothing personal against them: the men in my family hunt. Myself, I feel squeamish holding one and frightened firing one. Future Husband thought he would help me over this aversion by taking me on a date to a firing range (which is considered a dating destination only in Texas and Montana).
At the firing range, I quickly distinguished myself as a gun dork. I had always been a dork in other areas: dancing comes immediately to mind, and also sports. I run like a duck, and when I play baseball, I close my eyes when I bat or catch, even if the bat and ball are plastic. I’ve learned to sort of play tennis, but during my first lesson, when the pro was trying to teach me how to serve, I tossed the ball into the air, lost sight of it, and it actually hit me in the face. (The pro gave me a discount for laughing instead of teaching.)
But the firing range… now that place elevated me to a whole new dork echelon. I flinched every time a gun fired. I made a squinty, sour-lemon face when I aimed. And no matter how hard I tried, my eyes closed as soon as I pulled the trigger, which does not help your marksmanship at all. Future Husband quickly saw that the world would be far safer if I never, ever handled a gun.
But Future Husband was still worried about me coming home so late… maybe not worried enough to drag himself out of bed after midnight to escort me home – he didn’t know he was my future husband back then, and I DID look pretty dorky at the firing range – but still, he wanted to keep me safe.
So he bought me Pepper Spray for my Keychain. For a weapon, it was pretty girly: red leather case, keychain attachment, safety cap that kept it from discharging in a cluttered purse. I can’t remember what it was called, just that it sounded like a weapon for Barbie: My Guardian Angel, or Debutante Defender or some such. I read the instructions, and practiced with the enclosed Beta video. I even sprayed the thing once, with my eyes open! And I hit where I aimed, though the plant was not happy at all. I promised Future Husband I would carry it in my purse.
A month later, walking from my car to my apartment late at night, I got that shaky, skin-crawling feeling, looked behind me, and saw a man in the stairwell, just standing there, staring. The man was fairly close. Between my duck-waddle run and my locked door, I was fairly sure I couldn’t escape him if he charged. He was also standing between me and my car, so I couldn’t go back and drive away. You’re probably thinking cell phone, but they weighed 7 pounds back then and were only carried by really pretentious people.
I could think of only two options: prepare to scream my bloody head off, and take out my Guardian Angel Pepper Spray. I fumbled in my purse and popped open the leather cover. I flipped the safety lid and positioned my trembling finger on the nozzle. I kept my legs and feet moving toward my apartment while I replayed in my mind the instructions from Mr. Stay Calm on the instruction video: hold out your non-dominant hand. Yell STOP! Aim your pepper spray using your non-dominant hand as your shooting guide. Spray. Yell. Run for safety.
I kept walking, ready to shoot, arrived at my door, and glanced back to see – no one. Scary man was gone and I was safe.
Trembling with relief, I started to put away the Guardian Angel so that I could use my attached key. This was when I realized I was HOLDING THE PEPPER SPRAY BACKWARD.
If the man had charged, I would have held out my non dominant hand, yelled STOP!, and sprayed myself right in the face.
So I don’t carry pepper spray anymore. Though come to think of it, I’m sure it would have been a pretty good deterrent, with the potential victim abruptly macing herself and flopping around on the ground screaming in pain. If I were an attacker, I’d run.