I was … something terrifying … today. Physically I was unharmed. Mentally, emotionally? Time will tell, I suppose.

Today is Thursday, which means 4 or 5 hours at my former full-time, winding down part-time contract job and office after training with J. Everyone was out in the field today, though, so much of my time there I was alone. Which is fine. In nearly 11 years it has never bothered me to be there by myself.

Then there is today. *sigh*

Around 3:30 p.m. I decided to close up shop and take some large boxes out to the dumpster behind the building. This office building is in a warehouse district and our building backs up a greenbelt area along a section of the bike trail and an estuary feed from the river. There is a fence with a locked gate, and in truth I have never given it much thought. My biggest concern has always been watching for the feral cats that roam around back there and periodically startle themselves and then startle me.

Today there were 2 homeless men behind some empty drums we keep behind the building. I did not see them when I walked out to the dumpster but when I turned around to return to the office, they were both there, standing between me and the door to get back into the building and truly the only exit from the dumpster and rear of our building.

One of them had a large knife in his hand and was leering at me. The other was smiling and rubbing his hands together with a big, ugly, toothless smile on his face. I looked around to see if anyone else was around – the 2 buildings we share a parking lot with are both mostly vacant and there were no cars parked in front of the closest one, the next building over is empty, and I did not see anyone or hear any voices in the yard of the pool place next door in my quick, nervous glance. I asked them what they wanted, and the one with the knife said it was raining and the wanted to go inside with me where it was warm and dry. I think, anyway; there was this roaring in my ears that made hearing difficult the words difficult while I was straining to hear the sounds of help from any other direction. When I didn’t move or say anything, they started advancing on me, making catcalling sounding noises and lewd gestures as I weighed my options for running away. Just as I was about to bolt and make a run for it I heard voices speaking Spanish in the pool yard next door. I screamed as loudly as I possibly could, a terror-backed cry for help and scrambled behind the dumpster, still screaming for help at the top of my lungs.

The homeless men tried to come after me and pull me from my place behind the dumpster, but I kicked at their hands and scrambled backwards. The one with the knife actually tried to stab my leg with it, thankfully missing and ripping the leg of my jeans instead. No harm to me at all. The pool guys heard the screaming and came over to the fence to see what the ruckus was about, but there is an iron fence between us. Fortunately their presence and one running down to the gate to come around and the other standing there yelling at the homeless guys in Spanish did the trick, and the homeless men turned away from me and slipped out through the back gate and away at a good clip.

I am completely unharmed physically, but I was (maybe still am) badly shaken. Someone called the police, they came and took a report and looked for the homeless men, who of course by then had disappeared. I sent an email to the local owner explaining what had happened and that I am not sure about returning to the office, like ever.

In reality, the encounter probably lasted less than a minute, but it seemed like a lot longer. I was alone with 2 men, one armed with a knife. During the encounter my life did not flash before my eyes, but I was so scared all I could think was they smelled so foul and I did not want them near me. One of them actually touched my jeans, which now have a rip and must be destroyed. Even without the rip they would have to be destroyed, because the evil man touched them. I am still deciding if the rest of the clothing I was wearing must be destroyed as well or if laundering them is enough.

As soon as I was locked in my building with one of the ladies from the pool showroom and knew the police were on their way, I completely lost my lunch in the bathroom. I know, I know – TMI. Sorry. I am truly rattled and this is how I process, gory vomit details and all.

In the end, I was unharmed and my primary loss was my innocence about how cruel and dangerous the world can be. After 10+ years and many nights working alone after dark in that office, I feel really awful and sick to my stomach imagining different outcomes and trying so very hard to turn my brain off to make it stop. My days of ever being there again alone even in broad daylight are over, assuming I can bring myself to go back at all.

While waiting for the police to arrive to take my statement, I called M and told him what happened. I started to cry when I heard his voice and had to reassure him 3 times I was fine, not physically hurt, merely completely and totally freaked out. He was in the east bay at a running event with friends and he will not be home until tomorrow sometime, although he was going to come home immediately. I convinced him it is not necessary, because I am physically fine and he has been looking forward to this event for months. It was fine; it is fine and I am glad he agreed to stay. I understood and felt better after talking to him. I anticipate a conversation on being more aware of my surroundings sometime when I am much calmer, but that’s okay; I probably deserve it.

I also called a client to reschedule a late afternoon appointment, explaining what had happened. He was alarmed and relieved. We rescheduled for Friday assuming I feel up to it. I will force myself to feel up to it.

When I got home I took a shower and threw the ruined jeans in the trash and the rest of my clothes I was wearing into the wash by themselves. Then I got dressed and went to the gym.

It is a strange reaction, to go to the gym after that type of trauma. I find I crave control – over my emotions, my new-found fear, and my mounting anger over the whole reactionary state I am in. And since I cannot seem to control my emotional state right now, at least I can move my body and its limbs and put them through the range of what they can do. I theorized my hands also cannot shake if they are holding a weight and proved it to myself through a few sets of my dumbbells List. The practice did what it was supposed to do and tired me out, mentally and physically. Obsessing over the minutia of squats and deadlifts and curls was distracting enough to calm my nerves. And I avoided a trip to Baskin Robbins for comfort ice cream. That’s something.

Ours is a safe neighborhood, but I have the alarm set and way too many lights on. Sleep is eluding me, and I am hoping blogging about it mutes some of my emotional backlash.

Did I mention I am completely freaked out? I walk. I talk. I moved weights to and fro. I did not eat ice cream and make myself sick. I talked to M when I got home and to another friend for an hour in the middle of the night where he is because M is running tomorrow and needs to sleep, whereas my other friend is just going to work and flying home. I have laid down and tried to sleep, but every time I close my eyes I see their faces and that knife and smell their awful stench. And it makes me feel ill all over again.

It was a very bad day today.



29 thoughts on “When bad things happen

  1. Jan I just massively texted you but you asleep I hope. No fucking job is worth that and after I threw up I hit my knees that in God you were ok and thanking you for being smart enough to do what you did.

    Through all the clothes out. I know you they will never be warn again. I am just thankful that you are ok but wish I was,there instead of you alone.

    I pray your resting. Call me or text I am up.

    Love…and thankful

    1. I know! I am not fine – that might take a few more days – but I am functional and getting ready to get on with my sleep-deprived day. Hands are still shaking slightly, but otherwise, I am okay.

  2. I am so thankful that you were not physically harmed. I hope that the trauma doesn’t continue to erupt over the coming days. Sending you hugs from Virginia.

    1. Thanks, A. I am still shaking – understandable, I suppose. But calmly marginally as the hours pass. Appreciate the hugs, hope you’re not buried under too much snow.

  3. I don’t believe my post saved properly, but please know I am thinking of you, for a speedy recovery, mentally, and am so relieved you were not harmed any further. Thank you for sharing this, as I know it was not easy, as it opens our eyes as well. Please throw the clothes away, they forever will be a reminder to you. Also, don’t go back to that job. It is not worth it. Hugs and thoughts of well-being from Angie in Michigan ….

    PS: I’m so proud of you for going to the gym, not for your health, but it shows that you know it helps your mental state of health as well. Try to get some rest at some point.

    1. Thanks, Angela. I did get a little sleep, and I am sticking close to home. Thanks for the support on the clothes – I’ve washed and dried them and they are now in the donation box. I can’t ever wear them again.

  4. Throw it all away. Never go back there again. I am so relieved the pool folks were there. I completely understand the going to the gym and regaining a tiny bit of control. Leave on all the lights you need. I am so glad you were physically unharmed. Hugs

    1. Thanks, SAK. The fear … OMG, the FEAR! I was walking out of the gym last night and very nearly turned around and went back in to wait the hour until J was finished with his last client to walk me out. My gym is safe. There are windows looking out into the parking lot and people around all the time. But it was dark, there were shrubs, and I had to make myself walk calmly to my car and then sit there and shake for a minute to compose myself. I am never going back. They can figure out how to write me a check and mail it, or I’ll write the hours off.

  5. Oh my! I can’t imagine how scary this was and I am so very thankful you are unharmed! I’m afraid stuff like this does stick with us for a little while…stay around friends and family as that will provide a more secure feeling too. Hugs and hugs.

    1. Thanks, M. I am vacillating between paralyzing fear and a white-hot fury that makes me want to do … something, anything but eat my stress and anxiety away. Sticking close to home today.

      1. Good for sticking close to home today but sorry about the fear or the fury. did you report it to your building manager? that’s really something the building should have security for!

      2. The firm’s owners own the building, but there are new owners who have the building complex management aspects. Supposedly there is CCTV, but the building just sold and I had no idea who to call. The police will contact the owner to get it; no way am I watching it.

  6. Oh my goodness. What a totally scary thing to go through. I’m so glad you are ok and were not hurt. I was scared just reading it. Take care and give yourself lots of pampering.

  7. I am just reading about your horrible experience and I hope by now your a little calm and can sleep tonight. I can’t even image how frighten you were, that would be my last time in that alley. Hopefully the police can find these two before they hurt or scare someone else. Cheryl

    1. My hope as well. It’s a strange thing – middle of the day, daylight (kind of overcast gray but still light), and this happens. Thanks for the kind words, Cheryl. I agree and hope law enforcement does their job and are successful in finding them quickly.

  8. That is completely horrifying. It is such an invasion…I couldn’t even imagine the terror. I am glad that you escaped physically unharmed but I feel horrible for the emotional piece of this that you will carry. It’s so horrible 😦

    1. It’s … awful. Simply so awful. But I am going to stand up and scream back at my new anxiety and fear until it retreats back where it belongs. If only it were easy and over and done with when yesterday ended.

  9. This is terrifying simply to read, let alone experience. I hope that your recovery is quick. Going to the gym seems completely understandable to me, although I would have likely stopped for that ice cream anyway. It’s probably a good sign that you are able to make sound decisions already. Hugs to you.

    1. Thanks for the kind and supportive comment. I remind myself every day, several times daily, that I am physically unhurt and lucky for that. The rest will pass as time passes. But the desire for ice cream? Maybe I’m stuck with that forever.

  10. Oh Janelle this is so terrible. A woman alone is just such an obvious target for the wrong type. Thank god you weren’t hurt, but the thought of it scares even me for you. I so hope the anguish will lessen soon.

    1. Thanks Marty. It gets worse before it gets better, but I am so blessedly fortunate to have a great and wise support system that is not afraid to bitch-slap me back to reality when needed. 🙂 I’m coping and will overcome.

  11. I had to back up and read this post again.
    That is/was a horrific experience. Yes, you are very fortunate &
    yes this is something that will not be going away any time soon.
    I experience a similar bad situation many moons ago and it still
    passes thru my brain now an again. As time goes by the fear factor
    starts to fade and the, thank God I’m alive, prevails.
    I’m glad these assholes were taken into custody and hopefully they
    get what they deserve, which in my mind would be LIFE, They should
    never be able to do what they did to anyone else ever.
    I hope the woman that is in the hospital will survive the mental blow of
    this mess. Physical wounds hopefully will heal. Hopefully.
    I feel for you and it’s great that you are able to put all this in
    writing. Never think negative about any reaction that you are having
    or feeling due to your encounter with these freaks. Homeless or not,
    that is no excuse and the dumb dude that implied those creeps should
    be excused. It could have been him. What an asshole.
    Sorry for my language but there is not excuse for being stupid.
    I really hope you will get thru all this up and down emotions that
    you are having. I don’t know if I could have escaped those creeps
    but I’m sure glad you did. I give you major credit for that. A lot of women
    would have just froze.
    OK, I’m done for now.
    Take care, Monica

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