Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sexual Predators are Everywhere

A couple of months back, on a Sunday afternoon; I was in Safeway buying a greeting card when I noticed a man hiding behind an end-cap, (shelving) watching some kids. I couldn’t see the kids but I could hear them and at first I assumed he was playing a game of peek-a-boo with his own kids. Something was off though. I stayed right there next to him pretending to look at cards and watching him pretend to look at the box of crackers, and when I finally made him uncomfortable, he moved away. The minute he moved I looked around the corner to see the kids and found that there were a group of young teens, maybe 13 or 14 years old, three girls and one boy. The group left one teen sitting on the floor, (I have no idea what she was doing there.) so I started to walk over to her and I saw the man in the next aisle, now perpendicular to this one girl. He was pretending to look at soda, but he kept looking right at her. He was so intent on his mission that he almost didn’t see me.  There was something about the young lady he was watching that was vulnerable. I saw it right away and believe me, he saw it too.

I walked up to the girl and asked her if she knew the man, who now, was directly behind me maybe 15 feet away. She looked around me and said no. I told her to go get her friends and get out of there because he had been watching her for at least 10 minutes. She scooted.  

I called Safeway the next day and reported the incident—but was not asked my name or anything else so I didn’t expect it to go anywhere.

A week later—on a Saturday afternoon, same time of day as the previous week, I see the man walking through the parking lot as I am driving out. I drove out to the street, turned around, came back into the lot, and saw him still walking with his bag, so I followed him. I took out my phone and while driving started snapping pictures of him. I followed him to his truck, parked outside of the Radio Shack. I moved one aisle over and parked right behind him.

During the next 15 minutes, the man’s behavior was strange to say the least—alarming to anyone that knows about predators.  He opened his truck door but didn’t get in, he put the bag in the back of his truck and pretended to tie the bags handles together for a ridiculous amount of time. He kept his eye on the Dollar store. He walked back and forth to the nearby garbage bin, one small piece of rubbish at a time, eyes always elsewhere. Truck door open all the time.

He gave no indication that he felt or knew he was being watched and/or photographed. I took pictures of him, his truck and finally a close-up of his license plate.

When I got home, I looked at The Megan’s Law website to see if he was listed.  He was not. I sent the information I had along with the photos to the Novato Police Dept. A few days later, I received an email from the NPD thanking me, and letting me know they will look into the matter. (I reported to Safeway again- again no response.)

My purpose for sharing this now is that I hope you will educate your kids and yourselves to this kind of thing. Kids need to pay attention to their surroundings, to who is around them and most of all they need to tune into their intuition. If they are lacking intuition, then you as parents, or educators need to help them cultivate extreme awareness.

Sexual predators are everywhere. Often they are someone you know, some normal looking person with a normal job. They could be in your church, your school, the neighborhood or your grocery store, sometimes, they can be in your own family. None of this is new behavior—it’s not a product of the times. It existed when I was a kid and long before that too.  It’s not just Marin County, or California… it’s a nation wide problem.

We have had far too many missing kids, murdered kids, molested kids to ignore this issue and pretend that we live in a safe world. We don’t. But, it would be a lot safer if people started paying attention to what is around them, and if people weren’t afraid to speak up when they saw something not quite right. When it comes to kid safety and well-being, it’s everyone’s business.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Aging with Grace ~ Fighting The Old Fart Syndrome

For me, looking young is not the goal.  Not becoming a cranky old fart is. I admit, I have old fart tendencies.

I caught myself laughing at some kid the other day, who wiped out on his skateboard because his baggy pants fell down. He went down hard and hit his noggin. I laughed as I walked by and thought to myself, serves him right for dressing like a moron. Then I remembered walking downtown San Francisco one day with my Dad. I was about 14 years old, wearing neon yellow hip-huggers and an orange and yellow ribbed, poor-boy style shirt. A lady—apparently from out of town looked at me, shook her head and mumbled something about “The way these people dress here.”

My dad looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. I can’t remember what I felt, but since I remember the incident some 45+ years later, it clearly had an impact. I realize now, I was being judged without her knowing anything about me. She didn’t know that my mom had been sick for years,  that I took care of my sister and brother, that I cooked and cleaned and played nursemaid almost every day of my life and  that I shouldered more responsibility than most 30 year olds. – No, she didn’t know that at all.

 I shouldn’t have laughed at that kid. I should have just asked him if he was okay. I acted like an old fart—and I am mad at myself for it.

There is a lot to be said for life experience. We (old people) share our unsolicited advice at every turn. Romance advice (which I failed miserably), education advice, (an incomplete here), health (well- I’m alive at least), wealth (double fail). Honestly- what makes me think I’m so smart? Why would I think I know any more about life than some 15 year old?

With my son, I constantly remind myself, we all have our own path. He has his lessons and his burdens, his own joy and his own grief. You can’t tutor someone through life 101A. Not even if you have completed Life 101B. So why do we always insist on trying?

The old saying, It’s not how old you are, it’s how old you feel, is true enough, but it’s also how old you act. When you start poo-pooing everything the new generation comes up with and start thinking your generation was the only one that had it right- you are without any doubt at all- an old fart.

When you look at someone with tattoos and shake your head, and say something like kids these days. You are an old fart.

When you start to say things like- in my day we didn’t need car seats for babies- you are a stupid old fart.

When you forget your own youth (misspent in many cases) and start hating teenagers just because they are teenagers, or because they have long hair, or baggy pants, or rings in places you don’t want to know about… you are an old fart.

You can dye your roots and lift your sagging skin so high that you can tie it in a knot on top of your head, but you’ll still be an old fart when you open your mouth.  

I have to confess; I have thanked my son on numerous occasions for not dressing like a moron and for walking like a man and not some missing link with something stuck in his behind. I’m appreciative that he was a relatively easy teen – easy, mostly because I have a good memory and there was nothing he did that I hadn’t done ten-fold. I need to remember to keep that same perspective with everyone.

I’ll continue to dye my roots, and try to keep my body in working condition—but it’s my attitude I’m going to concentrate on. I can’t fight the aging process, things will sag and stretch and eventually fall apart, but I plan on remembering things the way they really were and try to look at things from younger eyes.