Today I did something in my supermarket parking lot that I've never done before.
I locked the car doors as soon as I could get myself into my seat.
My county is, by and large, a small community. The county as a whole has about 33,000 people. I don't know them all, of course, but there is seldom a time when I go to the local market and do not see someone I know.
After a while, especially if you go around the same time and day, you tend to see the same people over and over. You may not be friends, but there is a sense of security in the sameness.
That's why today, when I left the store and noticed people I did not recognize accosting folks in the parking lot, showing them a flyer and pointing, and watching as the people tried vainly to be polite and get away, and then noticed other people who did not seem to be long wandering around trying indiscreetly to check door handles on vehicles, I hurriedly unloaded my groceries in the trunk, praying that I would draw no attention to myself. I was parked in a handicapped spot and had my cane in my hand, but still. I was feeling terrible and not having a good day.
So as soon as I could, I fled to my car (which means I limped to the car), and I locked the doors.
In my little county. Where I know probably 10 percent of the 33,000 people who live here by virtue of my former work as a news reporter. And if I don't know you, I probably know your friend.
City folk are probably thinking, so what? I imagine they always lock their car doors. Maybe they always walk to their vehicle with their pepper spray at the ready. I don't know. I grew up in a rural area and I've never been overly concerned about my safety, even though I was attacked at Winn Dixie a very long time ago. The person who did that was not from these parts.
And neither, I suspect, were the people patrolling the supermarket parking lot today. They did not look they belonged here. Their dress was off. Their movements were wrong. They were prowling, and we don't prowl.
I started to call the sheriff's office, but wondered what I would report. Strange looking folks in the parking lot? We have a lot of strange-looking people wander through the area anyway as we're on the Appalachian Trail. But these people weren't hikers. I know what the hikers look like. These people were scammers or something.
Rumors of folks accosting others at local parking lots have been flying around for a while now. Sometimes someone asks for money for a cab. Sometimes they ask for a ride. Some time ago, I was asked if I wanted to buy "really good steaks, cheap" out of the back of a freezer truck. I politely declined and hurried away.
One asked my mother-in-law to help her, and my mother-in-law told her to go in and talk to the store management. That was smart thinking for a woman over 80.
Scams obviously work - someone sometimes gives these people money or rides or whatever it is they are after, or they wouldn't continue to haunt parking lots and other places where they shouldn't be.
Generally I am not afraid of much. I don't worry about who I see in parking lots. Today, maybe simply because I wasn't feeling well, I noticed more than I normally do. I felt the fear that I know is running rampant around the nation, the fear that is bringing out the worst in my fellow human beings.
All it brought out in me was a desire to lock my doors and go home.