Home » Parenting

NYE 2010: Pure bliss turns to terror

1 January 2011 No Comment

The beginning of 2011 for my wife and I was an extreme example of a figurative pendulum swinging from pure bliss to sheer terror.

I suppose that is one of many ways to attempt and shed light on an evening that was full of New Year’s Eve freedom and frivolity, yet ended with a wretched encounter with a mad stranger who threatened to kill me and my family.

It is one those sudden circumstances that leaves you shocked, angry and beyond perplexed. But, ultimately, I have chosen relief. This wayward meeting could have ended in a multitude of ways that would have carried an unbearably negative outcome.

We did not know for sure that we would be able to go out for New Year’s until the afternoon of 12.31.10. When you have a two-year-old, you cannot really plan to do anything that does not involve the child – especially anything outside of the home. Thankfully, my in-laws live in St. Louis, which allows at least the possibility of a night out together from time to time. But many things have to fall in place for this to work, and often the effort required is not worth the hassle. So, we rarely go out together and usually our outings are individual experiences.

Everything lined up well for New Year’s Eve though, and we headed out to West County to drop off our little girl at her grandparent’s house around 915 p.m. She fell asleep on the drive as planned. We put her to bed, gathered ourselves and waited for my in-laws to get home so we could go to a house party in Dogtown. We were on our way at 10 p.m.

So far, so good. We found an elusive parking spot, and headed to the party. We did have an early mishap as we entered the wrong house! We walked into another party two houses before our actual destination as they had the same state of Missouri flag adorning their porch, which threw us off. But, they were all very cool and knew our friends, so it was not as awkward as one might expect. In fact, they ended up at the other party by night’s late end!

We found our friend’s house, and were delighted to see many familiar faces and friends. They had kegs of New Belgium beers, adult punch, an entire kitchen full of food and snacks, a roaring toasty fire outside and everything else to make this a fantastic party.

We drank, ate, laughed, talked and enjoyed the type of merriment that is very elusive these days for us to experience together. The night was racing by, and around 230 a.m. my wife expressed that we needed to head out as she was growing fatigued. No problem; we headed out.

About three minutes into our drive home, a car pulled up next to us with the driver, some guy, rolling his window down motioning at us. My first thought was that it was somebody we knew since we were still so close to the party. We were cautious, yet are always looking to help others, and we lowered our windows and inquired about what was up. He was on my side of our vehicle.

This dude immediately went into a panicked, rambling story about how he had been treated poorly from wherever it was he came from. He had been left or abandoned. A female acquaintance evidently had either not paid him proper attention, or left him … or something. He said he had a child (not with him). He was distraught, and could not believe he had been treated with such insensitivity, expressing “what is wrong with people.” And why would no one help him. And how could he be in this situation … how could this be happening to him … “how can people just do these things.” And so on and so on.

This was clearly and incredibly uncomfortable for us, and at this point we were just plain scared. I told my wife that I was going to kindly say goodbye and to get ready to drive off. I told him that we were very sorry for him, and to just be careful and try to take it easy and get home safely.

My wife drove off. This did not work as we had hoped. He came racing at us from behind, zipping alongside our vehicle until he had caught up with us. It is amazing he made no contact with our car as this was on a typically narrow St. Louis street and he was so close to sideswiping our vehicle. I kept expecting and hoping for someone else to drive onto this scene, just something to interrupt this impossible-to-handle scenario. He edged his car at an angle as to cut off our path. We were trapped from forward progress, and the thought of going in reverse was terrifying.

He expressed outrage that we had stopped listening and attempted to leave. Our attempts at reasoning with him were failing. We tuned in again to his sob story. My wife kept telling me to say, “I hear you. I understand how you feel.”

She had watched an episode of Oprah one time that dealt with these kinds of encounters, and that memory automatically surfaced. Meanwhile, I was watching his hands extremely closely for any signs of weapons, or motions that would indicate his intention to exit his black car.

I also had my hand on 911 on my phone. Needless to say, interacting with him, listening and maintaining a dialogue while thinking about our options at 3 a.m. was difficult. Plus, it was New Year’s at 3 a.m. and there was a reason I was not driving as I had enjoyed numerous cocktails and beers.

Thus guy was not in a proper state of mind, but we did not think he was crazy. It seemed to be a drug- and alcohol-induced madness, maybe even a psychedelic episode gone very badly. His ranting went on peculiar tangents and eventually arrived to a point where he was not listening to us any longer.

He asked us why we tried to leave, and I said we were fearful for our lives and it was just a natural reaction to a frightening encounter with a stranger that we simply thought needed help. He turned a very dark, ominous corner at this point after vacillating between distraught behavior and a threatening tone. Now it was dark.

He began to say he might hurt us, expressed an interest in not letting us out of this circumstance because of how people have treated him … then said he was going to kill us and our family. I managed to suppress my rage and not to do anything foolish. Our intuition told us he was not evil, just in the midst of a serious meltdown, an induced madness, though we had no way to know.

Once it got to this point, we wanted help. As we whispered below our breath about how to call 911 without him noticing, we decided to just sit quietly and wait his next move. I was guessing that a prolonged quiet would allow him a moment to gather his thoughts and see this situation in a new light. To see how drastic his actions were. We just sat there.

Just as we needed to somehow react, he sped off.

We are thankful this did not end worse, but like any major fright, there are some lingering feelings about how one’s safety and livelihood can be compromised at any given moment in life. Now that we are a mother and a father, these feelings are even more complex to sort through.

Comments are closed.