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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Fear Issues

For the past several weeks, I have been helping my friend and pastor, Jeff, around the church office. The church is currently between administrators, and while the search continues, I am temping: authoring the bulletin, checking email, and occasionally answering the phone.

Tuesday is Tidy-the-Sanctuary Day. This morning I was alone in the building, when out of the periphery I saw a strange man walk past the front windows towards the front door.

Immediately, the following thoughts went through my brain: he is going to break in; rape and murder me with a blunt knife; my kids are going to be motherless; my husband is going to be wifeless; good thing the life insurance is up-to-date.

I dove behind a silk palm tree to hide.

I am somewhat familiar with hiding from strangers at the door. It’s what you might call my default response. Whenever one of those twenty-something guys from the Lower 48 inner city comes by to sell magazines, or when those nicely suited men from the Seventh Day Adventists come by with colorful leaflets, some visceral reaction instructs me to shush the children, hide ourselves, and let Seamus bark like hell. We’re not here. We’re not here. No one’s home. Go away. Safety first, afterall! You never know might be behind that door.

Now, when I’m alone at church, which is often, the doors are locked. So, though the stranger tried the door, it didn’t open. But where the morning sun was streaming through the front windows, I could see the man’s shadow as he paced back and forth in front of the building. Obviously, he was casing the joint. Or sociopathically high on meth. Since the church was locked, I worried he might settle for stealing my mud-streaked Kia minivan parked just outside the front doors.

Please God, make that man lose interest and go away. Like to the church across the parking lot, next door. Let them handle him.

There, trembling behind the potted palm, I deeply regretted that my cell phone was two floors away. I deeply regretted that my keys were just inside the front door, in plain view of the pacing stranger.

For awhile the pacing stopped. I peered around the corner to see if my car was still there. It was. But so was the man. Back behind the silk tree as the pacing began again.

After awhile, the shadow-pacing stopped again. Several more breathless minutes passed. Just about the time I thought I was in the clear,I suddenly heard someone try to get in the building from the rear door behind the sanctuary.

I considered my options. Run for the front door and my keys, dive into my car and drive to the nearest police station, leaving my purse upstairs in the third floor offices. Make a mad dash through the lobby to the downstairs phone and call 911. Find some way to get upstairs to my purse and the phones, and also be able to clearly spy the front of the building.

I opted for the latter, but felt I would be safest crawling on hands and knees around the periphery of the santuary, hidden by pew chairs, and head for the back stairway, avoiding the large front windows and prying eyes from outside. I am stealthy; I am low to the ground. In this jungle of blue-gray tweed chairs, I am invisible.

I crawled my way to the back stairs, then bounded up two flights to the third floor. I looked around: out windows, inside classrooms, under chairs. The stranger seemed to be gone.

This accomplished, and feeling I had outwitted some malevolent force of depraved humanity, I found my cell phone in case I was cornered again, and headed back downstairs to bravely continue doing my job of straightening chairs and gathering attendance registers.

About that time, my cell phone rang. It was Jeff. Jeff was supposed to be out for the day. Why was he calling my cell phone?

“Uh, Linda. I just wanted to let you know that the church handyman is outside the building trying to get in to fix a broken doorjamb. He’s a really nice guy. A pastor, actually. He does repairs on the side. Sorry I forgot to tell you.”


Malevolent force of depraved humanity. Not.

At least I know I haven’t yet lost the ability to crawl on my stomach. You never know when it might come in handy.


At 9:03 AM, Blogger Terri B. said...

Funny post! Yes, being able to crawl on ones stomach and keep a low profile could possibly come in handy!

At 10:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this, "better safe than sorry?" Or, is it, "things are not always as they appear?" By the way, the prose was so good, I couldn't take your percived danger seriously. It seemed as if our heroine would outsmart the antagonist in the end!

At 10:50 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hilarious. I know nothing about Alaska, but your instinctive fear and experienced belly-crawling make me think it must be a very dangerous place.

I live in Chicago, and I rarely lock my doors. (Of course, my friends think I'm insane, but whatever.)


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