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Monday, May 13, 2013

Adventures Of A Protector

In 1994, there was a news story about a woman named Susan Smith who was driving her car with her two sons in the back seat. She was carjacked, and a man drove off in her car with her boys, aged 14 months and three years, in the back seat. After the news story was over, I turned to Gram and said, "Gram, those boys are dead." Gram's face looked stricken. "Oh, honey," she said,"do you think that man killed those boys?" "No, Gram," I told her, "I don't think there was a man, or a carjacking. She killed her babies." I think Gram was shocked that I felt that way. "Think about it. I don't have any kids of my own, but let's take Debbie and Mark (the kids down the block that I babysat when I was in High School) as an example. If I was out driving and they were in the car with me, there is no way on earth that anyone could get me to leave them in the car so they could drive off with them. Even though they aren't my kids, nobody could take them away without killing me. You would be the same way. Most women would. I'm pretty sure she killed those boys and made up this story." Gram was quiet and thoughtful about it, mulling over what I had said to her. Ms. Smith made many pleas on television for the release of her children, but I just wasn't buying it. Nine days later, she confessed to driving her car to a lake and letting it roll into the water, watching her sons scream as they began to go underwater and drown. She wanted to get rid of them because she had been having an affair with a man who didn't want a ready-made family. Although it gave me no pleasure, Gram told me that I had been right all along.

I have always had a strong protective instinct. This can be a good thing, but when you combine it with my unnaturally cool head during crisis situations, it's really kind of amazing sometimes that I survive to tell the tales of my foolhardy behavior. When I trained Customer Service in a bank call center, we were in a non-customer-access area and had electronic access cards. I stressed to every group of new hires that they should never let anyone into our department. Believe it or not, there are some unbalanced people who have threatened to harm or even kill the people who help them on the phone. So imagine my surprise one day when I turned around after making photocopies and saw a strange man wandering through the call center. I went straight to him and asked what he was doing in the area, and sure enough, someone had just let him in when he said that he needed to talk to Miss Suzy. I informed him that he had to leave the department and could only contact us by phone. Luckily for me, he let me escort him out and there were no problems. One of my trainees, however, watched the whole scene unfold and freaked out. She thought for sure that I was a goner. I am glad that my impulsive behavior had a happy ending!

On another day I was in the middle of a training class when I heard someone get off the elevator, shouting at another, more soft-spoken person. My first impression was that there was a man yelling at his girlfriend, and that is something I just couldn't let happen. And again, without so much as a pair of Wonder Woman golden wrist cuffs to protect me, I ran to the source of the noise. It turned out to be two men, both former trainees of mine. The quiet one was about five foot six, and the loud one was about six foot four. They had gotten on the same elevator when Loud started yelling at Quiet to quit looking at him. Quiet had no clue what was going on, other than that he was shocked and a bit unnerved by Loud's outburst. When Loud started to go after Quiet, I stepped in between them and said, "NO. This is not going to happen. You, go over there. And you, go to the other end of the hall." Believe it or not, it was said in a calm and matter-of-fact tone, and both men complied.

One of the senior-level managers had heard the shouting and came out to the hall and took over the situation. Within very short order, I was back in the classroom and being hailed as fearless, which I dismissed. I was only doing what anyone else would do in the same situation. Before we took our next break, Loud had been fired. Later in the day, I learned the full extent of the situation I had thrust myself into. Apparently Loud had been on the quick path to termination. One of his female coworkers had recently been a victim of his stalking and had to take out a restraining order against him. He appeared to be losing control of himself and may have been on the verge of a psychotic break. Hearing all of this at the end of the day really shook me up because I realized that I could have put myself in great harm. 

When Trent found out what I had done that day, he was upset for a long time about what might have happened. Of course, he knows that is just who I am. I am the person who jumps out of the car to help if she sees an accident. If the drivers start screaming at each other about who is at fault, I am the one who steps in between them and calmly tells them this is not the time for arguing, and that the police can sort out their stories later. You stay here. You go there. And they comply. And then when the cavalry shows up, I give them my phone number and go home. And get the shakes when the adrenaline subsides, because that's what happens when you're a Protector.