I guess you could say I crossed over for a night.
No, I'm not talking about a near-death experience, but I did get a taste of what's it's like to be on the other side of the news.
As a journalist, I talk to people often during as well as after they've experienced something traumatic, including car accidents and fires.
I walk away at the end of the day a little shaken by what I've seen, but I have to set those emotions aside in order to deliver the news and do my job. What left a lasting impression on someone else was fleeting for me.
A few weeks ago, though, the tables were turned.
As the night general assignment news reporter, I work late shifts. On Aug. 27 at 11 p.m., I left work, walked out the front door and across the street to my car, like I usually do. I got in, started it up and realized I had left something at my desk.
I hopped out with keys in hand, locked the door and started back across the street. Two steps in, I turned at the sound of a man's voice calling to me. He was about 50 feet away and saying things I can't possibly print. I froze for a moment as I realized he was sprinting toward me. All I could think to do was run.
I booked it across the street - proving that I can, in fact, run in heels. I made it up the front steps. He was behind me calling me names and telling me not to run from him, and that if I did, I would make it worse. I got through the first door, into the entryway and threw my keys, which held my key card, at the electronic key pass while I grabbed for the second door. With a quick beep, it opened.
At this point, the man had a fist-full of the back of my shirt and was pulling. I was able to get the door open and lunge in, screaming for my editor. The man let go.
I didn't look back, and assumed he fled the scene.
I went to my desk, shaking, and tried to explain what had just happened. My editor and a few others ran outside to see if they could spot the guy. I followed, and we saw someone lurking by the fence surrounding the Troy Shirt Factory who then began walking down Cooper Street.
Glens Falls police arrived later. They never ended up catching the guy, it didn't help that I couldn't give them a decent description. I was too busy running to get a good look. I wasn't even positive of the color of his shirt.
An armed officer escorted me to my car, and I headed home.
I usually ask questions of other people, but after that incident, I had a whole bunch I was asking myself.
Like what possessed this guy to chase me? What would he have done if he had caught me? What if my car was parked farther away? Was he on drugs, drunk or both? What would have happened if I didn't run, and confronted him instead? What if I took off my stiletto and used it to puncture him? Why didn't I think to kick my leg out behind me, Billy Blanks-style and peg him in the privates?
I've been told not to think of the "what ifs," and that I did the right thing. And although that's hard to do, what is harder for me is to think of the people who we've written about. The women who have their own list of questions and traumatic experiences worse than mine.
I feel pretty embarrassed that this encounter has made me afraid to walk to my car alone, or anywhere for that matter. I can't imagine how I'd be handling it if the situation had gone any other way, unless, however unlikely, I had totally beat the snot out of the guy. I stand only 5 feet 5 inches tall, and I'm pretty sure I could be carried away as effortlessly as the pink Kate Spade handbag I haul around with me everyday.
It's been a few weeks and the jumpiness has subsided, although I feel bad for the next guy who approaches me at night just to ask for directions, as it's likely I will whip out my Mace.
And no, that's not an exaggeration. I did go out and pick up two cans of pepper spray, one for Kate and one for my car.
At some point, as my mother always says, "This too shall pass." But I don't think the memory of this incident will ever totally fade away.
I think from now on I'll walk with a little more swagger in my step. A don't-mess-with-me stride, you could call it - just one of many things I picked up in the self-defense classes I took. My senses will be a little more tuned in to what surrounds me, and my finger will be ready on the trigger of my pepper spray.
Maybe my story will make the women who read it do the same.