When I realized the man followed me into the empty bathroom, I saw my life quickly flash before my eyes. It was a movie-moment . . . not a comedy or family flick, but a story that could easily turn into an action drama with chalk outlining a body on the ground and yellow tape blocking off the entrance to the hotel bathroom
Many moons ago, we were vacationing in Florida with my parents. After many years of marriage, my husband and I understand how each other like to enjoy trips - many times differently. He likes to sleep in (which he doesn't get to do much) while I like to head to the beach in the morning. I like to explore while sometimes all he's desiring is to hang out in the condo (again, downtime is not always a luxury in his life due to work). One way isn't better than the other and accepting the differences makes trips much more enjoyable (take note couples! . . . don't fight the differences, accept and appreciate them . . . and yes, there are compromises along the way).
So . . . my parents and I headed down to the beach one early morning. It was a quiet morning and the staff was just setting up for the day . . . the calm before the storm. My husband was still sleeping along with the baby upstairs in the equally quiet room.
After a few minutes feeling the sand between my toes, I needed to take a potty break and my dad needed to head back to the room to get a forgotten item. So, off we went back through the private keypad entrance to the hotel. He headed left and I went right to the public pool bathroom which was set off the path quite a bit.
When I walked into the women's bathroom, I was surprised to find a man standing inside. I immediately thought I had entered the wrong side (yep, that's happened before) so I apologized and we walked out together. I saw that my early morning eyes didn't fool me and that basically, the man was in the wrong place. I think I made some quick comment like "no problem", smiled, and then went back in to "do my business."
Okay . . . looking back at the situation, going back inside was not smart on my part. I should have noticed the red flag in the moment and went elsewhere. But, I thought the best of the man who ironically never said a word -another red flag!
I chose the first thrown on the left, secured the door, took off my one-piece suit and did "my thing" . . . but as I looked up toward the door, I noticed the same very dark skin and distinct swim trunks I saw only minutes earlier walk past my stall. I still get chills thinking of that scary and breath-taking moment. That moment when you realize that someone has followed you into a space with likely ill-intentions.
This was the moment where I saw my life flash before my eyes. All my memories came blooding back within seconds and then thoughts of what I may miss if I didn't get out of that bathroom alive quickly sunk in. Believe me . . . it was a devastating place to be. I knew there were only a few reasons why that gentleman came back in the bathroom and sweeping the floor wasn't one of them. He either wanted a peek (which he probably got . . . I only saw the bottom half of his body so he may have already been looking through those awful gaps in stall doors) . . . or to rape me . . . or to kill me.
It made me sick to my stomach realizing that I never even heard him enter the bathroom - a deliberate step to conceal his presence. Typing this almost brings me to tears because of that memory of overwhelming fear.
I didn't have my phone to call for help (lesson learned to never go off without my technology life-saver). The bathroom was set off the path and hardly anyone was outside yet. I was terrified to look under my stall to see where he was waiting, but had enough guts to look up and around. All the windows had metal slates on them - no way to crawl out. The main door was not easily accessible either. I would have to pass the sinks and go around a corner before even reaching the exit.
The scenarios were not in my favor. After the what-ifs filtered through my head, I went into MacGyver-mode. For those of you too young to know about this amazing television show from the 80's, let me enlighten you. One man (MacGyver) could take a paperclip, cottonball, arm floaties and a raisin and break out of prison. Basically, he was the most resourceful man in the most unordinary circumstances. (fun clip below)
Thankfully, I stayed calm and decided to get dressed, but to try to remain in the same sitting position to not give the impression I was going to leave (sometimes a trip to the bathroom takes a long time - right?). Then I put my hair in my pony tail so there would be less to grab or pull. I looked around the floor and found a bottlecap top that was serrated so I put that in my hand to use as a weapon (to scratch).
So, now the question was if it was best to wait it out - for him to leave or someone else to come in . . . to climb under the stall and run . . . or simply to sit and scream. God gave me my solution as this little lady with a pony tail sat on the stall in her swimsuit with a bottlecap . . . another lady entered the bathroom and chose the stall across from mine.
Now the dilemma was if I should say something right away or wait until she exited. I figured there was two of us and one of him so once she left for the sink, I ran out and said, "We need to leave NOW. A man followed me in here." That definitely took her off guard and equally frightened her. We quickly left the bathroom, having never looked back to see where he was hiding.
I walked toward the pool and saw my dad looking around. I didn't realize it, but I was in that bathroom a LONG time and he was beginning to worry since I never came back to the beach. We quickly got a hotel employee who took down the description of the man. To my surprise, the employee said they had seen someone like him walking around.
Shaken up to say the least, I headed back to the beach where my mom was still enjoying the sunshine. She noticed something was wrong and so I began to tell her the story. Here's the thing . . . I NEVER gave a description of the man in the bathroom to her. Those details were insignificant and had no barring on the situation other than the fact that I could easily identify that it was the same person who was searching in there moments before this all happened.
After I finished the long story, my mom started to ask me if the man looked a certain way. To my surprise, she noted a few key physical characteristics that only I knew yet she wasn't with me. She said that when we entered the beach from the private hotel entrance, she noticed a man waiting on the walkway. She got a bad feeling when she passed him and looked back to see that someone let him into the gate (they were just being kind, holding it for the next person but not realizing his bad intentions).
HOW CRAZY IS THAT!!!!!
I was a bit uneasy for the next few days and didn't enter that bathroom ever again. And, they never found the man.
I don't wish to experience anything like this again . . . and I try to never go anywhere without my phone (so I always have the "phone a friend" option). But, moments like these help you put your life VERY quickly in perspective. What's most important in your life? How do you use your time? What would like to say to your friends and family? What are your regrets?
Don't wait for something big or unfortunate to happen before thinking about these things. About what's most important to you . . . live life to it's fullest, love people, don't be quick to judge, don't take things for granted, find daily things to be thankful for, reach for the stars . . . because you never know when it might be the last day of your life.