We’ve all heard of the kindness of strangers, but then “stranger danger” is probably a common refrain for many of us too. The reality is, strangers come in all shapes and sizes, and our experiences with them run the gamut from the utterly mundane to the truly insane—the kinds of encounters you really couldn’t forget if you tried. These reminiscing Redditors can certainly attest to that; here are the most memorable strangers they’ve ever encountered.
1. Puppy Love
Back when I rode the bus everywhere, I was at the bus stop outside the mall and this guy comes up and goes, “Will you hold my puppy while I run inside and find my wife?” And he produced this little white puppy. So I held it while he went inside. Puppy was soooo soft. Guy came back with his wife. Took the puppy. I got on the bus and that was that.
2. It’s a Big Big World
I couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 years old. We were riding in a station wagon that had a third row of seats facing backward. My sister and I were waving to people behind us at traffic lights but no one waved back. Finally, one guy did and seemed really joyous about it. Every few lights he’d end up behind us again and wave. My older sister made a comment that we’d never see him again.
I don’t know why it was so profound besides it being the first time I remember understanding how big the world was and that I’d truly never see that man again after that car ride.
3. Good Samaritan in the Sky
In seventh grade, I went on a vacation with my mom to spend time with a good friend of hers, and to do random stuff in the area. On the plane, my mom and I apparently had separate seats, but this one girl noticed the situation and offered to switch seats with me so I could sit with my mom. Later on during the flight, I overheard her teaching an older woman how to use Instagram.
She seems like a really nice person.
4. Lost in Time
In Detroit sometime in the summer of the mid-80s. I had stayed a weekend at a friend’s house playing Nintendo and we had stayed up all night to beat a game. Since we were up we decided to watch the sun come up on his front porch. An old drunk was walking down our block and heard us talking. He walked up to my friend’s porch and looked at us and said: “I was once somebody.”
It struck me hard and profoundly. I still think about that old fella. I hope he found himself before he passed.
5. Reformed Curmudgeon
I walked past an area with a lot of homeless people on my way to work regularly. You learned all their cons, the stories they spin, which ones will say which rote bit trying to weasel a few bucks. You get numb to it all. One guy comes up a block off the main drag on a bike. He looks pretty ok, clean, riding a bike, but very lean. He asks if I could spare him something to get a bite to eat.
No sob story, no, need to get back to wherever, just a straightforward, “I’m hungry, can you help.” I look at him for a long minute, then tell him there’s a shop a block over with sandwiches and a cold drink for under $5, and hand him a $5. “Please don’t make me regret, this. I don’t usually give.” He looks at the bill, takes it and asks, “Can I detail your car or something? I don’t really want charity, just a break.”
I told him to go eat and save his strength. The look in his eyes when a jaded and somewhat callous guy gave him something, no strings attached, near broke my heart. I saw him a bit later eating that sandwich. I won’t forget that guy.
6. Money Talks
Wife and I took our honeymoon to Disney World 13 years ago. We were young, dumb, and broke. Rather than have an expensive wedding, our parents helped pay for the honeymoon. Leaving EPCOT one night, we got to ride at the front of the monorail. In the car with us were some man and his young daughter. My wife and I were wearing our chintzy Mickey and Minnie honeymoon ears.
The man asked us how long we had been married. We told him only a few days. He said congratulations, reached into his jacket and pulled out his wallet, and gave us a $100 bill. I tried to refuse, but he said it was ok. “I own a couple of banks.” It likely didn’t make much of a difference to him, but to us, it meant that we got to eat at an amazing restaurant for dinner on our last night there.
7. I Could Teach You a Thing Or Two
Straight out of college, I was moving my wife and six-month-old son from Maryland to Tennessee for a job. We had rented one of those large moving trucks and a towing trailer for our car. We decided to stop for the night, because it was well after midnight and the baby was crying and everyone was exhausted. I stopped at a place that had a sign indicating they had truck-friendly parking, only to discover that not only were they fully booked, but their parking lot was not truck friendly at all.
It was narrow and a dead end. I had no experience with backing a truck and trailer out of a narrow parking lot, and after about 30 minutes of trying while my son screamed in the seat beside me, I was at a loss what to do. That’s when this little old man, in his 80s I’m guessing, approached. He told me his job when he was in the Marines involved backing up trucks all the time.
He taught me a couple of simple hand signals and told me to follow his every instruction. He had me out of that parking lot in no time. I think about him every time I try to help someone in need. His kindness is worth emulating.
8. Soul Brothers
Years ago, I was at the bus stop super early one morning. It was really cold as well. Anyway, there was a guy that I used to see every time I would get the 7 AM bus—looked like a builder, he always got off near one of the large building sites by the university. We were on “nodding terms.” One morning, there was a fireball/disintegrating meteor.
We both saw it, he turned to me and said with a super serious face “you know our souls are forever linked now.” We went back to nodding terms, and I never saw him after I quit early morning classes. I guess because I remember it, he was kinda right and the guy is still trolling me.
9. The Whole Shabang
The nice lady I met on the Amtrak from Klamath Falls who found out I was into collecting coins and shipped me her entire collection. Thank you, Connie! It’s been over 30 years and I still have those coins.
10. McGuardian Angel
I was eight years old. Went to McDonald’s with the family. Was a little chubby then, and decided after eating that I wanted another cheeseburger. Parents handed me some money and let me go order by myself. Got up to order, the worker was a tall redhead with long, curly hair in a ponytail. I don’t remember if this was before or after I ordered, but he asked me if I believed in God. I said yes (I was in Catholic school at the time). Then he told me he was my guardian angel.
It was weird as hell. Then I got my cheeseburger and never saw him again.
11. Stay Where You Are
I was in high school, taking the bus to school when one old gentleman walked onto the bus. I started getting up to give him my seat and he said: “No, you were here first, you have the heavy books on your back, I have my entire day to waste and thankfully I can still stand on my feet. I won’t make you destroy your back when I am perfectly fine to stand.
Don’t ever get up for us just because we are older, if we are in need, yes, but if we don’t ask, you are just as much of a person as I am and it’s my own fault I decided to go to town at the moment when students are taking the buses. We are not entitled to anything more than you just because we lived 60 years more.” For some reason this really hit me and especially when I see some of the people demanding someone to stand up for them to sit, I remember this gentleman and just smile.
12. Bring It in, Big Guy
When I was in high school we had to visit a university one day in order to get a feel for it and get a sort of first impression. On the way to the university, a homeless man asked for change and I told him I didn’t have any. On the way back from university he was still sitting at the train station and I told him that I still didn’t have change but that I could give him a hug instead if he didn’t mind. He gladly accepted and I will always remember his face of appreciation.
13. Oddly Specific Altruism
Years ago I worked at McDonald’s, I was standing outside having a smoke with my headphones on when this American businessman (I’m British) came up to me asking for a light. He proceeded to tell me that my headphones (Beats) aren’t the best for quality and gave me a £50 note and said: “put that towards some new ones.”
He wouldn’t let me decline, we talk for a few minutes about why he was over here etc. I then ask where he was headed after he got his food, he said he was going over to a strip club and asked if I had ever been to one. I said no, straight after that he hands me another £50 note and tells me to head on over to one after my shift. Thank you Mike!
14. What Language Barrier?
I was a horticulture student on a botanical tour of Europe in 1979. I am at a flower market in Munich and see a plant I don’t recognize. The lady working it doesn’t speak English; I don’t know any German. I see a plant I do know; touch the leaf and say the Latin name for it. She nods and smiles. I name another plant I know. Her smile gets bigger.
I point at the unknown plant and look at her with an expression that I hope says, “Your turn.” She tells me the Latin name. We don’t speak each other’s language but we can communicate in a language that has been dead for over a thousand years. Cool.
15. Sweetness of Strangers
When I was working at an ice cream and candy shop after high school, I was taking this family’s order and just being my happy self. I mean, who wouldn’t love working in an ice cream shop and giving candy to kids?? Anyway, when I finished taking this family’s order, the dad came up and said, “You are going to go far in life. Just keep true to yourself.” I think about this quite often, I don’t know why but I felt like he “saw” me for me. It was the kindest thing a complete stranger said to me.
16. The DMV Doomsayer
Guy in line in front of me at the DMV that, without prompting, turned around and said, “All scientists are atheists.” I wanted to brush him off with a “Huh… really?” thinking that would be the end of it, but no… he went on a huge rant about how scientists were creating a “big machine that moved at the speed of the universe, which would create a portal to the other side.
The problem is that they don’t know what’s on the other side, and have no way of stopping it coming over to our side.” How does he know this? Well, he was at the beach one day when he heard a low rumbling sound. After searching for the source, he realized it came from underground. He put his ear to the ground (sand?) and heard the unmistakable sound of chains.
So, obviously… the only explanation has to be a big machine that moves at the speed of the universe. I think he may have been talking about the Large Hadron Collider, which at one point people thought might create a black hole, but I’m not sure. This also happened in Puerto Rico, which is very far away from Geneva.
17. Footprints in the Sand
My parents loved long walks on the beach in the winter. My brother and I usually just had sand fights the whole time or dug holes. We ran into this old man selling Bibles who said he was Jesus. I remember my parents being really uncomfortable and trying to end the conversation but I kept asking him questions because I seriously thought he was Jesus reincarnated. I was six or seven years old. After about 30 minutes of this, they finally extracted us and I spent weeks convinced my parents were just rude to Jesus and thought it was a really sad story. My brother finally convinced me I’m an idiot and it was just a crazy old man.
18. Not All Bad
There was a man in a parking lot handing out pennies that had crosses cut into them. He handed me one and said he hoped I found joy in my life and that I was blessed. Never said a word about God or Jesus. I’m not Christian, haven’t been since I was a teenager and Christianity was used in bad ways towards me. I’d rather not go into detail, suffice to say it was traumatizing and I got PTSD out of it.
This kind act helped me see that not all Christians are out to get me. See, I know this logically, but emotionally it’s harder to see sometimes. But this hit me on an emotional level. I still have that penny to this day to remind myself that all religions have their place, and there are both bad and good people in every religion.
19. Godly Presence
When I was 15, I lived walking distance to the park downtown so I’d always go there with my friend after school. One day we were down there and we spotted a huge dog and we absolutely had to at least look at it because I was pretty sure it was a Borzoi. We got closer and it obviously was, so I got super pumped because they’re one of my favorite dogs.
But the owner really caught us off guard and we were kinda scared to ask if we could pet it. She was in her mid-30s probably and she looked like an absolute African goddess. Every inch of her skin was shimmering, she had a long flowing sundress on, she had bright gold eyeshadow and her eyes were a really pretty deep green.
She looked like an ungodly attractive model so being teenage girls we were kinda intimidated, but she was actually just as nice as she was beautiful. She was super educated as well; she spoke with more grace than I’ve ever even heard royalty speak with, the Borzoi’s name was Odysseus and she was reading a book on Plato.
We were convinced she was an actual goddess of some sort. I actually eventually bought a Borzoi because of her, they’ve always been one of my favorite breeds but they’re pretty expensive and take a well-seasoned owner to handle. I don’t know what it was about her, but something just made both of us go absolutely numb with awe and admiration. It was really weird. It was like she was literally radiating angelic energy.
20. Caught Pink-Handed
When I was a young girl in the early 80s, the corner store got one of those grab-a-toy machines. All I really remember is a guy in the store won a pink stuffed toy. I said, “that’s cute.” He turned and threw the toy at me and said “keep it” and left the store. All these years later and I still remember it and wonder why the guy seemed mad that I said cute but gave me the toy. Weird.
21. Way to Go Kiddo
A little boy, not last summer but the one before—I was walking into Subway to get a sandwich and I had a fabulous outfit on (really, it was magnificent and way over the top—big bright billowy skirt with a bold pattern and a fitted dark top with a statement necklace—it was like a poor woman’s Michelle Obama look) and this little boy watched me and said, “Oooh pretty lady!” It literally made my day. And was one of the catalysts to losing 100 lbs., which I started working on right around that same time. I still think about that kid every time I see that skirt hanging in my closet.
22. A Good Heart Isn’t Always Hard to Find
I still remember a destitute man that would sit weekdays on the front steps of a locked church, hoping people might put a donation in his coffee can. One time I saw him reach in his can, pull out a dollar bill, and give it to an old veteran who was going around selling poppies for Veterans Day. From what I could see as I unlocked the church door to practice the organ, it was the only money the destitute man had in his collection can, yet he shared it with a vet.
23. Better Watch Out
I held the door for this rather large older guy with a gigantic white beard. As he walked past me he said, “Thanks Sonny, you just made my nice list.” Santa?
24. Make Some Room
Made a pit stop on a road trip, and was standing in a line three people deep for a McDonald’s bathroom somewhere in New Jersey. This guy comes up to the line and asked the guy in front “Hey man, what’s the biggest room in the world?” The first guy ignored him. He moved on to the next. “Hey, you know what the biggest room in the world is?”
The second guy scoffed, I assume due to his slightly disheveled appearance and boisterous enthusiasm. He looked at me, and before he could repeat the question, I responded with “I’m stumped, brother. What’s the biggest room in the world?” “The biggest room in the world,” he smirked, “is the room… for improvement.” He laughed, we high-fived each other, then he smiled and walked away.
15. Warm and Fuzzy
When I was studying abroad in Lithuania I volunteered at a soup kitchen and every now and again there would be an older lady helping out who dropped off supplies. We would smile at each other and say hello even through the language barrier. Well, one night I went to Easter mass in the town I was volunteering in and it was warmer during the day so I didn’t think about bringing a heavier jacket once it got dark, not to mention the church was this old massive building.
So I’m sitting through mass and I’m getting colder and start shivering pretty noticeably when all of a sudden I feel someone drape a scarf over my shoulders. I turn around and it’s the lady who would drop off supplies at the soup kitchen! Once mass was over I tried to return the scarf but she refused to take it back. I did my best to extend my gratitude through the language barrier but I’m sure she knew. It was the most beautiful and kindest thing that has ever happened to me. The was the last time I saw her and I will never forget her kindness towards me. It still tears me up thinking about it.
26. Young Love
I don’t know why, but this kid just stands out. I was once waiting in the lobby of a mall/hotel center. It’s a pretty popular hangout place as there are tons of shops and restaurants and such. So I was just sitting on one of the couches in the lobby and after a minute a kid, looked to be around 13, sat in the couch across from me. He didn’t really do anything, just sat there waiting.
He kept looking up and checking outside the window each time a car stopped by the entrance to drop someone off. At first, he seemed pretty excited, as if he was waiting for someone. 15 minutes pass, and he loses some of his enthusiasm. Later, after around 30 minutes had passed, he kinda stopped checking for cars. 45 minutes roll by, and the kid gets up and asks the receptionist for the time.
He comes back looking pretty dejected, and kinda sinks back into the seat. After another minute he stands and walked out of the lobby and into a separate hallway leading to the mall area. Not 15 seconds after he leaves, a young girl who looked to be around his age walked through the door and looked around. She seemed pretty nervous, and just stood there scanning the room.
She waited for about five minutes before sighing and started walking out the door. Literally right before she walks out the kid comes back in and spots her. His face literally transformed from the mopey sadness to a huge ass smile in half a second. He calls her name walks over and they both start talking. I could hear some of the conversation, and the girl said, “Sorry I’m late, I got busy. Hope you haven’t been waiting long.”
The guy just shook his head and said, “Nah, I just got here like five minutes ago. No biggie.” And they both walked out the door. I don’t know who they are but I couldn’t help but feel kinda happy and sad for the guy.
27. The Wrong Horse
I met a Polish doctor in a hostel (and his wife), we got chatting and he proceeded to tell me about the time they went to see a cage fight in Armenia. TO THE DEATH. Long story short the fighters were very poor and could win a lot of money, it was run by the mafia, they used sharpened brass knuckles, a lot of people had guns, some policemen were there, etc. I asked him did it make him sad (being a doc and all) watching a man be killed. “Of course it makes me sad. I lost ten dollars.”
28. A New Friend in Need
I was sitting by myself at a “table for two” in a crowded restaurant near New York’s Lincoln Center. A lady in line for a table asked me if she could join me because she might miss her concert if she had to wait much longer. She was lovely, and fun to talk with during dinner. When I told her I was a musician, she pulled out two (very expensive) concert tickets and asked if I’d like to be her guest for the program.
When the lady (Emily) explained that her husband had recently died and she was “getting her courage together to go alone to use their season tickets bought before he passed,” I saw remarkable courage (mixed with sadness) in her face. After the concert, she invited me to be her guest at future programs for the remainder of the season and to meet for dinner.
We struck up a friendship that was good for both of us. I helped her through tough times after her husband’s death, and she shared concerts that would’ve been too expensive for me to afford at the time. Emily and I remained friends thereafter and visited occasionally until she decided to move to the West Coast to live with her daughter.
29. The Time-Traveling Barfly
NYC bar: I was on a first date and there was an old guy at the bar—looked like an old fisherman from a novel—and he was convinced my date and I were already married. He went on and on about it. We said we weren’t married and he told us we were meant to be together and would be married a long time. He talked with us for a good 15 minutes about this. My date and I did get married about a year later and have been together almost 25 years now.
30. Strangers Stepping Up
The day my dad died I was holding it together pretty well. Late that night I went to Target to have a moment to just zone out, and buy a few groceries. As I got to the checkout with my arm full of stuff I dropped a container of sour cream and it exploded everywhere. I completely lost control of myself and started to cry. The ugly cry. I was instantly surrounded by a group of women who just took charge of the whole situation. They helped me get everything paid for, cleaned up, and one lady even got a new sour cream. No words were spoken, but their compassion and take charge attitude has stayed with me since.
31. Care to Dance?
When I was at Disneyland a few years ago, a woman approached me out of the blue in the middle of Main St. and asked if I’d like to dance. I obliged her, and we spent the next few minutes chatting while her friends filmed us dancing. It turns out it was her birthday and she was traversing the park on a birthday scavenger hunt, and one of the items on the list was to dance with a stranger. I wished her a happy birthday, we said our goodbyes, and went our separate ways. I never even got her name, but it still makes me smile when I think about it.
32. Temporary Road Buddy
I had about a 2-hour drive from Columbus to the Cleveland area. I tend to drive on the faster side, and therefore pass a lot of people. I noticed about 20 minutes into the drive that the car behind me was still the same one that got onto the highway right behind me. We ended up driving the entire 2 hours right next to each other or in front of/behind each other.
We created space in lanes to help the other pass the slower cars and made sure the other wouldn’t fall behind. As I was getting off the highway, he honked his horn, gave me a big smile, and waved. It has been my favorite driving experience so far.
33. Pokemon Master in the Flesh
I was playing on my Nintendo DS in the subway when I caught a random connection. I looked up to see if I could spot the other person with a DS, and wound up locking eyes with this incredibly intense little boy who was seated a few benches away from me. “DO YOU HAVE POKEMON,” he asked, and as it turned out, I did, in fact, have Pokemon.
With that, our fate was sealed. There’s this thing in the Pokemon games where, if you meet the gaze of another trainer on your journey, then you must do battle. I had just experienced this in real life. He destroyed me. All level 100s. Felt like I was an extra in the damn anime doing battle with the protagonist.
34. Goofin’ Around
I was in an ice cream store with a few friends, and I made eye contact with some random guy walking to the counter. For some reason, neither of us broke eye contact, and for those few seconds, he made an incredibly goofy face, to which I responded with another goofy face. For the rest of the time we were in there, him and I didn’t even look at each other again.
35. The Red Balloon
I was in the US Navy at the time and we pulled into port in Norway. We had a couple of days to explore and I went to the closest city, Bergen. While in the main square area of town just down the road from their fish market there was a small boy, maybe 3 years old, and his father. The boy had a large red balloon but it was windy and it got away from him.
His father made a grab for it and missed but obviously couldn’t run after it and leave his kid. It was blowing generally in my direction and I made a quick dash for it and managed to catch it out of the air before it blew away. I then crouched down and held it out for the boy. He looked like he was about to start crying but immediately brightened up with the kind of happiness only a child can have. He took the balloon and his father just gave me a small smile and a nod. I returned the smile and nod and we went on our way. This moment always sticks out to me.
36. And to All a Good Night
It was the night before Christmas Eve, about 8:30 PM. My mom was trying to sell our place, we’d moved a few blocks away in with my new stepdad. The driveway needed to be clear and there were about a foot and a half of snow to shovel. I was still pretty young and it was going to be a big job. I trudged over there with my shovel, and just started the first row, when a random guy in a snowplow turned in and cleared the whole driveway in two minutes easy.
He was wearing the red plaid jacket and toque combo—classic Canadian look. I was worried as we hadn’t hired a snow removal guy, but he just waved and said Merry Christmas and drove off. Thanks snow plow guy, you taught me a thing or two about Xmas spirit.
37. Bye Bye Baby
Got on the metro North headed out of NYC to visit family for Thanksgiving. A woman in her 70s got on the same stop as me and sat directly across from me. She had a newborn strapped to her chest and was singing in Spanish. After riding the train for about 20 minutes she signals for my attention and I take my headphones out. I begin towards her and she gestures to the baby and says “you take?”
So I held her infant (grandchild I presume) while she got herself organized to feed and change the baby. After she was done she gestured for me to help her strap the baby back on. She waved goodbye when she got off the train and that was that. It’s weird to know there is some random newborn that I’ve held and will never know.
38. Wise Words
When I was a kid we didn’t have a lot of money, so we often shopped at thrift stores. What I loved about that was that you could get 10 books for a dollar, so I would plant myself in front of the book section and make piles of which one I wanted to get and then decided after I’d gone through them all. One day an older lady saw me sitting with my piles and asked if I liked to read.
I told her I did and showed her a few of the books I found that I liked. She smiled and then pulled a dollar out of her purse, handed it to me and said, “Promise me that you’ll keep reading.” I was so happy and immediately stood up and said that I would. She smiled and walked away and I went back to my piles able to pick out an extra 10 books to take home.
It was just a small act of kindness for her, but for me having a random stranger encourage my love of reading and making me promise to never stop definitely had a lot to do with my continued love of reading. This was over 20 years or so ago, but I still think of her whenever I buy a new book.
39. Drink Up
I was on the train home late one night, minding my own business, when this woman comes out of nowhere and sits down next to me. “You’ll do,” she said and plonked down a bottle of wine (open), and two plastic cups. We spent the journey talking about her breakup, our lives, and drinking her wine. Parted ways at the end of the line and have never seen her again. She was brilliant.
40. Divine Intervention
I was walking home from work and passed a very old woman sitting in a very old car with the door ajar. I made eye contact with her and something felt off, so I asked her if everything was alright. “My car won’t start,” she said wearily. She explained that she’d been sitting there for an hour, that she didn’t have a phone, and she didn’t know what to do. “I’ve been praying for someone to help.”
She was visibly upset and frightened. I asked her to turn the key so I could hear what the issue might be. The car started right up. The woman began weeping uncontrollably, saying I was an angel sent from heaven. I assured I was just a guy trying to help, but she hugged me and thanked me over and over. After she reassured me that she’d be alright getting home, she drove off. Even though I didn’t really do anything, it felt good.
41. That’s Good Eatin’
I was driving on a country road and a deer came screaming out of the woods and I smacked it really good. It blew out my driver’s side window and I got covered in glass. I had no idea what to do, but the next three cars all stopped. Helped me out and made sure everything was good. Anyway, there was a guy who lived on that country road.
He walked down the road and out to the ditch without saying a word. He looked at the dead deer grabbed it by the antlers, turned to me and said: ” You gun eat it?” I shook my head no. He then pulled the deer out the ditch, over the gravel into his garage and closed the door.
42. A Shoulder to Cry On
I don’t remember the reason in specific as to why I was crying in the school office that day but I was at the lowest point in my life at the time. On and off homeless living in a women’s refuge, I was verbally abused by teachers and ignored by students, my father was and still is a heavy alcoholic and at that time he was starting to get more possessive over me, he’d lash out and berate me.
I’d curl up on the ground crying some days. No one aside from my mother would help. I was ignored by my school counselor and would often bottle things up, knowing my mum was going through worse. As I was leaving the office an older student stopped me, she opened her arms and offered a hug. I’d never met her before but in that moment I felt an overwhelming sense of relief, someone cared.
She hadn’t known why I was crying, who I was or what I’d been through but she just let me let things out. After a few moments, a teacher separated us and forced us to go different ways. I wish I’d seen her again but my attendance at school was poor and I have issues with recognizing faces. Such a small act alleviated so much from me and I wish I had a way to return the favor. Even if it seems like not a single person cares, they do. They may not even know you, but they care.
43. Angels in the Heavens
When I was really ill in October 2017, my father also became even more ill than I was in another country. There was nobody else around for him who actually gave a damn, so I had to fly over there to see and support him. I planned to bring him home with me after he had recovered from his surgery. I had just been through a lot of trauma, and I was in no physical or emotional state to be getting on a plane—but there was literally no other option.
The flight was only around two hours long, but even that was way too much for someone as weak and frail as I was at that time. When I was waiting in line to board the plane, I could immediately feel myself getting dizzy and panicky—but that got a lot worse when I got onto the plane and when it started to take off. I started having a full blown panic attack, hyperventilating and crying in my seat.
I was sitting at the window, and there was a rather large man sitting in the middle with his daughter on the outer seat. The man noticed me crying, and he and his daughter switched seats. She took my hand and said something along the lines of “You’re okay, we’re here. There’s no need to hold this anxiety back, we’re not going to judge you, just let it happen and everything will be alright.”
She just hugged me and told me she’s so sorry while I hysterically cried. Once we landed, she and her father drove me in their car directly to the door of the hospital my dad was admitted to (over an hour away). They even offered to book me a hotel for a night or two, but thankfully I already had my accommodations sorted out. I do not know what I would have done without those people that day. We have each other on Facebook now, and she still occasionally checks in with me to this day.
44. Prince Charmless
The following account occurred roughly three years ago during the summer of 2012. It has always been difficult for me to talk about, but I have found writing about it to be therapeutic. I was 17 at the time, and I had just gotten my first job. I lived in rural western Virginia, in a small mountain community. My mom’s friend owned a camping resort not far from my house that had a general store, and she said she’d pay me to help out in the store during the busy months in the summer.
It was a pretty easy job, and I met a lot of out-of-towners, which was nice because our community could get so isolated; most of us lived pretty far away from each other. One day, a big burly mountain man type came into the store. He was in his late 40s/early 50s, probably 6’5”, and about 280 lbs. He looked dirty, like he worked outside a lot; his clothes were sort of tattered and he had a long beard.
We had a few of the woodsy hermit types in the area, and he definitely looked like one of them. He bought some basic items, one of which was one of our homemade bars of soap. When he came to the register, he looked me up and down carefully. He didn’t talk for a minute, just stared. His people skills clearly needed work.
“Did you make this soap?” He asked gruffly. “Possibly,” I said. “I help out with that sometimes.” “You make a lot of your own stuff?” “Toiletries and things like that, yeah.” “I like that,” He said, nodding to himself. I honestly did not know how to respond. I quickly rang up his items and he paid with crumpled money. Right before he left, he asked, “You cook, too?”
“Sometimes,” I replied. “Bet the boys ’round here are itchin’ to marry you,” he said as he smiled to himself. I said nothing. I was puzzled as to what I said that stood out as wife material. I told Krista (mom’s friend/boss) about the bizarre encounter and she laughed it off; so did my family and friends.
But then, Mountain Man started turning up more often. We chatted a little bit here and there, and I found out he had a cabin in the woods that he claimed he built “with his bare hands.” He said he hunted and lived off the land, other than the things he bought at the store. Over time our chatter escalated, with him making comments about how nice it would be to have a woman like me around who could make those things and cook his kills. One time, he even said I had the “birthin’ hips that men lust after.” Shudder.
He even started inviting me to fish with him, hunt with him, see his place, etc. and I always politely declined. But he got more and more insistent and I told Krista about how uncomfortable he was starting to make me. The intensity with which he said those things really scared me. She said that when he came in, go get her and she would ring him up.
Thanks to her, I started speaking to him less, and I thought I wouldn’t have to deal with him anymore. But one night, I was closing up, and it was late, around 10 at night. Krista had left about an hour before, and I was leaving by myself. The only two cars in front of the store were an old blue pickup and mine; I was immediately alarmed because I knew Mountain Man drove a blue pickup. But I didn’t see him in the lot, just his car, so I walked quickly to my car and checked the backseat before I started her up.
But then when I first turned the key into the ignition, I got nothing but sputters. I tried several more times and got scared quickly. “Of all nights, why is this happening tonight?” I remember asking myself angrily. Just as I was reaching for my phone to call for help, there was a loud pounding on the driver’s side window. I’m shocked that I didn’t piss myself.
I didn’t even want to look, because I knew it was him. But I did, and my suspicions were confirmed. He smiled a big grin at me, showing me exactly which teeth were missing. “Need some help?” He said loudly through the window. I shook my head furiously. “My dad is on his way.” I said, hoping to scare him off. I hadn’t spoken to my dad in years. Mountain Man laughed.
“No he’s not.” He said. “Open the door.” The hairs on my neck stood up straight. How did he know I was bluffing? “No,” I said firmly. “Leave me alone.” Suddenly he looked angry. He pulled the handle but I had locked all the doors when I first got in. He kept furiously pulling the handle and started pounding on the window. “Leave now or I’m calling the cops!” I screamed at him.
He clearly wasn’t getting the message, so I pulled out my phone and called 911. I must have sounded hysterical to the dispatcher, and I knew she could hear him pounding. She said she would have officers out ASAP, but out here, that could be a while.
“THE COPS ARE ON THEIR WAY! LEAVE NOW!” I screamed at MM, who didn’t seem to let it deter him. But after a few more minutes of pounding, he suddenly stopped and walked back to his truck. I watched him go, hopeful he would leave me alone. But then he started walking back toward me, with a crowbar in hand.
“NO!” I screamed at him. “GET AWAY FROM ME!” He started swinging at the driver’s side window with the crowbar. I ducked down into the passenger seat on the floor and covered the back of my neck like they teach you in tornado drills. I heard the sickening crack of the window but not for long; suddenly, I heard male voices shouting, telling MM to get away from the car. I sat up and saw two men approaching, one with a shotgun pointed at MM.
I recognized them as a couple of guests staying at the resort for a camping trip. I breathed a sigh of relief and got out of the car, telling them that the police were on the way. I thanked them profusely as we waited for the police, and surprisingly MM didn’t make any moves to get away, but the cops came pretty quickly after that, so he didn’t have much of a chance.
They took him away and I gave them my statement; I was pretty shaken up for a while afterward. A few weeks later I finally got the scoop on the man. Apparently, he had a history of mental illness. He had been in and out of state institutions. He really had been living in an old cabin in the woods, where he wasn’t taking his meds and his issues were only getting worse.
My cousin Luke is a cop, and later on he told me some more about the case that he had heard about through some other officers. The police did a search of the cabin after the incident, to see if there was anything that might be of interest to them. They found a journal that MM kept. Apparently, in it he said he was lonely and wanted a wife.
He mentioned me by name a lot (stupid name tag), and Luke said there were a lot of lewd things in there about me that he didn’t want to share but tried to put it simply by saying that MM had a detailed plan to abduct me, starting with sabotaging my car engine to get me into a vulnerable position. When Luke said that, I nearly burst into tears thinking about how horribly that night could have gone if those two men hadn’t come along. Thankfully, he has been put back into a state institution. With any luck, he’ll stay there for good. Mountain Man, let’s not meet again.