During my long walk on Sunday I ended up making a last minute route change. I had planned on walking the Greenbelt the entire time, whether the south or north side, but something happened that made me change my mind.
There is a portion of the Greenbelt that goes around a pricey neighborhood, and then through a different pricey neighborhood before entering a concealed section that has fences on both sides before opening out into Barber Park. As I walked from the section where I was walled off from the houses to where I would walk along the road, I heard voices behind me.
Up to this point, I had seen a few other people braving the rainy weather in the 8 am hour on a Sunday. Some were running, many were walking dogs. A few were running with dogs. I wanted to see how far the voices were from me so I would know when to expect being passed, so as I turned a corner, I glanced back.
I saw two males and one dog, and I continued walking. My pace was a fast walk, but not excessively so – between 19 and 20 minute miles for the most part. I kept up my pace, and continued to hear the voices behind me.
At this point, I wasn’t worried.
But then I started hearing the voices get closer. One of the guys kept clearing his throat, like he was walking faster than he was used to walking. As if he were hurrying his pace. Surely nothing, but I found my own footsteps quickening.
Then I saw an elderly couple and their dog approaching, and I conceived and executed a plan – I slowed down to an absolute stroll, greeted the couple with a hearty good morning and waited for the guys to pass me.
They did not.
So I walked faster again. I considered gaining enough ground on them to break into a run once I hit the fenced-in tunnel to Barber Park. But for all I knew, at least one of them had the legs to outrun me. It isn’t like that’s hard to do – I’ve got pretty short legs.
The trail to Barber Park came in sight, and so did a woman walking several dogs. I hoped that she would turn down the tunnel, but instead she walked up the sidewalk.
I had slowed again when I saw her, and, by the sound of it, so had the men behind me.
I thought of the worst case scenarios – follow the woman up the sidewalk and take a detour off my route – consequence: time lost. Or I could stick to my route and, at the very worst, be robbed and/or raped and/or murdered.
I chose what I perceived as the route of least risk and followed the woman up the hill, away from Barber Park. The guys went into Barber Park, and when I turned up the hill, I could see that they had just about caught up with me. They would have passed me in that tunnel of fences, and I would have had nowhere to run if their intentions were bad.
If they had no bad intentions, then I detoured for no reason, and that’s a consequence I can live with. It’s a thought experiment, a game, because nothing happened. I’m not going to freak out about it, but I do think that it is fucked up that I seriously had to consider whether two strangers might harm me as I walked on a drizzly Sunday morning.