One day, when I was really little – I’m guessing three or four – my mom was running errands with my brother and I and she needed to stop for gas.
At the time, we used to always get gas at the Superstore gas station. The thing I associate with that particular gas station is bubblegum, because they had an amazing selection in their little convenience mart thing, and we would often get bubblegum when we got gas. I remember getting Coca Cola flavoured bubblegum once. And banana chocolate flavoured bubblegum! That one was an enigma: my brother and I enjoyed it once, then spent the rest of our childhood trying to track it down again to no avail.
SIDENOTE: There’s a distinct possibility that my brother has no recollection of that bubblegum and that I just liked it too much.
Anyway, sorry, I got distracted by candy for a second there…
So there we were, sitting in the back of our blue Dodge Caravan while my mom filled up the tank. If I know myself at all – and I’d like to think that I do – I was enjoying the smell of gas, which I know is weird, but whatever. I still kind of like it.
DON’T JUDGE ME.
Then my mom popped into the convenience mart to pay for the gas, and we waited.
Suddenly, the driver-side door opened, but instead of my mom, a man with blonde hair and a black jacket got into our van. He sat down, putting his wallet or receipt or whatever he was holding into his pocket, and shifted around a bit in the seat to get into a prime driving position.
He might as well have been the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, because we were well freaked out.
If I remember correctly, my brother and I just stared in stunned silence, wondering what the hell was going on. Neither of us have ever been confrontational. After a split second, the man noticed us in the rearview mirror.
“Sorry, wrong van!”
He jumped out and crossed over to another blue Dodge Caravan.
That was the day “stranger danger” became a real thing in my mind.