A Different Kind of Data
It was a weekend afternoon, bright daylight and we are walking in the park together. It isn't after midnight. I'm not by myself.
There are groups of teenage guys hanging out, because it's a weekend afternoon and that's what teenage guys do, they hang out and toss a football around.
I have my headphones on as usual and as usual am deeply immersed in whatever it is that I am reading on my phone. I have the music on as well.
It occurs to me on this sunny day that I feel very much at peace. What a luxury it is to have a few moments to relax and smell the roses.
And we have walked for awhile. It's been about two hours now and we're in a wooded area. Secluded from view.
I become aware, suddenly, that I am in trouble.
It hits me very quickly and before I can even articulate what it is I reach out for my husband's hand.
"I feel it too," he says, almost whispering.
I had a very strong feeling that somebody was considering very carefully how they would knock him to the ground and attack me.
My mind went back to news reports I'd read of similar situations.
But it wasn't like we could just run, and it felt a sudden move could set off an attack in and of itself.
I was afraid to look around too explicitly but I had to look at where the danger might be coming from, and this proved at once impossible and terrifying.
The lyrics from Billy Idol's song "White Wedding" started playing in my head. "There is nothing sure in this world, there is nothing pure in this world..."
My hands were shaking as I realized just how vulnerable I was - we were.
Quietly, subtly, I took out my phone and dialed 9-1-1 and left it hanging there, ready for me to press "Send."
My entire body was covered in fear.
We had long past the maybe nothing is happening stage of this two hour walk. In a popular wooded recreational area. From which any other female seemed strangely absent today.
Afterward some people reacted instinctively, with a "Thank G-d you're alright." Others were more skeptical: "You're a little too old for that, aren't you?" And "In broad daylight?"
As far as I could tell, reactions depended on what people qualified as "data."
But here's the problem - and it's a dangerous one - that most people unfortunately fall for: The average person tends to discount their gut feelings as unreliable.
My advice is not to do that. Your body will often warn you when a friend is not a friend; when a date is not safe; when a family friend is nothing but; when a colleague at work represents danger.
In every sphere of life, criminals prey on our dis-inclination to trust our basic instincts as valid data.
Of course this doesn't mean that we can save ourselves from danger "naturally" - of course not, not at all. There is a Jewish prayer we say when G-d saves us, and I went home and Googled it on my iPhone and said it with great intensity.
But He gives us an inner compass nevertheless. It is data, and we should listen to it -- combined with other things we know from experience and research.
There is objective truth to be found. We should use all available tools to find it.
All opinions my own. Photo by Pat Pilon via Flickr (Creative Commons).