I was looking for wires, or other random looking materials hanging out of a garbage can.
Standing near the entrance of a store, I scanned the area for odd items not belonging. There was the usual flyers and other trash littering near the shopping carts, but nothing particularly suspicious jumped out at me.
Still, I was half ready to run, half ready to dial 911.
The entire experience left me feeling out of sorts.
It was the day prior to the Las Vegas massacre. I had just dropped off my daughter at an art studio for a birthday party and decided on a whim to run a couple of errands. A shopping plaza nearby suited me best, so I went there.
First up was the Bulk Barn, a little shop among many along a strip surrounding a large parking lot. I turned into the parking lot directly next to my store, but was apprehended from parking. A dark car with some grim looking dudes was driving slowly back and forth across the empty parking spaces.
I sat there for a minute thinking he was trying to straighten out. But he kept going, back and forth, not letting me through.
Strange, I remember thinking, and got ready to back up and drive to another store to park, and walk from there.
The driver in the black car gave me a weird look when I passed him to get to my store. Grim, as I mentioned before, not friendly or even neutral.
It left me feeling a little uneasy.
By the time I left the store about 15 minutes later, the car was gone.
Weird, I remember thinking.
I drove the length of the parking lot down to the Loblaws, a large chain grocery store. My aim was to park near one of those huts where you return your grocery cart after you unload your items into the car.
I saw such a hut and proceeded slowly, minding the foot traffic around me, when suddenly I saw the black car again. Slowly driving toward the Loblaws, windows still rolled down.
What are they doing, I wondered to myself.
I sat there in my van for a bit, holding on to my phone. I wanted to take a picture of the car, or the license plate which I had by now memorized, but I didn’t want to be obtrusive.
Trying to picture the driver in my head in case I had to describe him to a law enforcement official had me sit in my car a little longer.
This is the world we live in today. A world where an odd looking car behaving strangely causes one to think the worst.
I tried to justify: is he driving slowly like this because he’s waiting for someone? Are they lost? Bored?
My internal dialogue ended up not convincing me that I should abandon my errand. Why should I stop living my life? Does it look, feel like danger is imminent?
I didn’t think so. Not really.
But I did walk toward the store with my hand on my phone, ready to dial an emergency number.
As I approached the long row of colourful mums and pumpkins, I pretended to browse among them. What I was really doing was keeping an eye on the black car.
He had by now turned up the next row of parked cars. He didn’t seem to care that the grocery shoppers with the full carts were trying to maneuver around him. He just kept driving slowly up the row of parked cars, irritating (or perhaps confusing) several other shoppers.
But no one looked scared.
The look the guy gave me earlier when I went into the Bulk Barn gave me the willies now. I remembered his face: dark brown skin, strange black hair in a weird sort of swoop along the front of his forehead, and a stare that wasn’t friendly or inviting. Nor neutral, either.
He looked pissed off.
There was a guy next to him but I didn’t see his face, only that his hair was short and black.
I sighed and walked over to the grocery carts. The garbage container had a very narrow opening at the front, so a bomb would have to be small to be inserted into it.
I know nothing about bombs beyond what I see on The Walking Dead.
My first intention was to look for a manager or a security guard. Nothing wrong with being careful and just alerting someone about strange, out of place behaviour. But maybe there really was some criminal behaviour happening; maybe this was a drug drop. I’ve seen how those go down before, maybe this guy was a dealer and waiting for his customer.
Inside the Loblaws I saw a lot of shoppers and very few employees. Some were further away, behind counters, busy prepping food or answering questions. Mostly I only saw shoppers.
What does one do in a situation like this? I kept thinking, if the roof explodes, what do I do? Where do I run?
After a while, I decided to cut my trip short, and continued home. I ended up not talking to an employee, nor finding a manager or a security guard. By the time I left the store, the car was gone (or at least I couldn’t see it anymore).
The next morning I work up to the news about a random shooter killing 59 concert goers in Las Vegas.
Makes me wonder: did I to the right thing? Should I have spoken to someone, told them about the license plate? What if the suspicious, odd behaviour turned out to be nothing and I was labeled as a neurotic middle-aged mom with mental problems?
What if something had happened?
This is the world we live in today.