Thursday, October 29, 2015

Danger Stranger

Danger Stranger

In Canada, there is a chain of coffee shops called Tim Horton's, which was started by and named after a hockey player who died many years ago in a car crash. In some cities, you'll find one on every street corner. Everybody loves "Timmy's" coffee and donuts. I do too. But I never thought it could be a place of dire menace, a place where the infamous "Danger Stranger" might lurk.

I was sitting outside the local Tim's last summer, when a girl, no more than a nine-year-old, rode up on her fancy candy-striped Schwinn bike, with oversized whitewall tires and sizzling gold handlebar tassels.

"Hey," she called to me from the curb.

I looked up and saw her standing with one leg cocked casually over the seat of her bike. She was wearing a hot pink Barbie outfit, a form-fitting skirt draped casually over spandex leggings that accentuated her straight-line figure. Her long blonde hair swirled in the wind, and she was constantly removing a wayward strand or two that would catch the corners of her mouth.

"Hey there," she called to me again.

I'd been around enough seniors' conferences to know what she was up to. Still, I hated the thought that I should be impolite. I lowered my prescription, bifocal sunglasses so that I could see her more clearly.

"Hello?" I said punctuated, as you can see, with a question mark.

"How's that coffee working for you today?" she asked in her bubblegum voice.

I slowly looked down into my paper cup at the oily black concoction. "Good," I said with something of a frog's croak in my throat.

"No donuts for ya today, eh?" she continued.

"Not today," I confirmed.

"Too sweet for ya probably, eh? Are you diabetic?"

"Not really," I said simply. "Type two."

"Want a sugarless, easy-to-digest, non-lactose, soy protein bar? I got some over at my house."

I recognised this ploy right away. I can't count the number of times I've heard of an innocent, naïve senior being tempted to go off with the Danger Stranger for a slick stick of soy protein granola sweetened with sucralose. I wasn't about to fall for that one.

"Easy to chew too, if those pearly whites of yours aren't real . . ." she quickly added.

"No. No thanks," I said in my firmest voice. "I'm not supposed to go with strangers."

"Don't be silly," she said with a surreptitious giggle. "We're not strangers. Look at us out here in the nice sun and talking like old friends."

"Well, I'm not really hungry," I replied in as blunt a tone as I could possibly muster.

"I got an old dog there that you can pet," she coaxed. "He's only got three legs too . . ."

"What kind is he?" I asked with a foolish interest.

Her voice lilted an octave. "Old black one," she cooed. "Needs a good brushing, you know."

"Well, all the same. I can't go with you."

She slipped her leg off the saddle of her bicycle, and kicked down a bike stand. She balanced the Schwinn carefully on the sidewalk cement and walked towards me.

I must admit my heart rate leaped and I'm sure, despite all the medication I've been taking for hypertension, my blood pressure skyrocketed to 160/90. I was about to stand up and go into the Tim's to tell the manager that I was being approached by the Danger Stranger, but before I could uncork my bad knee, she was standing over me. She put a small hand on the droop of my shoulder.

"You're a kindly old gentleman, aren't you?" she began in her best wispy, childhood voice.

"Yes," I conceded.

"You don't think a nice little girl like me would hurt you, do you?"

"No," I mumbled more comfortably.

"I just need a big, strong grown-up like you to come and help me with something at my house."

"What do you need me to do?" I asked with far too much curiosity.

"Are you good at plumbing? You look like you're very good with tools."

"I am good with tools, very good. I like tools," I said proudly.

"See? I knew you were. I need you to come to my house and fix a leak under my mom's kitchen sink. It's creating a terrible mess."

"Do you have a bucket under it?" I asked.

"Why, yes, but it's almost full, and I really need a strong older man who can lift it up and throw that stinky old water out the door."

"I have a little arthritis . . ."

"Oh no," she assured me. "It's just a small bucket. You'll have no problem, really."

She gently tapped me several times on my shoulder and then smoothed the few strands of hair remaining on the top of my head. "Great comb over," she purred. "C'mon, let's get that leak fixed."

She turned away from me, and as she walked back towards her bike, her tiny body disappeared for a brief moment behind a signpost. In that instant, I suddenly caught on to what was happening. I was allowing myself to be lured into the web of a seniorphile. As her gum-stick figure reappeared in the sunlight, I saw her for what she was at last. She was nothing more than a ruthless, psycho-sociological predator, a wolf in sheep's clothing.

"You coming?" she growled.

Thankfully, I remembered a lecture that Constable Willie Succumb, Ret. gave at the Golden Door Senior's Centre just a few weeks previously. In his speech, Officer Succumb reminded the group that, if approached by a seniorphile, one must:


I remembered his words exactly, and he said them in a very loud voice, just like I've written them all in red caps there.

So, I stood up and smacked myself against the wall of the Tim Horton's. I didn't have a pen, but I did scoop at my eyes and nose, kicked a few rocks about, and in a booming voice shouted "FIRE, FIRE, FIRE!"

Within seconds, the young, thirty-something manager of the Tim Horton's came running outside and grabbed me by the shoulders. "What's the matter?" she screamed at me.

"DANGER STRANGER," I yelled in more caps.

The manager looked around. She even saw the little seniorphile now mounting her Schwinn and pedalling away on the sidewalk. Still, she seemed unperplexed.

"What are you talking about?" she moaned. "There's no one out here."

"There," I pointed. "There on that candy-cane coloured bike."

"She's just a little girl," the oh-so-perceptive manager laughed. "You're having some kind of delusion."

"No, I'm not," I pleaded. "No, I'm not."

"Come inside," she said softly. "I'll give you a free coffee and a Tim-bit."

I began to relax as I saw the little pervert disappearing on her bicycle over a hill in the distance.

"OK," I said more calmly now. "That would be nice. I'm sorry for the disturbance. I am, really."

"Good," the manager asserted firmly. "Come inside. You may be able to help me with something."

"What?" I wondered.

"One of our sinks has a leak, and I thought an older man like you could . . ."



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