Write about your strongest memory of heart-pounding belly-twisting nervousness: what caused the adrenaline? Was it justified? How did you respond?
Judi and I, country girls in our early 20s, decided we would spread our wings and take a trip to the big city. We planned to stay in a hotel, go shopping at the Eaton’s Centre and watch movies in our hotel room when the day was over. Two wild and crazy girls we definitely were not.
We decide on a date, booked a room and headed off on our little adventure. I drove and we chattered excitedly all the way to Toronto. Two hours later, we’re in our room and wondering where we should start. It’s mid-afternoon and we agree it’s too late for shopping, so we decide to check out the hotel’s amenities. We check out the restaurants and after deciding which one we’ll dine in, we decide we’ll eat because it’s almost dinner time anyway. We’re hungry and we really don’t know what else to do.
I don’t remember having dinner but I will never forget the rest of the evening. After dinner, we wander around the main floor of the hotel, checking out the window displays, as we walk and talk. Judi leans into me and whispers, “i think there’s a man following us.” I follow her gaze and see the man she’s talking about. He’s middle-aged, which for us means anyone between 30 and 50. He appears dishevelled to me and I wonder as I watch him, why he would be following us. Judi and I start walking towards the lobby, when I come up with a brilliant plan. “Judi, I know how we can lose him.” I whisper quietly. “When we get past the front desk, we’ll make a run for the elevators!” That’s my brilliant plan, to walk passed the front desk and make a mad dash. If we had stopped at the front desk, our evening would have ended so differently.
We pass the front desk and turn a corner where the elevators await us. The moment we started running, our flight response kicked in. The elevators are right there but they’re not opening as we frantically push the buttons. Hearts pounding, adrenalin pumping – the desire to flee is overwhelming. Running scared is a primal, instinctive reaction; there isn’t time to think. We were running on auto pilot, constantly looking for another door to escape through.
“This way!” I frantically whisper. We push through the stairwell entrance and we are off, tearing up the stairs. We run faster when we realize this guy is chasing us! We run up a couple of floors and burst through the door, racing down the hallway. I feel like I’m running faster than I’ve ever run before and at the same time I feel like I’m in slow motion. In that moment nothing seemed real. My only thought was to escape.
I get to the other end of the hall just before Judi. There’s another door to a stairwell and I start down the stairs. I make it down the first flight and look back to see that Judi has stopped. “I can’t run anymore” Judi says breathlessly. She walks down the stairs toward me while my mind races. I want to keep running but I won’t, not without Judi. The adrenalin is still pumping, and I’m as skittish as a horse.
Judi and I instinctively got closer and then the man that had been following us opened the door. We started to run, and only managed a few steps when he called out, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to arrest you.” That is not what I was expecting him to say. “Arrest us for what?” I gasp and I can feel the anger rising.
He shows us his badge and wants to know what we’re doing here. We tell him that we’re here to shop, it’s a weekend away but he’s not buying that. We’re telling the truth and I can’t understand why he doesn’t believe us. He’s chewing on a toothpick and he reminds me of Columbo. He wants to know our ages and if we’re single. He asks us if we knew that there’s a convention at the hotel and he wants us to tell him again why we’re staying at the hotel. He asks if he can search our purses and I say, “Go ahead, I’ve got nothing to hide.” I forgot that I had pads in my purse and when he mentions it, I’m mortified. He follows up most of our answers with, “I’d love to believe you, ladies.” It’s very clear that he doesn’t think we’re ladies and I don’t have the nerve to ask him why he doesn’t believe us. He proceeds to tell us, that young women show up at conventions, and that’s when the picture becomes clear. “You think we’re hookers!” I blurt out. I’m incredulous, “I wear this dress to church!”
He asks us if we’re registered at the hotel and we tell him we are. He suggests we go to the front desk to verify that we are guests, so we head to the elevators. I can’t believe this is happening and before the elevator stops on the main floor, I start crying. He asks me why I’m crying and I say “nothing.” I’m scared but I’m also angry that this detective can’t see that we’re not prostitutes. He leads us off the elevator, and has us take a seat in the lobby, while he goes to the front desk to confirm that we are guests. He returns to us and tells us we are free to go.
We feel a little dazed as we make our way back to our room where I start to question if he’s even a detective. Maybe he’s a crazed serial killer with phoney ID, he knows our room number, so what’s to stop him from coming to our room and chopping us up into little pieces. We pack up our belongings and leave for home.
The following day, Judi’s parents contact the hotel to make a complaint. The hotel manager calls me, and tells me that he has spoken with Judi’s parents, and he explains why the detective thought we were prostitutes. Apparently, this hotel has a problem with hookers and when hookers are approached by security, they react by running, in one case through the kitchen. He apologizes for our treatment and offers to refund our room and invites us back for a free 2 day stay. He does make it clear, that the detective was not at fault, for mistaking us for hookers, as our reaction was identical to a how a hooker would respond.
In the end, we did return for a free, uneventful stay. If only we had stopped at the front desk!