Fight, flight or grocery bags?

My eyes darted left; I saw nothing. To the right I saw cars. The noise was definitely coming from behind the cars. 

I looked to the elevator, about 8 feet behind me. Then for some reason, I ran the other way.

I ran as fast as I could.

Rounding the corner, I spotted my car. The reason I originally found myself in the parking garage was to stash my reusable grocery bags in the car — something I’ve been trying to do after each grocery run ever since I realized we had 79 paper grocery bags in the kitchen cabinet. 

But I didn’t dare move towards the car. Not with that noise behind me.

The bags would have to wait.

Instead, I veered left, threw open the door to the stairwell, and dashed up the stairs like nobody’s business — certainly not the business of whatever or whoever had been making the noises in the parking garage.

It sounded like something being dragged across the cement. Nothing had been in sight. A raccoon? A rat? It sounded big.

A person?

A bison?

After sprinting up two flights of stairs I exited at ground level. I burst through the door and emerged into the hall, not sure what to do next.

The plan was to go for a walk after dropping the bags in the car, so I decided to head towards the nearest exit anyway. A walk would at least get me further from whatever was lurking in the garage.

As I opened the door, a neighbor came in — a neighbor whose condo I had the pleasure of seeing just weeks back on the impromptu open house tour.

“Woah, you startled me!”

Maybe my frightened energy was creating a scary situation in general. Or maybe my 6’2” frame, my winter hat pulled over my eyebrows, and my scarf pulled up over my nose, combined with my heavy breathing for an admittedly startling sensory experience.

“How are you?” she asked. She was with her cat — or her dog; I was scared and I don’t remember. There was definitely a mammal with her.

“I’m good; how are you?” I pulled the scarf down under my chin and removed my hat. It wasn’t that cold inside.

“Well just today—“

“Actually, I just got really scared in the garage and ran up the stairs.” I knew I had interrupted her, but this was urgent. I described the situation.

“So you don’t know what it was?”

I shook my head.

“Oh, no! I have to go down there in about half an hour to take Snookie to the vet.” I am taking artistic liberties here as I certainly don’t remember the mammal’s name.

“You should go tell the office,” she told me. “That’s what I would do.”

Have you ever been called paranoid? A hypochondriac? Overly worried? I didn’t want to go over there and report what sounded like boxes being pulled against gravelly cement.

And yet, what would the rules say I should do? Though we haven’t, I can imagine that our condo would happily post a sign saying, “Please report any and all suspicious behavior to the office.” I recently saw a poster like that at the Amtrak station. They even took steps to try to convince the viewer that they weren’t overreacting, that it was better to be safe than sorry.

I looked at my neighbor and her cute little bunny. Or hamster. I had to do my civic duty.

I walked to the office, steadied my breathing, and recounted what had happened in what I hoped was a factual manner. I glanced multiple times over the office manager’s shoulder at the security cameras, trying to locate one that showed the parking garage.

“Well, let’s go down there,” she said, grabbing her cell phone and heading out.

“What? Go down there? I mean…”

Where my response is flight, hers was fight. And now I was along for the ride.

In the parking garage, I noticed that the bag of golf clubs that had previously been there had vanished.

“Maybe someone was in the storage locker,” she said. That seemed likely. Maybe they were rearranging it and had temporarily moved the golf clubs.

We went into the storage lockers; no sign of activity in there.

“Oh, no, someone let a dog pee down here,” she said as we walked back out. Maybe it was a dog I had heard?

She led me all around the parking garage, looking behind cars. Were we checking to see if someone was hiding? With only a cell phone for protection?

When we approached my end of the garage, I took the chance to throw the grocery bags in the trunk. I might as well take advantage of her protective presence.

A few minutes later, she declared the coast clear.

“That is weird about those golf clubs, though,” she said. “I’ll go back and watch the security cameras to see if maybe someone was down here.”

“Let me, let me!” I wanted to say. I could imagine myself sitting in her chair with a steaming cup of coffee, reviewing security footage. What good people watching it would be!

But I decided to keep my mouth shut. I could just as easily people watch from the safety of my neighborhood cafe.

I think you can guess how I spent the remainder of the day.

Carissa Jean Tobin is a Minneapolis-based teacher, writer, and coach. Her hobbies include creating humorous surveys for friends, lounging at the Wilde Roast Café, and scanning old papers in an effort to minimize. Visit her website for tips on great living.