Listen to that inner voice
Deep inside your head
Ever since I was a little kid, I’d say eight or so, I have had a spidey sense. A sense that something was going to happen before it happened. Normally it was is not a gift that had any redeeming qualities. I have never been able to use it as a tool to help anyone out of an impending tragedy, except for maybe one time, and that one time, it probably saved my life.
It was the spring of 1990. I was in grad school and taking a molluscan biology course that included a research trip down the FL Keys. I know, I had it rough, right? Actually this trip turned out to be a giant pain-in-the-ass, baby sitting job because as an older (read almost 30) grad student, I had a state drivers license so I got to drive the university pig-of-a-van AND be in charge of the ten or so whiney-baby undergrads. There were only three grad students on this trip so we were soundly outnumbered. The main goal of the undergrads was not to find mollusks but to find alcohol and as this was a research lab and they were all under age, a war ensued; those of us with everything to lose, paying our own way vs. the party hungry idiots that had “Daddy” paying for everything.
So the three of us grad students (all women) were about two days into our FL Key’s adventure. We had been planning all day to do a night snorkel because everything is insanely beautiful at night. The creatures of the ocean are brightly colored but during the day the sun light filters through the blue green water dampening out many of the bright colors essentially turning them into shades of brown, gray mud.
Besides, the really neat predators come out at night.
Little did we know….
So after much planning and excitement about the upcoming adventure, nightfall came and we headed for a beach accessible under one of the nearby bridges. Our white van was the only vehicle in the parking lot. Note: these bridges are good locations because they always dredge under bridges and that creates a vertical wall of prolific sea life. We had two flashlights each, because safe divers always carry a spare and we were shuffling to avoid any stingrays, out towards deeper water when a vision suddenly flashed into my head. I stopped cold. My friends turned to me and asked, “What’s wrong?” I said, “When the red van pulls up into the parking lot, be quiet. Don’t make a sound. We need to huddle together and turn on all of our flashlights. That way he will think there are six of us, not three and he won’t know we are women.” They both screamed, ”What are you talking about!” I lowered my voice and calmly explained, “A very bad man is going to pull up in a red van. His intent is to hurt us -or worse if given a chance. We need to have an action plan if we are going to survive.” “We’ve been looking forward to this all day!” one whined. “ I know,” I said, “but it is pointless now. Don’t argue, it isn’t safe.“ At which point they thought I was deadly serious but certifiably crazy. That is, until we heard the scrunch of tires on crushed coral and we witnessed a red van slowly pulling into the parking lot under the all-too-weak street lamp from the bridge above. By that point our hair was standing on end and even though my friends were completely freaked out, they miraculously managed to suppress their screams. Suddenly, I wasn’t so crazy. A man got out of the van and started pacing up and down the beach. My eyes locked onto the glow of his cigarette. Mistake number one: I could track his movements.
We began to shuffle back to our van, huddled together, keeping the six flashlights moving, scanning, away from us but keeping him in our sights. I slowly gathered my keys into a splay between my fingers; the door key between my thumb and forefinger. We would only have a short window of time to unlock our van and get to safety. There was no room for error. Then a sinking feeling came over me. Fuck. A Dog. A-Big-Fucking-Dog. He was pacing the beach with his master. It looked like the silhouette of a Doberman. “Shit, I did not see the dog coming. Shit, this wasn’t part of the vision. Shit, plan adjustment.” So I lowered my voice and barely whispered, “See the dog? Keep heading toward our van. When we hit solid beach, I will signal, Now! Bolt for the side door. I will unlock it and we will jump in. If anything goes wrong, you guys scatter. I’m not going down without a fight.”
So, have any of you ever had a dream where you were trying to run but you couldn’t because you were running under water? This was that nightmare come true. We knew we couldn’t run with any semblance of control until we got to at least the knee-deep point. So we slowly plodded along, progressing from waist-deep water to knee-deep water towards our van as planned. It was the longest three minutes of my life. That was, until the man tossed his cigarette. Then tunnel vision hit me and I knew we had to make our move and make it quickly. “Shit, now I can’t track him. Shit, I don’t know where he is. Shit, where is that fucking dog?” As the three of us finally got to shallow enough water to run, the man simultaneously rushed around to the passenger side of his red van and opened the door. His dome light came on. Mistake number two: I could see everything he was doing. I could see he was fishing something out of the glove compartment. “Shit, is that a gun? I think he has a fucking gun.”
“Now!” I screamed at the top of my lungs. We all made a break for our van. As I got closer to the van door I could feel a hot breath and graze of teeth on my ankles, “Nooo, the fucking demon dog from hell!” I whipped around and side kicked blindly until I heard a yelp from pain. Finally, all those years of dance training put to good use. I was sure I broke one of the dog’s ribs and I didn’t care. I quickly unlocked the side door and we all tumbled inside the van. I had no idea where the man was; I didn’t look back. I jumped in the drivers seat, started our van and peeled out as fast as I could. As we headed back towards the research station I kept a watch in the rearview mirror. One of the girls said, “Maybe we could go to another location to dive?” I snapped, “You have to be fucking kidding? Look behind, he’s following us. We are going back to the research station and going to bed. Be grateful we are alive.”
So did my vision really save our lives or did my overactive imagination overreact to some poor schmuck taking a smoke break with his dog? That I will never know, but I know what I felt; I felt an evil presence and I know what I saw; I saw a shadow that looked like a gun and I know this; I would never want to go back and test that theory out.
Have you ever had a “spidey sense” moment? I would love to hear about it.