If you haven’t already put a pen to paper for the Hermiston Herald’s true scary story contest, I urge you to do so.
There’s something about being scared that’s exhilarating — whether it’s watching a scary movie, participating in an extreme sport, riding a roller coaster or finding yourself in a dangerous situation. The adrenaline rush is like an endorphin overdose. And I’ve had my share of intense (cue “The Twilight Zone” theme song) moments.
Just out of college, I worked at Rosemont School, a secure treatment facility for adolescent girls. Housed in an old Catholic convent in north Portland, the building was on the National Register of Historic Places. When I worked there, it was a bit creaky and freaky.
Of Colonial Revival Georgian architecture, the sprawling multiple-story structure featured Palladian central windows, a cupola and lots of spider webs. Late at night, the building — and stories the kitchen staff told — created an opportunity for the imagination to run wild.
Rather than risking the 40-mile drive home during ice storms, I’d bring an overnight bag and sleep in the old priest’s quarters. One night I awoke to loud clanging and banging. Frozen in fear, my eyes darted around the darkened room — finally I realized the sound was from the old radiator heating system.
There was another time when I got freaked out at Rosemont. After a year, I was the senior staff on the first floor dormitory, which meant I was the designated person to give the “all clear” if an alarm sounded or during fire drills. Everyone else was to immediately exit the building to the courtyard.
It was a dark and rainy night the first time I had to brave the corridors and stairwells by myself. As I finished the upper floor checks, I headed back down the stairs and as I turned the corner on the landing, I just about ran into a staff person from the third floor.
Fear seems to bring out the four-letter words — and they came out in a stream that would have made a sailor blush.
It seems in the midst of a frightening situation, I can muster up just enough courage to deal with it — only to collapse into a frenzy of emotions later. Such was the case when a knife-wielding dude accosted me outside a 7-Eleven in Portland.
I had just gotten off work and had a 50-minute drive ahead of me. Hungry and tired, I wanted to eat my snack and go home.
As I exited the store and headed to my rig, I heard him say, “Have you ever been hungry?” I was thinking, “Ummmm, yeah like right now.” However, I ignored him — hoping he would just go away.
But he didn’t. As I got into my car and put the box of piping hot Pizza Rolls on the dash, he positioned himself so I couldn’t close my door and then repeated his question. I told him I didn’t have anything. With maybe 50 cents in my pocket, I wasn’t giving up my Pepsi and Pizza Rolls.
I still can visualize the encounter in slow motion when he pulled a knife out of his jacket. And at that precise moment, the store clerk came rushing out yelling — giving me enough time to close my door and jet out of the parking lot. After flagging down a police officer and giving a report, I needed to call John to let him know I would be late getting home.
I remained calm throughout the whole incident until I heard John’s voice when the operator asked if he would accept a collect call — and then I lost it. I was a stuttering, blubbering mess, “This g-g-g-guy … a m-m-m-man, h-h-h-he w-w-w-wouldn’t l-l-l-let m-m-m-me g-g-g-go. H-h-h-he w-w-w-wanted my p-p-p-p-pizza rolls.”
I guess I’m not always calm under pressure — there was that time I cracked a bone in my wrist because I thought a spider was crawling up my arm. It turned out to only be a piece of black thread — and time to get a new prescription for my glasses.