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.

———

Tammy Malgesini, the Hermiston Herald community writer, enjoys spending time with her husband and two German shepherds, as well as entertaining herself with random musings.

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