I’m a lover of true crime.
“And the award for ‘Greatest Understatement in a Personal Narrative goes to . . .”
I have been one since I was a little pre-tween, sneaking into the kitchen to watch early episodes of CSI: on my family’s meager television set. Now, with a world of podcasts thrilling my ears to the sounds of secrets, screams, and murders most foul, I all but live in a world constantly reinforcing this cathartic hobby. Is it a hobby? We’ll say it is. My hobby is ‘staying sexy and not getting murdered.’
But as a true crime lover, a Murderino if you will, does my macabre interest also spell the end of my faith in humanity??
Okay, why the dramatics? Here’s what happened:
As a Behavior Analyst, I supervise behavior interventions for people with special needs and the therapists who run those programs. Today, my behaviorist underling and I went on a walk with our 10-year-old male client and his mother to Target. En route, our client (we’ll call him Tituss B.) began to have a meltdown. IN. THE. MIDDLE. OF. THE. STREET. He fell to the ground, started biting his hand, kicking his legs toward his mother, therapist, and myself, while he screamed FOR ALL THE WORLD TO HEAR, “No don’t touch me! Let me go!” Oh, and threw leaves at us (for good measure, I suppose). We were SO CLOSE, almost to the block where Target was, I could smell my money evaporating already.
The therapist and I went into “Safety before Sweetness” mode, bolstering him under our arms and carrying him across the street. Well, trying to. Little booger kicked his legs out in attempts to trip us as we walked along. Still screaming, by the way. And at that moment, a middle-aged woman driving toward us asked from the driver’s seat of her minivan, “If you want me to give you a ride, I can take you wherever you want, and you don’t have to worry about struggling with him.”
As the Supervisor—and the MOST legally liable person there—I immediately thanked the woman and rushed the entire party across the street as quickly as I could.
“Aww, that was sweet of her,” my therapist underling said, wiping sweat off his brow, clearly wishing I’d taken up the woman on her offer so we wouldn’t have to endure Tituss’ tantrum.
“Oh my gosh no, murderer in a minivan, tale as old as time.”
“What??” he asked, “but she’s just one woman, and we’re four people!”
“Yeah but she sees we care about Tituss and could easily control us by threatening to kill him!”
He looked at me like I’d pushed the Pope under a tractor.
In that moment I wondered, “Wait . . . was I overreacting??”
Most people who know me might say, “Probably most definitely.” But that’s what immediately came to mind! Murderous people and their murderous cars! I mean, haven’t we heard that story a million times?! Starts with “T,” ends with “ed Bundy?”
Had I been jaded by all the stories of murderers and unsuspecting victims? Had warnings about accepting rides from strangers gone WAY too far, and projected onto a situation that was simply altruistic?
Let’s think. What’s the likelihood that this woman IS a serial killer who wanted to kill the four of us? Two of the adults had clearly visible, official-ish looking badges. The mother was of average height and weight, and this 10-year-old boy was clearly in distress. And violently acting out. Would a serial killer take on such a risky situation, the definition of unpredictable, uncontrollable? Thinking back, I can’t imagine she would! If she were alone, that is . . .
Who knows. Has all this true crime made me see monsters under my bed, or was I simply more observant and in tune with a (more) potentially dangerous situation? In some ways, I’m glad I’ll never know the answer.