Friday, October 7, 2016
City at Night, Chicago, IL
There’s an ancient story in the Old Testament about a small group camped at night that was outnumbered by their pursuers. The enemy approached the camp but then retreated. When the soldiers interrogated one of the enemy men later, he stated that they had observed all the armed soldiers guarding the camp. But the others knew that they had set no guard. There were spiritual beings guaranteeing their safeguard that night.
I can recall at least three occasions when it could be possible that I had such a night watch. The first occurred in New York City on a cold and drizzly night at Times Square before the city finally restored the area. This was my first trip to the city and I was with another business associate having an authentic Italian dinner with one of our sales managers. As we departed the restaurant I mentioned that I had never walked the streets of New York and our hotel was only a few blocks away. So the two of us began walking into the dark misty night. As we passed a sheltered doorway, we glanced over our shoulder and noticed that two men had suddenly began walking behind us. We stepped up our pace while considering the possibility of fight or flight. Just then two NY policemen walked around the corner towards us and the two men miraculously evaporated into the foggy night. The policemen mentioned that the area was a bit dicey for a night’s walk so we hailed a yellow cab.
I was on a consulting assignment in San Pedro Sula, Honduras on another occasion and staying at a hotel that shared a common plaza with a casino. After finishing a late dinner, I decided to walk over to the casino to check out the action. I didn’t place any bets but simply meandered around the casino floor for a while and took in the smoky atmosphere. Then I slowly made my way outside and started to walk across the dark plaza. Something nudged me to glance over my shoulder into the darkness. I noticed a dark figure had again suddenly fallen into lock step not far behind me. I didn’t waste any time considering my options and ran into the hotel's side door.
Another consulting assignment found me in McAllen, Texas after spending a long day crossing the border at Hidalgo in and out of Reynosa, Mexico. I stopped for another late dinner and decided to park in a corner spot of a Barnes and Noble Bookstore to buy some late night reading. I browsed the bookstore and made my selection, not knowing that I was once again being observed. I then exited the building as night descended and walked to my rental car across the parking lot. As I opened the car door and stepped inside, I glanced over my left shoulder and noticed a dark figure extending his arm. I shut the door quickly and hit the door lock as he grabbed the door handle! The stranger knocked on my window and gestured for me to roll down the window. I started the car and cracked the window as he asked me for a ride to some location just a block away. Both his actions and comment raised plenty of red flags so I dropped the transmission into gear and drove away.
I’ve often wondered how I managed to escape those close encounter night walks without being held up or experiencing a more serious fate. In each instance I was prompted to glance over my shoulder just in time to see the danger walking behind me. The world is full of good and well-meaning people, but nevertheless we shouldn’t be naive about the presence of some who would do us harm. Some street smarts are requisite in addition to perhaps having the company of a night watch along the way.