PSA Wednesday

November 09,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

I'm popping in today with two public service announcements. Both are about safety and well-being, and I'm only posting the first here because it rattled me so much.

One morning last week I dropped L. off at his school a little bit after 7:15. I drove off and up the hill leading away, and stopped at a red traffic light. I was in a fog, still trying to wake myself up, and the morning light was that gray, darkish kind of light that makes you want to crawl back into bed. All of a sudden the back passenger door to my car opened and A MAN stuck his head into MY car and said quickly, "your scarf was shut in the door" and then, just as quickly, the head disappeared. He shut the car door (MY car door), the light turned green, and I drove off feeling completely freaked out yet totally numb at the same time.

What had just happened? It took a few minutes for me to absorb the fallout from just how freaked out I'd been, because for a few horrible seconds, I had really thought I was being carjacked. But then, as often happens, my relief turned to anger. It seemed so wrong for someone--anyone--to open up another person's back car door just like that and scare the daylights out of them for a few seconds.

Back at home that night I told Scott about it, and asked him what he thought. He didn't seem too fazed at first and, because he's always inclined to see the good in people, said something about a good samaritan.

"He opened my car door!" I said. "That's just not right."

Scott agreed that his first reaction was to think about it from his perspective, not from my female one. The sad truth is that we women are more vulnerable than men--always, and we live aware of this, and how this fear affects everything we do. I posted about the incident to my Facebook page and was surprised to read all the resulting comments. Women are more vulnerable than men, most people wrote, and opening someone else's car door like that--without explanation, is definitely a dangerous and very, very uncool thing to do.

And my friends' advice, which I pass on here: buckle up and lock your car doors. It should be a part of your driving routine. Always.

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October was breast cancer awareness month, but I'm only this week getting around to my first mammogram. I'm ashamed to say that I've put it off, pushing my own healthcare aside in the chaos involving parenting, working full-time, and managing a household. But this year I made a promise to myself: that I would no longer push aside my own health needs. I'm exercising regularly, 3-4 times/week, continuing to eat well, and making sure I take care of all my wellness exams before they become past due. I hope you will make the same promise--you owe it to yourselves.