Shortly after we snapped the pic above, we were assaulted by a local mentally ill woman. We had gone to a local beach to pack up the rig for our next leg of the journey. I had parked at this same beach a couple of times before finding it a good spot to use. The waves and fresh air seemed to aid in the bizarrely exact process of figuring out just where that last can of dog food is going to fit.
After walking the dog and exploring the beach we had returned and were stacking boxes next to the side doors. The back doors of were also open with the step stool set between making getting in and out much easier.
I had been concerned that we might block traffic since the doors and stool did stick out a bit. An inexperienced driver in a big vehicle might have a problem so I was aware and listening for big engines, or even a “hello” yell.
Instead I heard the sound of our sturdy metal and wood stool being hurled across the parking lot. A torrent of verbal abuse came in accompaniment. My thoughts of this being a case of road rage swiftly faded as the rant became so vile and profanity laden I was dumbstruck for a moment.
Lord knows I cuss but this was something entirely different.
Refocusing on just what the hell was happening, (this was only the first 3 seconds or so,) I looked for the source of the ruckus and found a deeply weather-beaten face contorted into a roaring maw. Whatever monsters this woman was seeing in place of us filled her with more anger than one body could hold. The wrath oozed from her pores and nearly had a scent. It was horrific to witness.
One of my personal mottos is; I fight well but I don’t fight crazy. Had she simply been an angry driver, freaking out that I was blocking the way. I would likely have been able to handle it. The look on her face told me immediately that there was no recourse. None of the three D’s were going to work here. (Deescalate, Defuse, Defend.) There was nobody present to parley with; the part that was running things only saw demons.
Realizing that I was dealing with stone cold nuts, I ordered Ducky to get in the van, call 911 & lock the doors. This came out something like, “In NOW, Call 911, lock doors, GO.”
I blocked her bodily as she was working her way around me to get to him. She was talking to him in a wheedling tone, “Oh no honey you don’t have to do that…” I tried to make eye contact and give her the back off vibe but there was nothing I could make eye contact with. I felt the presence of danger and realized this was a fight I couldn’t win.
About ten to fifteen seconds had passed at this point. People were walking their dogs, gulls were keening, and fierce winds buffeted us. There were palm trees above us, outlined by famous SoCal blue sky and fluffy white clouds.
Surreal doesn’t begin to cover it.
After a bit of misdirection I hopped in the van, taking over the call and giving up on the fantasy of grabbing the rest of our things outside. I wanted my stool. I was obsessed with my stool. Then I saw her lunge. Okay, forget the stool.
Once I was in, she paced near the van like a tiger. After a few final declarations, “Yeah, you call the police, you call them, I AM THE POLICE!!” she moved a little further away. We could see her shredding papers, cackling and hooting while blessedly out of earshot.
Dispatch was a little slow, the area falls under harbor patrol jurisdiction and it took a little explaining that we were actually IN the van and couldn’t leave because our stuff was all over. “Do you want us to send someone out?” UM YEAH YA THINK? “Yes, please, that would be great.” Is what I recall actually saying.
After what seemed like forever I was able to open the doors and grab the rest of our things. Harbor Patrol eventually showed up and took down a report. They sounded like they knew who she was and that made me a little sad. I say eventually but it was likely only a few minutes. Time gets sticky when we’re under duress.
Ducky handled it like a trooper. While driving away, we talked about how mental illness works, and how it affects so many of us. We spoke about how being members of the neurodivergent community ourselves we sympathise and respect the sufferer while also understanding that there are boundaries that are not to be messed with. He said he wondered who or what she saw when she looked at us. We agreed it’s probably best we don’t know.
He didn’t fall apart until we got home.
Earlier tonight I got separate calls from both the Harbor Patrol & the local PD. The woman has been arrested and is in jail. They wanted to know if any of our property was damaged and I told them, no, our vehicle is a tank and the stepstool is hospital grade.
I got off the last call with a big sigh of relief.
Tomorrow we leave for San Simeon. We will finish packing in the morning, (bleah) get a later start than I want, (of course,) gripe and fight and argue and eventually get to our campsite.
Then we will make a fire. We will buy firewood for three days, get the pots and pans out, cook over the open flames and look at the stars. The waves will lull us to sleep, the fresh air will awaken our senses and we will talk quietly into the night.
I know this is my first blog post in a while, there are many in the shoot, but I have had trouble producing. This one sort of burst forth. I feel it’s important to mention that in spite of my mocking tone, I don’t feel many degrees removed from those who suffer so horrifically from mental illness. As someone who has racked up enough frequent flyer miles in psych wards to fly to London, I often find myself bemused when I run into someone so out of control. I use a lot of humor to combat this. Our illness is sneaky and a liar and sometimes the only way to shame a liar is to tell the truth in mocking tone. I think that’s why so many comedians have such huge amounts of followers. They’re the only ones telling the truth these days.