The man's hands were on my throat, and I remember thinking that a parking garage was a lonely place to die. The story had all the stereotypical horror movie elements except that it was real. A chilly October thunderstorm, and an empty parking garage set the scene. I was the blond and pretty actress, and he was the masked (well hooded at least) madman. And in typical horror movie fashion I, the leading lady, escaped.
I'd been working in a large law office in Chicago for only three months before this story took place, but I remember being creeped out from day once by the parking garage. First, because I'm a lowly paralegal I do a lot of grunt work that is tedious but essential to cases. This means that I have to meet deadlines, which in turn means that I often work late. Secondly, I knew from the start that the parking garage was going to be trouble.
One October day, 2010, I was working on a case, and the lead lawyer handed me an avalanche of work to do, of course, as he was walking out the door at 5 pm. This last minute assignment which would mean a late evening for me was no longer a slap in the face or even unexpected. The lawyer was an asshole, and I had quickly come to understand this. This evening was just like many others. I watched as one my one my fellow employees left for the day, first the high priced lawyers, then slowly the secretary's and then finally the lowly paralegals, my colleagues and peers. Then, it was me and the night time janitorial staff working away into the early morning hours. About 12:30 am, I had finished enough of my assignment to be able to finish it in the morning hours before the dick lawyer arrived. I decided to go home.
The offices in which I work are not in a bad part of town, but Chicago is a large city and evil people are not limited by imaginary boundary lines demarcating good and bad parts of town. There were stories of other people, almost always women, harassed in the parking garage by vagrants, thugs, and crazies. I dreaded the walk to the parking garage, and often times asked building security to walk me to my car. However, this evening I just wanted to go home. I didn't want to take time it took to get a security officer, whom often times are just as creepy as people you'd meet in the garage, to walk me to my car.
In the parking garage, (safety tip #1 I always try to park near an entrance), deciding the less time I spend walking through the garage the better. This evening, however, there were a lot of early arriver's, and most of the best parking spots were taken. One thing I should mention is that after 5pm the parking garage is electronically operated and thus there is no security, though the building security does do a once an hour (I assume) sweep of the garage.
Running through the rain, I arrived at the garage soaking wet, and pretty chilled. I entered the garage and took the stairs (safety tip #2: never use the elevator.) Climbing up to the third floor I noticed that the first two levels were empty of cars. Reaching the third floor, the one on which my car was parked, I walked out of the stairwell but stopped dead almost immediately. Parked next to my car, but on the far side, was another car. I couldn't see much of it, but enough to know that I didn't recognize it. Of course not recognizing the car doesn't mean much. There are simply too many people that come and go to my office to recognize all the cars. I remember letting go a stream of silent swears before putting on my big girl panties and proceeding to my car.
As I got closer I noticed that there was a person in the other car, and to make matters worse he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, so I couldn't even get a look at him. I decided that my car was closer to me then his car, so I'd go for it. As I got closer the man turned and looked at me. He had a gray scruff of beard, and small eyes. I don't know if it was a conscious decision or not, but the next thing I know I'm running at my car. I remember seeing the shock on the man's face when I began my dash toward the car -- the surprise then the furry.
As quickly as I began my sprint to my car, the man exited his, and moved around the back of my car. I got to my door, (safety tip #3 with keys in hand) but the man was able to grab me before I could open my door. He spun me around to face him, and I could feel his hot breath on my face as his hands grew tight on my throat. Instinctively, I grew up with a couple of mean older brothers, (safety tip #4 I kneed the man in the groin.) He didn't fall like you see in the movies or American funniest home videos clips, but he did let go of me. I opened my car door and locked it, put the key in the ignition, put it in reverse and I tried to run him over as I backed out. I tried to run him over again as I drove away, but both times I missed him. I raced out of the parking garage, checking my rear view mirror like a man woman. I stopped at the gate, which is funny looking back on it, and fed my card into the reader. Why I didn't just blow through it I don't know. The gate opened, and with one last look in my rear view mirror I took off.
I live in the suburbs of Chicago, and took a winding path home. I didn't see the man's car once on my way, but felt better to be safe than sorry. Unfortunately it wasn't until I was about halfway home that I thought to call the police. I was just so distracted, and scared that my thoughts weren't right. Of course I never heard anything from the police after filling out my incident report.
I still work at the same company in the same building, and park in the same garage, but now I never, ever, ever walk to my car alone. I always either, (safety tip#5 walk with friend or use security.)