So I drug my family to the park last Monday to make an orienteering (compass) course for my scouts. I knew it wouldn’t take very long. After all, I was prepared – I had my GPS with electronic compass and my low-tech magnetic compass to get the bearing, and a measuring wheel to get foot-perfect measurements.
I was wrong on the timing. A half hour later I was half-way done, and it was bed time. We took our kids home, put them to bed, and I returned to the park.
It was getting late, but I figured I had 30 more minutes of sun, which was just the right amount to finish the course. Since I didn’t have my kids with me, I took my time to make sure I got the bearings and measurements right. The second half turned out to be quite a bit more technical than the first – 14 directions instead of seven. The sun set, and I had two more directions to complete during twilight.
I was in the corner of the park, trying to get a bearing on a fire hydrant that was 364 feet away, behind some trees. Since I couldn’t see the hydrant from the corner, I decided to do a reverse bearing. I walked over to the fire hydrant and pointed my compass at the corner of the park. Remember the hydrant was behind some trees? Well, that didn’t help the light, and it proved to be pretty challenging to see the compass since twilight was giving up.
Here are the facts: 1. It’s dark. 2. I’m in the park. 3. Trees. 4. Measuring wheel. 5. I’m concentrating (quiet). oh, and 6. I’m wearing a black jacket.
The fire hydrant is close to a restroom, and between the hydrant and the restroom is a running path. I was facing away from the restroom, struggled to get a bearing of the corner of the park. Meanwhile, a guy and a girl ran by, then two guys. Two girls stopped at the bathroom, and the conversation went something like this:
Girl 1: “I have to go to the bathroom.”
Girl 2: “Okay, just hurry.”
1: “Come with me.”
2: “I’m not going in there.”
1: “There’s no light in here.”
I wasn’t ready for what came next. Perhaps it was because I was so concentrated on getting my compass’s two needles to line up with little light, or maybe I was just getting a little frustrated. But, something broke my concentration: A Blood-curdling scream. The life-threatening kind. You know, if you can’t think of any last works before your human existence ends, just expend your entire lung capacity in the loudest scream humanly possible.
I jumped. Pretty high, too. It was high enough that I let the measuring wheel fall to the ground. I let out a what-just-happened “Whoa!” and danced around a bit. As soon as I landed on the ground, I realized what the girl was screaming at. Me. Remember the facts? Yeah, I was a scary man in the bushes.
So, how do you recover from something like that? I apologized for scaring them, and offered them to use my cell phone as a flashlight in the bathroom. Girl 1 just said, “I think I can hold it.” And they left.
I then heard them explaining the scream to their friends. I only heard bits and pieces, but they described me as a dark guy in the bushes, holding a stick. Great.
I spent another 20 minutes in the park, and I didn’t see any police cars. I guess they didn’t see me as a threat after all.
Next time I’ll take a flashlight.