28 September 2002
There's a parollee who has disappeared and the authorities are
worried. I've heard the report on the news several times now. He's a convicted sex
offender and they are afraid he will strike again.
This is the part that has me shaking my head: "He exposes
himself to young girls and tries to get them into his car."
Oh sure. That will do it. "See what I have for you,
little girl? Come into my car and I'll show you more...." I can just see them lined
up to follow him, like rats following the pied piper.
I had a couple of brushes with sexual offenders in my
youth--fortunately, neither of them serious. In grammar school, I had a babysitting job
taking care of two children in the neighborhood. I would sometime take the older boy to
the playground, and the mother would stay at home with the baby. One of our favorite
places to go was a very small playground attached to a reservoir (very near the crooked
part of Lombard St.)
On this particular day, I was aware that there was a kid who seemed to be going in the
same direction that I was. He kept his distance, sometimes walking on the same side of the
street, sometimes walking across the street, but seeming to keep his eye on me. I was
pretty innocent and never even thought twice about it.
When we got to the playground, it was deserted. The little kid began to play in the
sandbox when all of a sudden out of the bushes jumped the guy who had been following us.
He tried to grab my breast. I picked the toddler up and held him tight against me and then
did what was probably the smartest thing I ever did: I screamed. The playground was
surrounded by apartment buildlings and I guess I was loud enough that it scared him off
because he ran away.
The thing that's curious to me is how ashamed I was that it had happened. I
didn't say anything to anybody until the toddler told his mother that we had met a
"bad man" at the park and she called to ask what happened. I guess that event
made me a bit more understanding of why little kids who have been molested don't tell--and
feel guilty, as if something is their own fault.
My second encounter was when I was in college. I lived in a dorm which was high on a
hill in Berkeley. Below the dorm was a long stretch of lawn flanked by bushes. This one
night, a friend and I were walking home from campus, up the long hill, and when we passed
a small clearing in the bushes--there he was. Sitting there, grinning at us, his penis at
I learned a lot about the powers of observation, and the validity of eyewitness
accounts from that experience. The thing that I remember most was his round face as he
smiled. Granted, I hadn't looked at his face--or any part of him--for long. I was on the
inside looking toward the street and my companion was looking at me, and thus had her face
turned toward the flasher for longer than I had.
When we got back to the dorm, I was for forgetting it (I have always been good at
ignoring uncomfortable things in my life), but my companion insisted on calling the police. The
officers arrived some time later, and obviously by that time the guy was long gone. The
police asked us to come to the police station to look at mug shots. When they asked us to
describe the man, my companion said that his most prominent feature (well, other than that
feature) was his long thin face.
I remember round face, she remembers long, thin face. I decided not to contribute
anything because by this time I distrusted my recollections completely, so we looked
through the mug shots for a sex offender with a long thin face. We never did identify him,
and we never saw him again, though I did try to walk on the far side of the sidewalk up
the hill after that.
I wonder what ever happened to him. When I think of the incident, I am reminded of
David Niven's comments about a guy who streaked the Academy Awards, ""The
only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping...and showing his