Last year around this time, I took my dog Jasper for a terrible walk. Usually I don’t encounter a lot of problems when I walk alone, but on some days, it seems like all the men of the world got together and made a pact to be as vexatious as possible. This was one of those days. In the five minutes we walked along a main road, about half a dozen men decided to honk and yell as they drove by. The auditory assaults startled both Jasper and me, though he bounced back soon after each one. While I began to construct an internal mountain of rage, he just sniffed around, looking for new things to pee on.
Once we reached a public park and started to skirt the perimeter, my happiness at being off the street was soon squashed by the eruption of a massive thunderstorm. In the four years I lived in Oregon, I developed an irrationally fierce hatred of walking in the rain, and as water droplets blew into my eyes and ears and dripped down the back of my shirt, Mount Ragemore continued to grow. Unlike most summer storms which last only a few minutes, this one was relentless. It soaked us all the way around the park and back along the main road, where the honks and shouts resumed.
When we were a few minutes from home, the rain stopped. Of course. By that point, I was a hot mess of hatred. I couldn’t even decide who I wanted to kill first: the meteorologists who’d reported a 0% chance of rain that evening, or all the men who’d scared the crap out of me and my dog over the past hour. And then, right as I had the thought At least this walk from hell is almost over, another man started to yell at me.
I couldn’t believe it. Two blocks from home, dripping wet and seething with rage, I was still being harassed. To tune the man out, I filled my head with a furious diatribe against all the injustices of the world. As his voice got louder and raised in pitch, my anger grew. Increasing my pace, I pulled Jasper past a tall hedge, around a corner, and straight into a black bear.
This is actually the bear that crashed my Aret release party, but I’m pretty sure it’s the same one Jasper and I met. The neighborhood has since named him Walter.
Equally startled, the bear and I back-peddled in opposite directions while Jasper stared at it and wagged merrily, like: Oh, hello. I don’t believe I’ve met you before. Do you happen to have any treats? Or maybe a towel? As I stood in a neighbor’s yard and watched the bear retreat up the street, it dawned on me that what the man had been yelling was: “Bear! There’s a bear over there! Oh, my God! You’re about to walk straight into a bear!”
And right as that realization crystalized in my mind, a man ran out of the house across the street, stood in his driveway, and stared at me like I was the dumbest person on Earth. “Did you see the bear?” he cried. “Did you hear me shouting at you?”
“Um, yes,” I replied. “Thanks for trying to warn me.”
With a dramatic eye roll, he shook his head and went back inside.
Here’s what I learned from this experience: sometimes, when men yell, it’s not to make unwelcome commentaries about your body, inform you what they’d like to do to you, or instruct you to smile.
Sometimes, they’re trying to warn you about bears.