There are those situations in life where you need to simply nod and act normal, even as a person is telling you something that makes every alarm bell in your head go off. Here, people share times they've had to just keep their cool. Thanks to everyone who contributed!
If you would like to read more of these stories, check out the source link at the end of this article. Comments have been edited for clarity.
I was at a bar once minding my own business, when a girl came up to me and started acting like she knew me. I looked at her and she gave me a look like she wanted help so I played along and acted like I knew her as well. Later, I found out she was with someone there who was beginning to get creepy. Turned out to be a cool girl and she bought my drinks for helping her out, even walked her to her car in case the dude had stuck around.
My boss said he would completely destroy the next person who made his day worse just before I was about to tell him that I accidentally clogged the toilet in the break room. I just walked away.
I was abroad in Ukraine, the only student from my school that attended this particular program. So I was lonely and stressed out most of the time and looking for a friend.
This one local guy spoke English pretty well, was about my age, and went to the same local university. He was an okay person, didn't get major creeper vibes, so we ended up hanging out a lot.
Tuesdays and Thursdays we would always go to the same bar together and listen to the live music. One Tuesday I wasn't well and texted him that I was staying home. The following Thursday, while we're, walking to the bar, he starts talking about how disappointed he was that I had bailed, but he wasn't mad because "I really did look very sick".
That was alarming, because there was no way he had seen me that day. I never left the apartment. I asked him how he knew that I looked really sick and he pulled out a phone. On it there's a picture of me, taken from outside my bedroom window.
I lived in an old soviet apartment block. My apartment was seven stories up. He must have had a camera with some great zoom and he must have camped out in one of the neighboring buildings, just waiting for me.
He offered no explanation for the photo and instead starting talking about how if I bailed on him again, he would actually get angry this time, and that I "wouldn't like him when he's angry".
After that pirated line, I wanted out, but I had a feeling that if I left ("bailed" again) I would be in for a really bad time. So I played along for the rest of the night, even when he started to get grabby and possessive, even when he started making disgusting sexual remarks about me.
I made it home safely, locked and covered everything, and told my host-babyshka and -dedyshka what happened. Dedyshka was an officer in the Soviet Air Force, and heavily involved with the mob after the fall. He did something to take care of the problem - I don't know what, but it worked.
First day working an actual oil rigging job in the Bakken, I'm just getting to know the guys and as we pass through the Indigenous reservation my new boss goes off about the Natives being worthless leaches, how everyone pays for them to get all these benefits from the oil and casinos. After his tirade he asked "So what are you? Mexican?" "I'm Native".
When I was a kid I remember a day when my dad's friend invited us out on his boat, and one of his business associates was there who my dad sorta knew. We took two cars, because my dad didn't have his there and they both had two seater trucks. The business associate offered to take me, but my dad had a bad feeling. He made up some bullcrap about why I couldn't go in the truck and decided he was going to go with him, and I went with my dad's friend. 3 years later my dad found out the guy was being charged with 5 counts of molestation and had fled the country. That was a wild moment for my dad, and I remember not really understanding until a couple years later.
Rainy night, in the era before cell phones. I was 18, walking a very long way home from work, and I foolishly accepted a ride home from a strange man. (Small town girl, living in her lonely world, and I had just gotten off a double shift.) He was elderly, acted genuinely concerned for me, and I saw a Bible in the back seat. Probably safe, right?
The car was old and broken down, and he had to get out to open the door for me. It took him a while as he had trouble walking with a bum leg. He told me the passenger door didn't open from the inside. I immediately felt weird but years of "nice girl" training told me "he's gone to so much trouble, don't say no".
We chatted for a while and he politely complimented my uniform, my hair, and told me I looked like his late wife, and that her spirit must have led him to help get me home. It sounded very sweet the way he told it.
The conversation turned to if I was still in school, what my hobbies were like, and gradually turned to whether or not I was on my period. Which was rude but he acted like it was going to be the punchline of a joke, so I laughingly asked him why he would want to know. He said, very calmly, "Because if you're fertile we should start trying for a family right away." Oh crap.
He said that God had kept him lonely for years but now, because I looked so much like his late wife, it was clear I was meant to be his, so he could start life over again, and finally have lots of children like his wife was unable to do. He grabbed my hand and kissed it, and said "I can't wait to show you our new bed."
Still trying to keep the conversation light and joking, I told him he would need to meet my father and ask for his blessing before having sex with me. I said "That's what a Godly man would do" and he wholeheartedly agreed, even acted offended, then we got to the street where I had previously told him I lived. He asked which house was my parents.
I gave him a fake house number, far away from mine, and had him drop me there. He wanted to come inside. I told him I needed to let my parents know "About God sending me a husband" before he could meet them. I said it would take a few days, come back tomorrow, he said "I'll give you a few minutes, but then we need to be on our way." I told him to drive around the block so I could have time to pack my clothes. He nodded and finally opened the car door.
I ran to that house's door, waved to him until he drove away, then sprinted to my house... Where I lived alone.
Double bolted my door and put the couch in front of it that night. Never saw him again.
No I did not call the police, though I wish I had. I moved in with my boyfriend a few days later, and I insisted on waiting at work until he could pick me up every night.
I was playing a large outdoors sports tournament where most clubs have their own tent set up. A man walked up to our tent and asked my mother about a kid in a photo he had, who she recognized as my team mate. She felt something was sketchy about this, the photo was a few years old and the man looked nervous, so she said she had never seen the kid. Turned out that this was the kid's dad, who he and his mother had to escape from to live under secret identity.
I went to study abroad for a semester. Two weeks in I got a beautiful bouquet of a dozen roses, but there was no sender information. I asked my then-boyfriend; it wasn't him. Weird. By the way I met my boyfriend at work, we dated for over a year and our coworkers all knew about it.
After I returned from abroad, I met up with a bunch of people for drinks, friends, acquaintances, including this really shy ex-coworker (Note: he worked at the same company my boyfriend and I also worked at). I was never really friends with him, but sure, let's grab a beer.
During our conversation he accidentally dropped the name of the college I spent my semester at. That was weird because I didn't remember mentioning it to anyone outside family and why would a random coworker remember it anyways?
Then he confessed he was the one who sent the flowers. He said he knew I was lonely. (I wasn't.) He said he wanted to get to know me more.
I freaked out inside but outside I kept nodding and smiling. I excused myself to the bathroom and texted a friend asking him to call me in 5 minutes and pretend it's something urgent and make it seem like I have to leave the bar.
After the fake call I apologized many times and said I had to leave. I paid and rushed out. The boy followed me. I jumped into a cab and yelled at the cabbie to move it. The boy kept knocking on the window until the cabbie finally figured out I'm being serious.
The boy kept calling me that night, I didn't answer the phone. In his voicemails he called me an ungrateful whore. Eventually he stopped calling.
Once when I was younger my dad had hit my mother with a hammer. I don't remember why this all happened, but at one point my father had left the room and came back. In that time she managed to get the police on the phone but couldn't directly talk to them. So when he came back and started talking to her, she said things like "Kiavahs father you are not allowed at this address ect."
She managed to describe where she was and what was going on without him knowing that the police were on the phone and she was answering their questions while also talking to him. The police came and he was arrested and she was taken to the hospital. I remember my older brother telling me that our dad had hit our mom but I just couldn't believe it until I saw her in the hospital bed.
I've had patients referred to me for evaluation (psychologist in a large hospital) from the ER who were perfectly calm and lucid with their manner and demeanor, but within seconds of talking to them realizing that they were extremely delusional and on the brink of an episode and very likely posed a real risk to staff and themselves, so had to keep talking and chatting with them while I paged for support underneath my desk
Some more background...
What does calling support mean: In this situation it is unseen support, not an official code, it just means that a security officer will walk from his station at the other end of the wing, to just outside my office but not within view, and if there is no code, he walks away; it's very non confrontational.
We have a "code grey'' which is any aggressive behavior, which we are instructed to respond by protecting and defending ourselves without causing unnecessary harm to the patient (hospital policy); and that is the escalation above that.
The girl I had just broken up with was going to try to harm herself. It was my first break up and we were freshman in college who had tried long distance and it definitely didn't work.
We broke up and we're still talking a bit and I realized she thought we would get back together soon. I emphasized that that wasn't the case and she got weirdly calm. When I started making comments about the future she started saying stuff about how she wouldn't be around for that. I pretended I didn't know what she was saying and kept her talking while having another friend call campus security at her school to make sure she was okay.
She was furious at me for calling them and didn't speak to me for months but eventually she got help and is doing really well now.
I knew she had some emotional issues but that was a lot to deal with at 19.
This was 20+ years ago, I was 19 and the night manager of a Taco Bell. We were 5 minutes to closing and I was the oldest person on my 3 person crew, the lobby had 3 rather large groups of people with kids. A man comes in bleeding down his face and ranting, intensely belligerent. He starts demanding free food, claiming he was hit by a car. (At the time you could get 2 food items for less then a dollar). I was at the front counter talking to him, way too far from the phone.
I made my tone super soothing. I asked him about his head while my staff turned off the sign and took over the rail and got the cars out of the drive through. I said he really looked like he needed some care and that I would love to buy him a cup of coffee and get him something to clean up the blood. He was reluctant but agreed. Despite being super loud, and closing time; none of those customers went anywhere, but they had all stopped talking.
I ask if he needed help to a seat. Told him he looked like he might like taking a load off his feet. He said no, but sitting sounded good and asked me where he should sit. I suggested a seat next to the door and told him I was going to get his coffee and be right out with some ice and wet towels.
I went over to my office and dialed 911, let them know the situation and got them on their way, and passed the cordless phone to my drive-through guy and sent him and my other closer out the back door. I poured the coffee, filled a plastic bag with ice and went to the guy and put myself between him and the other customers.
The man ranted intensely, slamming his hand on the table and bellowing about life. I agreed with him, let him talk... motioning behind me for those people to go... who had not said a word since he came in from the lack of sound they were not moving.
Cops arrived in 5 minutes, and took over smoothly from me... similarly taking note of his injury... and offering to help him to an ambulance. They were super smooth and got him to come with them right out the door, which I locked the door behind them (the other door was still unlocked.)
The bubble of tension broke and the people in the lobby stood up. I turned and asked if everyone was ok. 3 men in the group walked over to me to shake my hand. I said I had been awesome but they were not going to leave that lunatic in here with a couple innocent kids so they had decided to stay when that nutter walked in.
All through that, I had felt alone but in charge... those 3 strange men let me take care of it, but had my back in case something went sideways... it had a significant impact on me.
My staff came back in and a cop came back in and took our statements and eventually cleared my lobby.
We were 45 minutes late getting out of there that night feeling good about how we handled the crisis. The next day we got yelled at by the owner for staying late.
Talking to an old guy (60's) who was an exceptional guitar player outside a little natural foods grocery store in town. I dropped $5 in his guitar case because he was incredibly talented. He said he was in a band just a few years earlier which was headlined by a pretty well known singer, something which I searched afterward and found to be absolutely true.
Talked with him some more, he started grousing about his ex-wife. A little more and he revealed the satanic sex cult cabal his ex-wife was the ringleader of and which is why he's estranged from his (adult) children. Somewhere between those two, I realized he was exceptionally talented and also totally off the rails.
I totally played it off legit but quickly noped out of the conversation. He still plays outside that grocery store in the summer and sometime fall. He's the best acoustic guitar player I've ever heard in person. I still say hi to him occasionally, but I don't have any more lengthy conversations with him.
Not me, but my father used to supervise security at a locked psych ward and tell me work stories.
His parables usually had one of two themes: in column A was "don't underestimate people." You're a well-muscled, 300-lb 6'4" black-belt judoka and the patient is half your size? You can solo this one, right? Surprise, he's high as heck on angel dust! And he just tossed you across the room! Bet you wish those other judokas on the other end of your radio were with you now, dontcha?
And in column B, where today's story comes from, the theme was "idiot psychiatrists break security protocols and I have to save their dumb arses." Often this is "psychiatrists bring objects-- usually pens-- where they aren't allowed and a patient gets hold of them," but this one is juicier.
So one day my dad is doing free-roam around the ward and he gets radio'd by the guys doing check-in screening. Apparently Dr. Idiot wants to evaluate Mr. New Patient and doesn't want to wait around for security to go through the man's stuff since it might cut into his lunch hour. Besides, Mr. New Patient is becoming very agitated at security wanting to take his backpack from him-- it's fine, Dr. Idiot insists, just let him keep the backpack while I do the interview, why upset him? Dr. Idiot brings Mr. New Patient through and now the check-in officers are asking my dad whether they should abandon the post and chase after Dr. Idiot or what.
So my dad radios some backup and rushes over to the interview rooms to bring Mr. New Patient back to the screening station. And his heart skips a beat when he looks in through the window and there they are... Dr. Idiot on one side of a table, oblivious, while on the other end sits Mr. New Patient, under the table holding a box cutter he pulled from his backpack.
My dad radios for more backup, grabs a clipboard and writes "He has knife leave now" on it and enters the room.
"Hello Dr. Idiot. Other Doctor told me he needed your signature on this."
Hands him the clipboard. "Oh! Oh. Well, uh yes, I'll uh need to talk to Other Doctor before I can sign off though." Turns to patient, "I'll be right back."
Dr. Idiot quickly steps out of the room, my dad follows right behind him and shuts the door.
"Dr. Idiot was real stupid, but I'll give him credit: he got smart real quick" was my dad's commentary.
A few years ago I was hitchhiking to Vienna (Europe, Austria). With me was a friend, she was quite young at the time (in her teens), I was 22 or so.
Anyway, we were kinda stuck on this gas station on the Austrian highway. A guy with long dreadlocks and punk attire and a young girl who also looked like fresh out of the stoner-punk-catalogue. Not the best combination if you're in need of a ride. Anyway, we see this bunch of shabby looking guys in their 3 cars and I flat out ask them if they'd give us a ride. It was really cold and we were kinda late, so you take what you get, don't you? At least I thought so.
Well, at first the guys were against taking us, but as soon as I started to speak in Serbian the good old "Aaaah, our yugo-brother, come with us"-bullcrap kicked in and they let us step into their car. After a few kilometers the driver and his friend start to openly talk about "Which car we gonna get tonight? Toyota or Mercedes!?!?".
I took a closer look at them and it was those kind of guys who had women's names tattooed all over their arms and stuff ("Slavica" and "Danica" I can remember).
Obviously they drove to Vienna to steal cars. Well, I didn't think much about it, rather than laughing to myself in what absurd situations my life always leads me. But suddenly the younger guy turns to me and asks me "Ey, how much do you want for her!?!?" in Serbian. I'm like "Dude what...?!" and he explains me in detail how he would "do the naughty to her all night and day" and offered me 300 euro if "we drive to the next gas station now and I can have her."
Of course I said there's no chance, but thinking that these guys are gangsters, I was terrified. The guy kept insisting. Then, suddenly, my friend asks me, aloud in German, what we're talking about. "C'mon man, translate it for me!! You know, I kinda like it when men talk yugo, makes me a bit horny, hahahaha." At this point I prayed to all gods in the world that the two gangsters couldn't understand German. They couldn't, and the next thing I did is that I turned to my friend and told her that if she won't shut up I'm gonna make her shut up. She, also, was terrified and I felt so sorry for her. The next hour or so I made up all kinds of stories (from "she's my girlfriend" to actual marriage), cause the one guy didn't give up of course. Only then the driver said something like, "Ah, give it up. You know, these Austrian women aren't as passionate then our balkan girls".
And we drove on. In silence.
As they kicked us out in Vienna, my friend of course immediately yelled at me, kicked me and whatnot. I told her, that these guy just wanted to take her and it was the only way I could think about how to react. I thought that telling her what was going on during the drive would put us all in danger much more, cause having two terrified young people sitting next to two gangsters is worse than one person being terrified. Or so. Dunno.
In the end, I apologized a 1000 times, explained the whole situation and she thanked me. Definitely one of the weirder stories of my life.
I teach English in Japan. The adult learner conversation lessons at my school typically have 1-4 students. I've had to keep a straight face and remain professional while students make racist, sexist, or just generally horrible comments SO MANY TIMES. It isn't that Japanese people are more horrible than others, it's more of a combination of being very socially isolated from and ignorant of other cultures, living in a society that is quite sexist, and having a perceived sense of "freedom" to say what they want to in the lesson because I am not Japanese, and therefore beyond the range of social etiquette. Also, comments like this don't happen every time, it's just annoying to have to remain smiling and resist the urge to argue.
Three incidents in particular were very difficult. One was just a few weeks ago, we were talking about smartphones and a girl in her 20's, who had previously lived in Canada and definitely had lots of exposure to progressive culture, went on a rant about the iPhone and how it's a stunning example of how Westerners are too dim to understand complicated technology and that's why iOS is so streamlined. She used the fact that Japanese people can memorize over one thousand kanji but "Westerners can't" as evidence to back this opinion up. The other student in the lesson actually piped up to try and break the obvious tension and mentioned how the iPhone is the most popular smartphone by far in Japan. In my most even tone, I asked her how people who don't grow up learning kanji could possibly read them at the level of a Native. She kind of just stopped talking after that.
The second was a guy who went on frequent business trips to Thailand and wanted me to teach him English phrases to get girls at Thai hostess clubs to go home with him. A very married guy whose daughter was also a student of mine. He seemed to find nothing wrong with this, and was very confused when I refused to continue that particular conversation.
The third was a guy who straight up asked me if I shaved down there and if I masturbate. I ended the lesson and the staff, not wanting to lose a customer, told him I had gotten sick and re-booked him with a male teacher. I swear I've perfected the fake smile/glazed eyes expression due to work.
My coworker is married to another coworker and they are both men. One told the other "you are such a pain in the arse" and I made a joke saying "that's his job!". What I meant is that it's a spouse's job to give their partner a hard time. As soon as I said it I realized what that could imply in the context of a gay couple but just pretended to not know what I just said. He stared at me for a while and opened his mouth to reply a few times then just walked away. Oops!
My friend and I came upon a bad accident where a young guy was killed riding his motorcycle (crossed the center line and hit a car head on). It was a smaller town so word filtered through the crowd about who it was, and he was a friend of mine but I knew his brother better.
Then word filtered through the crowd that his brother was waiting for him at a local bar. It was before cell phones. All I could think was how someone would find him and tell him and he would come to the accident site and it would be traumatic for him.
We went to the bar and found him before anyone left the accident site and told him to go home, his parents needed him. He kept asking why and I said they would explain. I didn't want to tell him and have him drive recklessly on his way home. We told him which way to go so he wouldn't pass the accident.
We followed him home to make sure he got there ok and saw his dad waiting, pacing in the driveway as he pulled up. He got off his bike and his dad just grabbed him and broke down.
Tough night all around.
I was having drinks with some friends in college, the friends included my roommate and her on-again off-again guy (Brad) who was friends with MY on-again off-again guy (Rob). I had been to a house party at Rob's a few weeks beforehand at which I blacked out and woke up in his empty bed that morning before rushing off to work. During the drinks we end up talking about that night at Rob's, when suddenly Brad looks at me a little drunk and yells "Yeah and I saved you! I bet you don't even remember!" He quickly has a look of realization and then clams up-won't answer any questions about it (he did later, just not in front of everyone). And that's when I start feeling panicky and almost remembering bits and pieces of a guy trying to assault me that night!! It was awful trying to act normal for the next hour before going home.
I was sitting alone in my car at the local duck pond, eating my lunch and reading a book like usual. Normally I kept my windows up to prevent situations like this from happening, but when I first arrived no one was around and it was hot outside so I rolled them all the way down (I'm not one to waste gas just so I can have a/c). I had been going to that pond for lunch almost every single day for almost the past 2 years and had never felt uncomfortable, so surely that day wouldn't be any different.
Well, I had just opened my lunch and taken a bite when this really elderly man in a red Jeep rolls up beside me. He gets out and roams around the park for a bit before coming over and talking to me. Of course I'm not going to be rude to the man, since that park is a part of a tourist area and I figured he was probably either just lost and looking for directions or a retired and lonely guy. We strike up conversation. I tell him that I'm in school at the local community college, and where I worked. He asked what I did there and I said HVAC apprentice. He said "Wow! I used to work on HVAC stuff in the military!" I thought that was really cool and figured that someone with as much experience as him could tell me some pretty useful stuff. If I remember correctly he did tell me some things that would've been useful, but the conversation quickly became predatory after that and the shock of how quickly a great conversation turned south made me forget.
He asked how old I was. I said 18, he said 52. The guy looked like he was in his 90s at the very youngest, but whatever, I figured. A lot of military people get real heavy into drugs and alcohol so maybe that aged him a lot. He asked if I had a boyfriend. Nope! He said he had a wife he cheated on a lot and a couple kids who didn't like him. Well thats kind of a deep thing to admit to a stranger, but if he is comfortable with sharing it I'm fine with it. He kept going on about how much he loved women and how he just couldn't help himself when he cheated on his wife. Then he ask if I was a virgin. By this point I had already started picking up on bad vibes from this guy, and really no matter what I told him it was going to be a lose-lose situation. I was afraid that if I told him I wasn't a virgin he'd think that I was "loose" and that I'd do whatever he wanted me to with him, so I went with virgin hoping that would imply that I'm a prude and he'd give up on me. Instead the creepy old man seemed to get off on the thought of "seducing" a virgin 18 year old. I tried multiple times to steer the conversation away from sex, but he kept bring it back up. He asked if I masturbated, watched adult films, ever wanted to have sex all of which I said "no" to in an effort to really hit the ball home. I figured that he was just from an older generation that thought you had to convince women to go out with them, and that once he realized I was serious he would give up because no one wants to be a horrible person who preys on other people, right? Nope.
I was already really uncomfortable with this guy, but then the threats started. He kept saying that if I hung out with him that I wouldn't stay a virgin very long. He just said it over and over again, very firmly like he knew he wasn't going to give me a choice in the matter. Then I realized that I was completely alone in the park with this guy. No security cameras were anywhere, no one knew I went to the pond for lunch every day. You might be asking yourself, why didn't you just turn your car on and leave? Well, I had stupidly thrown my keys into the passenger seat. I was afraid that by the time I reached the keys, put them in the ignition and turned them that this old guy would've already climbed in through the window and would've been fighting me for control of the vehicle.
I continued on with polite conversation, pretending to be unaware of his motives and ignorant to any sexual references he made. I just had to wait for the right moment. For him to sneeze, look away, let his guard down so I could grab my keys from the passenger seat and get out of there. Luckily for me a school bus full of children came right when I thought I was going to have to fight this guy tooth and nail to get him to leave me alone. As soon as he saw them arrive he looked really freaked out, and then disappointed like he knew he had just lost his catch. There were too many witnesses now, too many people who might intervene and he would surely get double jail time for doing such things around a bus full of children. He said bye to me in a normal manner and said he would look for me again at the park, then hopped in his red Jeep and took off.
If worst had come to worst I think I could've taken the guy in a fight. He might've been ex military, but he looked like hell. Like a strong breeze could just about break his bones. I'm glad I didn't have to though, because I believe it was his intention to go out that day and find someone to rape, and he might've had a weapon hidden somewhere. Needless to say I avoided that park for the next month or two, and once I did return I was really paranoid that I might see him again.
Honestly, be careful about how much information you reveal about yourself to strangers. In the course of 45 minutes I had given this guy enough information to track me down if he had really wanted to. He knew which school I went to, which program I was in, where I worked, my name, my age, my date of birth, and he could've even written down my license plate number.