When a Stranger Calls (Penny Rader)

I grew up in the country. Lots of farms around. Very few actual neighborhoods. I attended a really small school. One day a mom asked if I’d consider watching her kids every day after school for a couple hours. I didn’t want to commit to an every day thing until I’d spent time with the kids so I agreed to babysit while the parents went out.

Did I mention I lived out in the country? Well, the B’s lived even farther out in the boonies. In a tall, multi-storied house all by its lonesome. Didn’t know this until Mr. B and I pulled into their driveway.

Everything started out okay. Met the kids. They were cute. Mr. & Mrs. B headed out the door. Before too long I heard a “thwap, thwap, thwap.” I probably didn’t mention that I’ve always been something of a coward. I was never going to be one of those nightgown-clad heroines who foolishly went down into the dungeon to see what the noise was. But…since I was the babysitter I had to suck it up and check it out. I drew a deep breath and forced myself to search for the source.

Thwap. Thwap. I peered around doorways. I had a hard time hearing the noise because my heartbeat was reverberating throughout my entire body. Several rooms later I finally found the culprit – an open window and a banging window shade. Whew! Crisis averted and my heart slowing back to its normal rhythm, I closed the window and headed back downstairs.

You know how they always tell kids to not tell strangers your parents aren’t home? But they don’t really tell you what to do in that situation? What’s up with that anyway? You probably guessed what happened next. Um-hmm. The phone rang.

Me: “Hello?”
Stranger: “May I speak to Mrs. B?”
Me: “Uh…she’s busy.”
Him: “I really need to talk to her.”
Me: “She’s really busy and can’t come to the phone.”
Him: “Okay. Let me talk to Mr. B.”
Me: “He’s busy too.”
Him: sigh
Me: waiting…hoping he’d just leave a message.
Him: “This is Mrs. B’s brother. I’ll just come over.”
Me, inside my head: Aaaaack!!!
Me: “Wait! Please don't come over. I’m the babysitter. Mr. & Mrs. B aren’t here."
Him: “Just tell them I called.”

Did I mention that my imagination sometimes goes into overdrive? That call freaked me out and I was absolutely certain some raving lunatic was on his way over to murder, ravish, and pillage, but I could not show my fear in front of the kids. So, I calmly got them all into their jammies and settled in their beds. Then I planted myself in the corner of the couch, squishing myself down under a quilt until I was as small as I could make myself. To anyone watching I would appear to be watching the TV, but actually, I had one eye on the front door and one eye on the picture window.

There are lots and lots of noises in the country. Spooky noises. Tree limbs smacking windows. Wind shaking just about everything. Howling animals. It’s enough to give a 13 year old girl a heart attack.

Boy, was I relieved when Mr. & Mrs. B got home. (Though there was a moment of extreme panic when that door opened!) The next day I called and told Mrs. B that I wouldn’t be able to take the every day babysitting job. (In my head I added or any other babysitting job!) My excuse: I had too much homework. She believed me. Her kids had tons of homework, too.

Yep, I’m a wimp. And I hate babysitting. And I still don't know what you're supposed to tell people when they call and ask for the parents.
Do you have any scary experiences you'd like to share with us?


P.L. Parker said...

I used to babysit at a house right across the street from a cemetary. The people I sat for would be out until 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. They paid me well, but I was terrified all the time. One night, I had a prowler so I called my mom and she rushed up there and stayed with me until we figured it was safe. I quit babysitting there soon after. Just couldn't face staring at the graveyard all night long/

Becky A said...

They always told me that babysitting built character. What they didn't say was how! I think I spent my entire babysitting career scared. There were always funny noises and unexpected calls. I was always afraid that something would happen to the kid that I couldn't deal with. That they would get seriously hurt, or even dead, on my watch. Too stressful for that $1.00 an hour I got at the ripe old age of twelve. It must have built something in me (insanity?) because here I am at the ripe old age of, um, none of your business, and still babysitting.AACCKK!

Helen Hardt said...

Great story, Penny! I always loved babysitting, though. I never heard strange noises, and I just never answered the phone, lol. Problem solved!

Penny Rader said...

Oh, P.L., babysitting across the street from a cemetary would be super spooky!

Once, when one of my sisters was babysitting for some cousins, she had a scary experience. This creepy guy kept calling and describing what she was wearing and doing...and he was 100% accurate! What made it extra frightening was that she couldn't get a hold of our aunt and uncle or our parents.

Penny Rader said...

Becky, I'm relieved that I'm not the only person who found babysitting to be a scary experience. I probably called my mom a bazillion times. Heck, if there's an emergency my kids (and I!) almost always say, "Let's call Grandma." Now I am a Grandma and I still call my mom. I told her she's not allowed to die 'cause I never caught that wisdom thing and I would be lost without her.

Penny Rader said...

Hi Helen! It never occurred to me to not answer the phone. (Smacking myself upside my head.)

I should probably clarify that I love, love, love playing with babies and little ones...but once my energy level starts to fade I want to be free to go home and take a nap. ;D

Caroline Clemmons said...

I always loved babysitting when I was preteen and a teen. I was never scared, but I was always in my own neighborhood and loved kids and the income. If I'd been in a rural area, I probably would have been frightened. We live in the country now and there are lots of odd noises at night.

Joan Vincent said...

Great story! I lived in a rural area too and sometimes babysitting could be very scary. Like you said Penny, there's a lot of sounds that come out at night when you're alone with kids in the middle of nowhere!

Penny Rader said...

Thanks for visiting, Caroline. Babysitting for kids who had nearby neighbors was much easier on my nerves than those who lived in isolated areas. :D

Penny Rader said...

Hi Joan! One time my little sister went with me to babysit for a family friend. When Mr. M drove us home the lights were on and the living room curtains were open. No one was home and we were sure we had turned off the lights, etc. (My dad had pretty much drummed that into us.) Mr. M went inside with us and looked in every nook and cranny. No one there. My little sister and I plunked ourselves on the couch and watched tv till Mom and Dad got home. No way we were leaving that room. Never did find out who turned on the lights and left the drapes open.

Pat Davids said...

What a cute story, Penny. Thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

Penny: Great job! I totally forgot about my babysitting experiences. I guess I purposely shut them out. I went through those exact emotions when I babysat...squishing down intothe sofa and huddling under a blanket. Scary noises from the hosue...oh my! I remember those days. They were terrifying at times!