The spring when I turned thirteen, I made my first solo trip to visit my aunt in another city. It was about a four-hour journey by an intercity express train to get to her place. Growing up under parents who were overly concerned about my safety, I had never travelled alone on a train prior to that. So, even though the trip was not at all complicated, the idea of travelling by myself made me nervous.
My biggest fear was to be kidnapped by a stranger while travelling on the train. I had seen enough cases of child kidnapping on news reports, and at school, teachers used to regularly warn us about kidnapping. I thought I should prepare myself against any potential kidnapping plots if I were to successfully complete this solo trip. After many careful thoughts, I came to the conclusion that the best thing I could do to repel any dangerous stranger was to look like one myself.
On the day of my travel, my mother dropped me off at the station – more precisely, on the train. She even walked me down to my seat and made sure that I was sitting at the right spot before leaving.
As soon as she was gone, I took out my special gear from my backpack: a black cap of New York Yankees my relative had once given me, a pair of cheap black sunglasses that I had picked up from my father’s room, and a surgical mask that I often carried as a protection against my pollen allergy. I then put on these items one by one. I even tucked my long hair under the cap so that nobody could even tell that I was a girl.
I travelled like that for the whole four hours of my train journey. I did not even stand up to go to the washroom. I just sat there on my seat, looking like a stranger, keeping the same posture like a statue.
Once getting off the train, my aunt and my cousin welcomed me at the station. My first train ride was completed successfully. I heaved a sigh of relief, took off my costume, and joined my aunt’s family for the fun activities they had planned for me. Once my aunt asked me about my train ride, but there was not much to say since I had been so busy being a stranger that I barely enjoyed any scenery.
After the relaxing stay, on the day of my return trip, my aunt dropped me off at the train station. As soon as I got inside the train, I took out my special gear, and once again put on my stranger costume before settling down on my seat. Then I sat there motionless for four hours until the train finally brought me back to my hometown.
“What’s up with your outfit!” My mother exclaimed in total surprise and burst into laughter as soon as she saw me come out of the train. “You look strange!”
Well, that’s the whole point of doing this, I thought to myself, a little offended, as we together started walking toward the exit. I became a stranger so that no stranger would want to talk to me!
But I did not say any of this to my mother. Apparently, to her, my costume was nothing but a joke. To me, however, it was the heart of the most serious and brilliant safety precaution I had designed for my first solo trip.