That’s a Scream

No, this entry is not a tribute to Edvard Munch’s world-famous painting.  I’m talking about screams, the sound.  It’s been on my mind lately.

What made me think of it was Friday night.  Twice during the summer, the Olympic Swim and Racquet Club features a movie night.  (As longtime readers of this blog know, Olympic has been a second home for Susie, and by extension, me, during the summer months this and last summer.)  I took Susie Friday to see Beverly Hills Chihuahua, which I was prepared to hate,  but found myself chuckling through several times.

The movie started around 9:30, once it was dark enough.  The big pool stayed open, minus the slide.  The diving pool and the kiddie pools were closed.  They projected the movie on a bed sheet hung on the back fence, which meant that people watching the movie had their backs to the pool.  At boring parts of the movie, many kids would slip away and take a dunk in the pool.  And I heard screams several times.  (There were lifeguards there, so I didn’t worry that there was any emergency happening.  Except for about five minutes, Susie was with me the whole time.  She did escape to take a dip once, but the movie kept her attention for most of the night.)

Hearing the kids’ screams of joy reminded me of a dilemma I faced several times while in college.  During orientation, you always heard about emergency situations, sexual assault, dating violence, etc.  The walls of the dorms were Kleenex-thin, and you heard things.  On an afternoon or evening, when studying, reading, or napping, it wasn’t unusual to hear a woman screaming.  And you went through the same quandary each time.  Is she being raped?  Is this some freshman down the hall being tickled by her boyfriend?  Are she and her friends watching Nightmare on Elm Street?  You felt like an idiot to call security or a resident assistant if it turned out to be anything but the first possibility.

I never did pick up the phone and call security, but I always feared that, in the following day or so, I’d pick up the college newspaper and read that there had been a rape or assault during the exact time I was hearing the screams.

That was different when I lived in Cincinnati.  About 6:30 one morning, I had just come off a double shift at the post office, and I had walked home from the West End.  It was two miles, but I was so eager to get out of the post office that I was too impatient to wait for the first bus of the morning.  As I was walking up Wheeler Street, I heard a woman screaming, and the sound came from one of the rowhouses just around the corner from W. McMillan Street, which was where my apartment was located.  I heard it once or twice, and then went to the pay phone by the bus stop.  (This was when cell phones were very much in their infancy.)  I called the police and described it, and tried to guess which rowhouse was the one where the sound originated.  I even told the 911 operator, "I don’t know, they may just be into rough stuff," but I told her I thought it was worth checking out.  Then, having done my Good Samaritan deed, I trundled up to my third-floor apartment and was asleep by the time the 911 operator was done speaking to the dispatcher.

When I was a kid, I remember my friends’ parents (and mine) telling us all that we weren’t to shout "Help!" when playing any kind of Army or cops-and-robbers games.  I thought it was stupid at the time, but I’ve had one of those Aha! moments where I understand completely.

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