When I was 10, my mom, her third husband, and I moved to an apartment in downtown Los Angeles. We'd only been there a couple of weeks when I was approached by a man as I walked home from school. He said he was on his way to the movies, and asked if I'd like to come, too.
I said sure, but I'd have to ask my mom first. (I loved going to the movies, and this seemed like a very friendly man with a very nice offer.)
No, he insisted, I didn't need to ask — and we wouldn't be gone that long — so let's just head for the movies.
Well, I told him I'd be in big trouble if I went without getting my mom's permission — but he promised to explain it to her later and that everything would be all right. He followed me right up to our apartment door, insisting the whole time this wasn't necessary.
But I told him I'd be out as soon as I talked to my mom. (I was very excited about getting to see a movie in the middle of the week).
When my mother heard there was a nice man waiting in the hallway, she let out a scream and pushed me into the kitchenette and ordered me not to move.
"So what's the matter with her?" I wondered as she apprehensively cracked the door and peered into the hallway. And when she turned to say there was no one there I was genuinely surprised.
Then, before I could tell her again how nice he was, she shoved me into a chair and gave me an animated lecture about accepting offers from strangers. But I thought she must be exaggerating. He was so nice!
"Well, if he was so nice, why didn't he wait and talk to me?" she demanded.
Well, she had a point — but the disappointment of not going to the movies had clouded my reasoning — and it was only after I'd thought about it that I began to agree he probably was what she said he was.
It was a valuable lesson.