This is the story of how a creepy encounter with a scary man at a harbour café saved me from something even more terrifying. It was in the autumn of 1994 and I was 19 years old. At the time my dad had been working for almost six months abroad, and I was planning a surprise visit. My dad and I have always been close, I am an only child and my mother died of cancer when I was still a baby. So it was just my dad and I really, a tiny little family but he made up for it by being the most awesome parent ever. Now that I wasn’t a little kid anymore, I appreciated that more and more. I had had booked the ticket and was ready to go, it was gonna be great fun to surprise him with a visit. I had to take the ferry though, and I had just gotten my driving license and felt really unhappy about having to drive my little car onboard the ferry, and decided to not bring a car at all, and just rent one once I got there. Having time to spend I decided to have coffee at a near by café since I was early and they hadn’t started letting people onto the ferry just yet. At the café there were lots of truck drivers and I soon realized I was the only woman there.
One man, a 40-ish bloke with ice blue eyes and tattoos all over was eyeing me from across the room. Something about him made my skin crawl.
I got up to leave, feeling suddenly very uncomfortable, and to my utter horror he followed. What do I do now? I asked myself. This was before everyone owned a cell phone, I might add. I decided to try and look busy and maybe he would leave me alone. So I pulled out my ticket and tried to look like I was reading it carefully, when he suddenly snatched it from my hand and said: ‘I’m on the same boat. I’ll have hours of your company then, how lovely’ in a voice that was an absurd combination of jovial flattery and hidden hostility.
I felt it very strongly that if I got on that boat, with this man who now knew my booking details, I’d be in grave danger. I can’t explain why the feeling was so overwhelming, but it was, and I decided there and then to not get on the boat. The ticket had been cheap anyway, I could get on the next one instead. I hid in the ladies room until I knew the ferry had left and then I went to rebook my ticket. The story could have ended here, a creepy encounter with a stalkerish man, but it doesn’t.
I was right in the assumption that getting on that ferry would have been unbelievably dangerous. Have you figured it out yet? The date was September 28, 1994, the name of the ship was M/S Estonia, and that cold night she sank in the Baltic sea, taking 852 people with her, resulting in the worst ferry catastrophe to strike Sweden to this day.
I still recall that day with horror, and wonder what would have happened if this creepy man had not taken an interest in me? If I had not listened to my instinct and gotten on board instead of waiting for the next boat... Would I have been among the survivors? Or would my dad have seen my name on the list of lives lost in the Baltic sea?