Tuesday, February 26, 2008


I'm a pretty unflappable person. I have put out small fires without raising my blood pressure, shepherded small children through ER visits and hospital stays with aplomb, and averted a friend's suicide attempt without falling apart. Crisis management should be my middle name -- I keep a pretty cool head and get the job done.

Last night I got flapped.

I'd been in north Philly having dinner with a friend, and started a long highway drive home at about 9pm. Ten minutes after I got on the highway, I became aware of a car hovering in my right-side blind spot, which drives me nuts. I slowed down so he could pass; he stayed level with me. I changed lanes to put a bit of distance between us; he changed lanes also and got right back next to my car. I sped up, he kept pace with unmistakably clear intent.

I changed lanes several times, placing my car in every conceivable type of highway posture, and this car stuck to me like chewing gum.

Now, it wasn't that late, and there were plenty of other vehicles on the road (though it wasn't heavy traffic) -- I didn't feel isolated. But I was seriously unnerved by my inability to shake this clown, while traveling at 75 65 mph to boot. At one point I had glanced over my left shoulder into the other car and it seemed as though the guy in the front passenger seat was holding something up to his window.

I was starting to think about where the police stations are in Philly, whether it would be safer to hop off the highway in an attempt to lose the other car, and the fact that I had left my cell phone on my desk earlier that evening and had no communication at my disposal.

I made one last attempt to lose him by changing lanes, and he immediately sidled back along my right-hand side. By now I was getting pissed, and I turned my head directly to the other car of the first time. As I flipped the driver off while mouthing a very distinct "Fuck you!", I noticed that the driver was holding something up against his window -- it looked like a piece of paper with markings on it, not writing. Almost immediately, he reduced speed and I pulled out ahead, changing lanes and putting a few vehicles between us, but keeping an eye on him in my rear view.

We were approaching a spot where the highway divides, and he pulled over to the left while I stayed to the right. I didn't see him exit, but could no longer find him in my rear view, though I checked all the way home. When I got to my suburban exit, I watched the off ramp behind me for a hundred yards or so, and no cars exited after me. I was rattled, but felt it would be safe to continue on home without first pulling into a well-lighted, heavily-populated area and leaning on my horn until help came.

I am unnerved by the whole thing and the fact that he gave up so quickly when he did -- was it the F.U., or that fact that I had finally looked at him/his piece of paper? -- confuses me. Was he trying to convey a serious message of some kind? (But the paper had no words on it, just some meaningless scribbles and dots.) Was he hoping that I'd be so flustered that I'd pull over, thus making myself vulnerable to carjacking or worse? (Certainly not carjacking; I drive a piece of crap '92 Mazda Protege.) Is he in the grip of a sexual kink that makes it impossible for him to get off until he gets a strange woman to see his magical piece of paper with the secret symbols on it?

What do you think?...


Anonymous said...

Oh, my god, that is so scarey!!! I'm so glad you made it home OK, but I would still call the police to alert them to this guy. He could have your license plate and can get your info through that.

Keep your cell phone with you!! Be careful and be safe!


Vinkus07 said...

Wow. Definitely creep-worthy. I'm pretty much on your side, but I wasn't there . . . if I were to try to argue his side, I'd say, check your car. Were the scribbles completely unintelligible or just . . . scribbly? Because if he really wanted to get a message to you, & you made him change lanes 54 times while he was writing, he might have been honestly trying to tell you something. Gas tank or trunk open? Seatbelt or clothing hanging out of the car? Tail light out? Bad tire? Something on the car? I'd check the vehicle if I were you . . . although he could have flashed his lights or honked . . . the fact that he didn't makes me think that he was going for low profile . . . not to you, but to other cars on the road. If he was hovering in your blind spot & trying to make you attempt to read something while you were driving, he may have been a con man who wanted you to crash into him.

And of course, there's the possibility he was hitting on you. Trying to get you to pull over - & when you expressed anger, he saw that you wouldn't go easily. If you were willing & friendly to receive his message, you'd have been an easy target. I knew a guy who would smile at women during traffic jams & get phone numbers. Sounds creepy . . . but he thought it was a great place to meet women & was successful more than once. Did you get his plate number? Perhaps you should report him . . . I keep reading about new & fascinating ways to mug/kidnap/rob people . . . this may be the newest trend.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, creepy for sure. I agree with both other replys. He could well have been trying to get something across about your car, or he could have been some weirdo, doing what he did for whatever strange reason.

It doesn't sound like you got his license plate number, but it wouldn't hurt to report this incident to the cops, just to have something on record.

Bet you won't leave your cell phone on your desk again anytime soon!

Something sort of like this happened to me once, and it turned out to have been my cousin who couldn't get my attention. He called later. I don't think this man was a relation - don't get me wrong.


RuthWells said...

I did check my car, and there is nothing obviously wrong. I would think a legitimate warning attempt would consist of WORDS of a piece of paper rather than hieroglyphics, but who knows? The cell phone was a flake-out -- I never deliberately leave it behind. And I was never able to get behind the other car to see his license.

I'm keeping the door locked, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Also, if he WAS trying to warn you, he would have likely pulled slightly ahead of you at some point to try to get you to look, rather than always staying slightly behind in your blind spot.

Doors locked and Theo close. Theo might not look dangerous, barking dogs, especially large, barking dogs, are the best deterrent.

Stay safe!