Wednesday, 5 July 2017
As I drove out of the city I switched on the radio to hear the news. As always, the announcer started with some bad news and then followed on with more bad news. I changed station to some country and western music instead. There's nothing better than "On the road again!" by Willie Nelson when you're travelling. That or Don Williams or Tom T Hall.
Anyway, there I was, approaching my home town and humming to John Denver's "Take me home Country Roads".
I tell you, those country roads in Britain can be long and winding with sharp corners and unexpected ups and downs of hills and narrowing lanes. But the good thing is that they are less busy than highways, and I often take the country roads back home after a difficult day at the city as it helps me to relax whilst driving.
The other thing with less used country roads is that you tend to notice when you're not alone when driving.
As Waylon Jennings was singing the Dukes of Hazzard Theme Song, "Good Ol' Boys"; I noticed a car following me in my rear view mirror. Just then, by pure coincidence C W McCall started singing "Convoy".
But it was not a convoy on those long and winding roads. It was just the two of us. Me and the sparkling dark blue car a few yards behind me.
I put my foot down on the accelerator to put some distance between us. He did just the same and followed me exactly a few yards behind.
The road was too narrow for me to let him pass. And at the speed I was going I was afraid I might get off the road and land upside down in some ditch.
I slowed down a little. So did he behind me. He followed but kept the same distance of a few yards behind.
I knew this road well and remembered that just over a mile ahead there is a big roundabout; a big island through which many roads intersect in and out.
If I were to enter the roundabout and turn my car all the way round; all 360 degrees; this would give the car following me the opportunity either to drive on ahead of me or to get off at any of the four intersections on the roundabout.
I sped up a little to create some distance between me and my follower. I arrived on the roundabout first and as luck would have it there were no other cars there.
I entered the roundabout from the six o'clock position on a clock face. I turned all the way round to six o'clock again and saw my follower entering the roundabout at six of clock just as I did.
I put my foot down and exited the roundabout at the six o'clock exit just as he entered it.
To my surprise, he did the same manoeuvre and exited at the six o'clock exit following me.
Why did he do that?
He had the opportunity whilst I was going round to exit at twelve o'clock and drive on ahead of me. Or he could have got out at the three or nine o'clock exits. Why did he go all the way round 360 degrees, like me, and get out after me at the same exit we had entered?
It's obvious he is following me. It is obvious he is up to no good.
I looked in my rear view mirror to work out whether he was alone in the car, or whether he had passengers. But he was too far behind for me to see properly, but he was catching me up fast. Obviously, my manoeuvre on the roundabout had confused him and upset him. He has realised I am on to him and now he is catching up with me fast.
I began to panic.
I sped a little more on this dangerous narrow winding road. I nearly got off the road as I slid in a large puddle of water where it had been raining previously. I almost hit a tractor coming out from a side road. I was going a little too fast for these road conditions; and yet, the blue car behind me was following me inch by inch replicating my every move. But he must certainly be a better driver than me because he managed through the puddle of water better and certainly got round that tractor missing it with a hair's breadth.
He was tailing me every step of the way. I could see vaguely in my rear view mirror it was a man driving behind me; but I did not want to look for too long in case I miss a bend on the road and end upside down in a ditch.
Who could he be and what does he want?
I did not recognise the car. Is he a policeman in a plain clothes car; I thought. But if he were a policeman; why not sound his siren and blue lights to stop me?
Who else could he be? A gangster? Does he want to rob me perhaps? Steal my car? His is a better and bigger model, what would he want with my car?
A prankster perhaps? Trying to have some fun by scaring me and following me close behind?
Maybe he is drunk and just out of his mind.
Whoever he was he was scaring me. I could not phone for help because I always switch off my cell-phone whilst driving to avoid receiving calls and disturbing my concentration. I could not let him pass because he had no intention of doing so.
I looked at the gauge on the dashboard and noticed that I was running out of gas. Sooner or later my car would stop and he'd catch up with me anyway. I had to do something desperate.
I remembered a driving manoeuvre I was taught at Advanced Driving lessons. I hadn't done it for ages, but these were desperate times. I took my life in my hands, literally.
I quickly pulled on the handbrake and released it again. The car spun 180 degrees on itself, just like doing a U turn. In the narrow road, I almost flew off into the field by the road, but I didn't. Somehow, by some miracle perhaps, I managed to straighten the car and keep it on the road. There was a tremendous noise as I did this lunatic stunt and dust everywhere. The car zig zagged a little and I drove off at speed as my follower arrived on the scene and put his foot on the brakes violently.
Momentarily, I managed to escape him. I saw in my rear view mirror that he had stopped and tried, after several backwards and forwards motions, to turn his car round again. He was not as good as me after all and could not do the U turn in one go.
I used this time to gain a distance between us as I sped towards the roundabout I had driven through moments earlier. If I reach it quickly and get through it maybe he would not know which exit I took and so I would lose my pursuer.
He was catching up behind me fast. He was a real dare-devil and had a very powerful car. Better than mine.
There is no doubt now that this man was following me for the last twenty miles and his intentions were no good.
A cold sweat covered my brow. I could feel my heart pounding fast in my chest. I was afraid. More afraid than I had ever been.
This guy was obviously not a joy-rider out for some fun. He meant business. What if he caught up with me and killed me. He would not want any witnesses after all that's happened. That's why he was following me fast and now beeping on his horn like a madman.
If only all this beeping would attract someone's attention. But no ... the road was empty. Just me and him speeding recklessly.
I felt like Dennis Weaver in the film Duel by Steven Spielberg.
Have you seen the film? Real scary.
David Mann, (Dennis Weaver), is a middle-aged salesman driving on a business trip. He encounters a rusty truck on the highway which follows him and terrorises him out of his senses
This man behind me is doing just the same.
He stopped beeping his horn. I looked in the mirror and he was catching up with me fast. His headlights now full on to make it obvious he was there. I could see his hand shaking at me out of the window.
Is that a gun in his hand, or is he just wearing a black glove? I can't see properly and drive fast at the same time.
What the hell does he want? Why can't he go away?
If only there were other cars on the road I could signal for help. Or pedestrians; not that there are many in the countryside. It's just a long narrow winding road with either trees on either side or a deep ditch inviting me to fall in and end my life.
I kept driving as fast as I could without endangering my life. He kept following me ... for thirty miles now.
I was entering my town and gaining some bravado confidence.
Why is it we feel brave and confident on home territory? If the other man is bigger and stronger than you he is just as likely to punch you on the nose in your front garden as anywhere else. He doesn't know or care this is your home territory. If he is determined enough to finish you of, because of some unknown reason, or to get rid of a witness, he would do it regardless.
Anyway, now is not the time for philosophical discussions. Especially since my mind is concentrating on going to the bathroom as well as escaping my pursuer. Although I cannot work out which is the more pressing priority!
Why can't they have bathrooms in cars? There must be a way of relieving yourself whilst driving, surely. What is the point of having all the technology to send a man on the moon if we cannot solve such a simple problem? What do they do when on rockets to the moon? Surely they have a system of relieving themselves. Why can't car manufacturers install a similar system in cars?
It's amazing how one's brain works when in a panic.
All these questions rushing through my mind and pressing on my bladder did not solve the problem of my pursuer.
At the next traffic light, which incidentally was red, my bravery took over from my cautiousness and I stopped the car abruptly.
He stopped behind me.
I got out of the car and walked purposely towards him.
I did not know what I was going to say or what I would do. My stupidity had taken control of my mind.
What if he attacked me? What if he had a knife, or a gun, or a baseball bat even?
Thankfully, none of these thoughts crossed my mind, because if they did my bladder would have given up in despair.
As I approached the blue car behind me he pulled down his car window.
Before I said anything he asked: "Who are you?"
I had to think for a second or two before knowing what to answer.
He continued: "You're not Thomas!"
"No ... I am not ..." I mumbled incoherently that I hardly understood myself.
"You're not Thomas Haversmith!" he said. "Where's Thomas?"
"I am not Thomas, and I don't know who or where he is," I said gaining a little courage from I don't know where, "why the hell have you been following me for some thirty miles?"
"I have not been following you," he replied with some irritation in his voice, "I have been following Thomas. I did not know the way to the Conference Centre and he told me to follow him. I did follow him as we left the car park, and I drove for miles only to find it is you and not Thomas! And I must say, you are a terrible driver. Thomas would not drive like that!"
I was so relieved to hear his explanation; not literally relieved, you understand.
I asked him to follow me in the pub up ahead, where I literally relieved myself; and then gave him step by step directions back the thirty miles to the Conference Centre he was supposed to be at.
He told me that he was a guest speaker at the Conference Centre and was due there over an hour ago. He also used my cell-phone to explain to an irate Thomas Haversmith why he was late to address the meeting on the subject of in-car satellite navigation systems.