Monday, October 08, 2007

Be Observant

Our weekend in Napa was fabulous. I wish we'd had more time there--a day or two at least. We happened to be in the valley for harvest, so it was pretty busy. And we encountered a lot of traffic driving up the mountains into the heart of wine country on the two-lane winding highway, so we spent more time in the car for the 20 miles or so we drove than we anticipated. But we still hit a few of the big vineyards on our must-see list and have some terrific wines on their way to us sometime in the next few weeks (if temps cool off enough for shipment from the valley to here, that is). We hope to attend the same conference next year to hit some of the other vineyards we just didn't have time for. Plus, we have a feel for the area & I feel more comfortable venturing out on my own than I did this trip.

Coming home, our plane was delayed so our 8:30 pm arrival at DFW became 10:30 pm. Ugh. Thankfully we didn't check luggage so we were back at the car & on our way by a little after 11. The rest of the ride home proved more eventful than either of us would have liked. I'm driving along talking to Derek and all of a sudden he says, "slow down & let this car pass." I hadn't even noticed the car that was in the lane to my left until he mentioned it. I was putting along about 65 in the center lane. So I slow down to let the car pass. Instead, it slows down to match speed. I speed back up. The car accelerates. Derek says, "get over a lane." So I get over in the right lane. Sure enough, that car gets over too. I'm going in to panic mode. Derek says, "floor it." I speed up to about 80 and that car absolutely guns it to catch me. I immediately let off the gas & start a quick deceleration. The car begins doing the same. It's still ahead of us as we approach an exit and Derek yells, "" I barely make the exit & thankfully that car isn't able to follow. We then start talking about it. He had noticed the car long before he told me to slow down & let him pass. Apparently, it had come up on us & was speeding up and slowing down, checking out the car the whole way. We have no idea what the person's intention was, but it became very clear that the intention likely wasn't good and we should do whatever we could to get away. We surmised carjacking or robbery or something worse. I only wish we'd had time to report the car to 911 before we evaded him. I wouldn't be surprised if he began stalking another car after he lost us.

But this brought to mind an important lesson that I wanted to share. Be aware. Be observant. Don't panic. No matter the time of day, pay attention to who's driving around you & their behavior. If you have reason to believe someone is scoping you out like this guy was us, do your best to lose him or get to a safe place as quickly as possible ... even if that means abandoning your car as you run for safety. I was telling Derek that, had I been by myself, I probably wouldn't have noticed this car until it was too late. I get in the car & drive and pay very little attention to anyone else...unless it's plainly obvious they're after me. This guy was simply scoping out my car. And I can guarantee it would have taken me quite a while to even notice it. And if I'd noticed it, I know I would have panicked. I'd like to think my first instinct would be to call 911. I've certainly called in my fair share of aggressive drivers. But would I have thought to call in a car stalker? Derek stayed cool as a cucumber as he was giving me instructions. He's definitely the reason there is nothing more to the story other than "what might have been." I hope that I'm able to stay calm & be smart if I'm ever faced with another scary situation like this. I've certainly thought through some scenarios for future reference. And quite frankly, so should all of you.

Stay safe out there.

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