So this morning I’m driving to work, and I’m stopped, as usual, in a line of bumper-to-bumper traffic that’s trying to perform like an 8-way merge to get onto the highway. And when my turn comes to creep forward another few inches, a guy in a giant pickup truck starts trying to force his way in ahead of me. And because I’m petty and I hate line-cutters with a fiery intensity, I take advantage of the fact that my car is miniscule—a two-door Yaris—to scoot around his front bumper, up to the back of the car ahead of me, blocking him from entering my lane and making him probably 4.2 seconds later for work.
As I continue to make my slow way to the on-ramp—a process that takes several minutes—I hear someone shouting. Through my closed windows. Over my not-very-quiet radio. And what he is shouting is “Stupid whore!” Over and over. Dozens of times.
It is, of course, the man in the giant pickup. Who then tailgates me onto the highway, cutting off someone else in a merge so that another car doesn’t come between us.
He follows me, never more than a car length behind, for a mile, onto the interchange with another highway.
He follows me onto this second highway, still never more than a car length away. He swerves in and out of lanes without signaling so that he can stay behind me. He waits behind me at toll booths, even when I pull up to the longer lines. He follows me, ultimately, for over 20 miles, over the course of half an hour. Never more than a car length behind, even when traffic begins moving at 80 miles an hour.
He does not honk. He does not flash his lights. He does not make rude or intimidating gestures in my rearview mirror, when I dare to look in it. He just follows me, very closely, for a very long time.
Finally, I approach my exit from the highway. I move to the right-hand lane, trying frantically to think of a place where I can pull over that isn’t my office parking lot (I don’t want him to know where he can find me again), where people would come immediately to help if, dead set on an in-person confrontation, he tracks me until I stop and screams at me, vandalizes my car, hits me with his fists, hits me with his car, pulls out a gun. I’m coming up blank. There’s a mall, but it’s probably not open yet. The post office is small and the workers inside are unlikely to hear anything happening the parking lot. The register attendant at the gas station may not want to get involved, and who knows whether there’ll be anyone at the pumps. If there’s a police station nearby, I don’t know how to get there. I am low on gas. I am very afraid.
Thankfully, although he follows me until the very last second, he does not get off the highway with me. I make it to work only somewhat shaken and a few minutes late. I am unharmed, but I don’t feel safe.
Which is the point, of course. To make sure I don’t feel safe.
I very much doubt that the man in the giant pickup would have been so angry if it had been a man who had refused to let him into the line of traffic. I doubt even more that he would have followed a man for 20 miles in what can only be taken as an implied threat of physical violence. It probably wouldn’t have scared a man, only annoyed him. Because the message wasn’t, “I am superior to you in every way,” which is the normal way to show up a man, and would have been better accomplished by speeding past me, flipping the bird.
No, the message was, “I see you, bitch. And I can hurt you any time.”