by JT Ellison
Oh look. It’s a woman. She’s an idiot. We can take advantage of her.
I am full up with men trying to take advantage of me this week. Don’t worry, this isn’t an anti-male screed. I love men. I love my men in particular. My darling husband, my awesome dad, my brothers, my best guy friends. Love them all – and they all get a pass from this. But I am here to lay the truth on you.
Sometimes it absolutely sucks to be a woman.
I mean, really. There are days that I would trade in my girl card in an instant if it meant I would be able to say no without guilt, get an oil change that didn’t involve a laundry list of things that MUST be done to my car to allow it one more moment of life on the open road, get my tires rotated without someone trying to tack on $15 for a “brake test”, have a storm door installed without a huge pitch for rebuilding the doorjamb and buying yet another door, have to carry mace in my purse to defend myself against idiots, cook, clean, do laundry (cook, clean, do laundry, cook, clean, do laundry, cook, clean, do laundry) and in general try to exist in a male-oriented world.
Yeah. It can be hell out there. And it burns my butt to have it happen, because I’m lucky enough to recognize when I’m about to be takne advantage of, and I can call them on it. Men. Sometimes, why, I oughta…..
I know a lot of empowered women who thing God is a she – I must beg to differ. Take one look at the monthly gift. Monthly? Really? Only a devious male could have arranged for us to only be rational twenty-six weeks out of the year.
I’m not even getting into the professional stuff. Not even going there.
I know you’re smiling. I am too. But I’m going to wipe that smile right off your face, because we need to talk about something very serious. Something that happened to me last Saturday that scared the living hell out of me. Something that would never have happened to a man.
Normal Saturday. We were working around the house. Randy needed to power wash the deck. We dropped my truck to get the tires rotated, had a bacon date, stopped at Home Depot, the grocery store, and headed home. I had a bunch of work to do before football prep – we had friends coming over to watch the game and I needed to whip up some football-oriented masterpieces to feed them.
As always happens when you have these kinds of busy days, you forget something. We got home and realized we needed two pots for the mums I’d bought. And I needed to take a few things to Goodwill, and stop at the UPS store. I hopped into the same car we took Saturday morning and headed out. Radio blaring, smile on my face. Distracted.
I was at a stoplight when a man came running up to my driver side window, shouting at me. I could hear his words clearly through the glass.
“Your car is on fire!”
I immediately put the window down. Dark acrid smoke was billowing from my left rear tire. The guy was still talking, about a mile a minute, so I dragged my focus from the tire to him. He had a card in his hand.
“You’re wheel bearing caught on fire. It’s metal to metal back there.”
“Is it still on fire?”
“Yeah. Flames. I have a hot rod shop. I can fix that for you.”
Hands me the card.
“I can fix it now if you want. You can come right back to my place and I’ll fix it, or I can come to your house and do it. My shop is just up there.” He pointed vaguely up the road.
My mind was processing too many things at once. Mostly – FIRE.
I’m not a fan of cars on fire. When I was a kid, new to driving, I had a car that caught fire whilst I was crossing a bridge. So this particular situation caused an immediate flashback, and all I wanted to do was get the hell out of the car.
I rolled forward a bit, threw on my hazards and started to get out. The guy, still in my window talking a mile a minute said, “No, no, you have to get it out of the road. Pull it up around the curve.”
That led into a neighborhood. I did what he suggested. He followed in his car, and pulled onto the grass behind me. (Just FYI – I was still in the intersection. I only went twenty feet. I did not leave the original location. I just moved out of the way like you’d do with an accident.)
And suddenly it hit me.
JT, what the HELL are you thinking?
As he approached this time, on the passenger side, my heart rate sped up. I didn’t look at his face, I watched his hands. I was positive he was going to have a gun. I saw every freckle, the shape of his nails. For a so-called mechanic, they were awfully clean.
I told myself I was being silly. But I grabbed my phone and speed-dialed home.
He made a motion for me to put down the window. I left the car in gear, my foot on the accelerator, and put it down halfway. This time I did the talking.
“I’m calling my husband.”
And those were the magic words. He skedaddled. Got in his car, did a three-point turn, and took off.
I got out of the car. No more smoke. No flames. No sign of fire. Nothing.
I had to call a neighbor to get Randy out of the backyard and onto the phone. We both immediately agreed something felt… off.
We made a plan to take the car to Sears immediately and have it looked at. I was to drive, slowly, toward the shop, he would be right behind me.
And still I’m thinking – Jesus, the car is going to burst into flames any second. I was literally coasting.
We got it to the shop and told our mechanic the story. The look on his face said it all.
I had been scammed.
As best we can figure, the guy was behind me at the light, got out of his car, and as he went by, either tossed a smoke bomb under the car, or splashed WD-40 on the rotors. Transmission fluid will create the same illusion of fire, but that would ruin the bearing as well, and they didn’t find any traces of anything. Thank goodness. That would have cost a load.
It took a few more minutes before it all sank in.
I had just been a victim of a scam. A good one. One that if pulled on the right woman, could have resulted in this idiot making some cash.
Once I really had time to gauge what had happened, my hands started to shake. That didn’t stop for a few hours.
How easy would it have been for him to actually put a gun in my window, get in the car, force me to drive somewhere, and do who knows what?
The moment our mechanic confirmed the wheel bearing was just fine, I called the police.
Because this brilliant criminal mastermind had given me his card.
With his name, email, and a website link. Plus I had his car make and model, a pretty solid description, and since I’d been scared half to death, a perfect recall of every moment of the event.
So after the police filed the report and went to talk to him, I did a little sleuthing of my own. Because there was no way we could know if the card he gave me was actually his.
Took me about fifteen minutes online before I found him.
It WAS the guy on the card.
I was off on his age-he looked younger in the baseball cap he was wearing-but I’d gotten everything else right on the money. Which settled my nerves, because I hardly think a sex offender is going to be running around town planting smoke bombs and telling lone women their car is on fire, then handing them his name and email to follow up.
Then again, anything is possible.
So, today, I want you to pick out the six things I did wrong during my little run-in on Saturday. It was a real eye opener for me, and I’m damn lucky it went the way it did. It could have been much worse. I’m not accustomed to feeling vulnerable in my car. Now that I’ve had a taste, I’m going to overreact, because I never want to have this happen again. Concealed carry permit, here I come.
If you correctly identify the six things I did wrong – I’ll send you a free book. Tonight I’ll post an addendum to this to show what I should have done. And if you’d been a victim, or someone tried to take advantage of you lately, please share so we can learn too.
And please, please, please, take some care out there. We’ve all seen the email chain letters that talk about a man disabling a woman’s car, following her to a remote location, and doing bad things. Snopes always says False, or Hoax, but I’m here to tell you – this happened to me. Me. Miss Paranoid. Miss Mystery Writer. Miss Does Research With The Cops. Trust me, the patrol officer who took the report gave me a piece of his mind, and he was right to do so.
Wine of the Week: I’m going with a comfort wine this week. One of the hallmarks of an excellent bottle of wine is it’s ability to recreate the experience over and over and pver. So today, we go with Smoking Loon Old Vine Zinfandel. Brilliant, every time.