The Last Word: on strange encounters

April 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

Sucking at relationships has an advantage. You get to know more people.

Late last Friday night my mobile unexpectedly rang. The display just said: “private number”. I knew my sons were home but I answered anyway. A frightened young voice started blurting out something about strange men in her house. I hoped it was a wrong number.

It wasn’t.

The caller turned out to be one of my very favourite people on the planet. Now 13-years-old, she had—with her mother and older sister—lived with me for several of her formative years.

Training trumped temperament. I flicked into emergency doctor mode to get the important information.

She was at home and unhurt. Her mum and sister were at a late movie. A couple of men had broken into the house but ran off when disturbed. Her mum’s mobile was off so she’d called me. She didn’t want to bother the police.

I told her to bother the police and that I’d be there in five minutes.

I arrived within the allotted time and didn’t find any intruders. The police appeared a few minutes later.

Assorted bits and pieces had been stolen but the biggest nuisance was the missing spare car key. The police said the thieves were likely to return to collect the rest of the car.

I generally avoid such issues by not owning cars that anyone would want to steal.

A couple of lifetimes ago, my then-partner and I returned at night to her car. A man was sitting in the driver’s seat. The car lacked certain refinements, for instance, a working inside handle on the driver’s door. After we appeared, the thief got panicky because he was trapped inside. He couldn’t open the door to escape.

Then-Partner took pity and let him out. He responded by giving her a peck on the cheek and saying, “Thanks Sis, next time I’ll steal a V8”. He’d destroyed the ignition switch but obligingly showed us how to hot-wire the car so we could drive home.

We drove off but—not surprisingly in view of the tangled spaghetti wiring dangling beneath the dash—the headlights died. This happened just as a police car passed. They stopped but weren’t interested in our story and quickly left. We were just instructed not to drive without headlights.

Funnily enough, years later I got the opposite advice from an NRMA roadside mechanic. My alternator died one night, so he charged the battery and suggested I drive home at high speed with no headlights.

My cars also break down during the day. On one occasion, I returned late at night to try to get it going again. There was a surprise inside. A corpse lay stiffly across the front floor, its pale face frozen in a ghastly grimace.

One’s thoughts during moments of high stress can be telling. Mine was, “Dang! I’m working in the morning and now I’ll be up all night waiting for the forensics team.”

I was therefore relieved when the corpse moved. It climbed out of the car whilst explaining that he’d been frozen wide-eyed with terror because he thought I was a cop. The Corpse was apologetic, said “God, I’m a bastard” and insisted on shaking my hand. He didn’t seem to have time to help get the car going but he did want to be friends.

Sucking at car maintenance has an advantage. You get to know more people.

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