Meeting Lydia is always a breeze. She inspires me, simple as that. I was telling her all about my woes - got handbag snatched (RM 5000 gone altogether), bumped my car on a curb, my 2 maids did a Prison Break Indonesian style and ran away from my house, stealing 2 handphones, and she cheered me up completely.
And she's also a great font of information. Like she told me this was up in last Saturday's Star (as if I would notice, being out of town!)
This is actually an abbreviated chapter from my new book to be hopefully published by MPH next year. I'm going under the name Eudora Lynn for all newspaper, magazine articles and non-fic books under the same branding from now on. (Right Eric?)
It doesn’t pay to be too aggressive on the highway if you are a woman.
I would like to tell you two true stories, which might make you rethink the way you drive.
You see, I am an “efficient” driver, in the sense that I don’t believe we should waste more time on the highway than necessary.
Perhaps I should add the word “safe” as well, which means I intend to get to my destination as quickly as possible without a) breaking any safety rules, b) leaving a litter of mangled cars in my wake, c) having the blood of stray cats smeared on my front bumper.
Woe betide road hogs in front of me, especially if they are from out of state. They’ll merit at least a toot from my very loud, very annoying car horn. But it appears some male egos simply cannot take a female driver hooting at them.
I was driving down the extreme right lane of the Federal Highway when someone from behind hooted. In my rear-view mirror, a white van was tail-gaiting me. Naturally, I did the only thing we “efficient, safe and occasionally dashing” (ESOD, for short) drivers do – I swerved to the middle lane to let him pass, because there is nothing we ESODs hate more than being labelled road hogs ourselves.
I had a good look at the driver as he passed me; he had a strange tattoo curling down his left arm. He glared at me. Uh–oh, I thought.
I kept course. There was a car in front of him (this is where it gets nasty), and he swerved onto the middle lane, narrowly missing my front bumper.
Naturally, I was indignant and hooted loudly, angrily. After that, it went deathly quiet, as though a chill had descended. (Well, as deathly quiet as 5pm on the Federal Highway can get.)
He slowed down, causing me to slow down as well. Strangely, I didn’t panic. The only word going in my mind, and it really wasn’t a word, was “Hmmmmm”.
After a bit of going slower than 50kph, he sped up. I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. I pressed on my accelerator as the road opened up in front of me. He was pulling away, and I wasn’t giving chase in any spirit of kiasu-ism, just easing my car into its natural 80kph speed.
My gas pedal went deeper as I stepped on it with my stilettos. My car’s engine whined and hummed. He was belting away fast, and I was closing in. And then suddenly, with a screech of burning rubber that must have smelt like a box of latex gloves which has just been microwaved, he dived to the right again.
Looming ahead of me was a large, slow-moving Pajero.
I slammed on my brakes with all the strength in my shoes. My brake pads squealed like a starlet who has just been publicly revealed to have silicone. My front bumper avoided hitting the Pajero, by just a nick.
Of course, this had been his intention all along.
Another hair-raising incident happened to a friend of mine driving from Kedah back to KL after a business meeting.
She had left Alor Star rather late, and it was already past midnight. The North-South highway was empty except for occasional cars and late buses.
My friend was maintaining course in her 4WD on the left lane, keeping well below the speed limit, when, suddenly, a car on the right swerved roughly into her path.
Now my friend is of a very patient disposition. She is not an ESOD. In fact, I would label her a CCANLTH (Cautious, Careful and Not Likely to Honk). But because this car threatened her very safety, she pressed very lightly on her horn to let him know she was there, so the sound that came out was “pin.”
The driver on her right was on his cellphone and probably hadn’t realised he had weaved onto her path.
When she pin-ned, he seemed shocked and immediately swerved to the right again, tires protesting like an anti-war demonstration.
My friend maintained her course and thought that would be the end of it. But it wasn’t.
The driver accelerated and nose-dived in front of her, and then slowed down to 30kph. Naturally, she had to follow suit. They maintained this charade for five minutes, and when she tried to overtake him on the right, he immediately blocked her off.
My friend looked frantically around. There were very few cars in sight. They continued on this crawl for 20 minutes. And then a lorry passed them on the right, horns blaring. Seizing this momentary distraction, my gutsy friend overtook the sedan on the emergency lane and settled once more into course.
Please, she prayed, let this be the end of it.
But again, it wasn’t to be.
The sedan driver, in full rage mode now, overtook her once again and tried to block her off. Pulse fluttering, she inched her car onto the right lane. He immediately followed, cutting her off. And then he did something amazing, even by Malaysian highway standards.
He screeched his car to a complete halt in the middle of the right lane.
Her heart going into standstill, my friend stopped her car. It was no use trying to overtake him anymore. It would only aggravate him further. This was a showdown. He was going to climb out and beat her up.
The two cars waited on the highway for what must have been only minutes, though it seemed a lifetime to my friend.
Where were the police? Surely someone must come to her aid? Would they find her dead body sprawled in a gutter the next day?
And then something clicked in her mind. Why did women always have to be victims?
Resolution settling, she revved the engine of her Mitsubishi Storm, put it into first gear, and floored the gas pedal. Fifteen feet, 10 feet – the sedan was still stationary, she winced and closed her eyes – and slam!
Her spine juddered.
When she opened her eyes again, the sedan’s boot had been compressed like an accordion. She reversed, set her gear into first again, and swerved onto the left lane.
Then she left, flying into the night without looking back, heart knocking at her chest wildly, and drove straight to the nearest police station in the next town.
Barging in breathlessly through the front door, she told two surprised policemen, “Help me! I drove here as fast as I could. Someone is trying to steal my car!”
For the next two days, she kept looking round her shoulder, waiting for her insurance agent to call to say someone has made a claim, but nothing happened.
I guess if you want to be an ESOD, you’ll have to look out for the AHs. And that is an abbreviation for a word that cannot be mentioned in polite society.