I've already discussed the subject of automobiles around here: see "To The Beach And Back Again" (3/16/10) and "Winter Texans" (3/26/10), for example. There is a great deal more to discuss on the subject that I'll almost certainly tackle in the future, too, but today I intend to blog about an aspect of automobiles that is very fresh in my mind and also very representative of some of the many ways people are victimized around here.
First I need to back-track a little. Almost 2 weeks ago, I drove my youngest child to the "big city" (San Antonio, about an hour's drive from where we live) to place an order for a medical-related item from a company recommended by our doctor. At the time we placed the order, I thought the cost seemed unusually high, but I was not completely familiar with what was being ordered, the doctor had recommended this company very highly to us, and my ex-husband usually reimburses me for similar items for the kids, so I went ahead and placed the order. We explained that we also needed to receive our item as quickly as possible, and the salesperson told us they would put a "rush" on it.
Although I'd already paid for our order in full, I decided to wait on submitting the receipt to my ex-husband for reimbursement until we had the order and I was sure it was right. However, a few days later, I received a letter from my ex- indicating he somehow knew I'd placed the order and implying I'd paid too much for it. I did a little checking and did indeed discover that the company had probably overcharged me by a substantial amount. (This is done to me frequently here where we live, but usually not in San Antonio.)
When we didn't hear anything from the company, I began calling them. Each time I called, I was put on hold while they did some sort of checking and then was told our order wasn't there yet. Today I was finally told we could come to pick it up, so my youngest and I got into our car and headed down. Because we rarely go to the "big city", we always try to combine errands there, so we had other stops to make as well.
As we were driving down, I noticed we were being passed by an unusually large number of vehicles from our town (ones with local stickers and logos on them). As we neared the city, my youngest and I decided it would be more efficient to do one of our other errands first. As we got out of our car, I noticed a woman wearing a pink T-shirt with a logo from our home area jump out of a vehicle that had parked nearby. The woman walked directly in front of our vehicle with a cigarette dangling from her lips and then stopped until she was sure we'd noticed her; then she hurried off and we went inside to complete our first errand.
Our next stop was at the business where we picked up our order--and where we noticed a number of people hanging around who did not seem to be doing anything in particular. We were pleased with our purchase (except for the price), and we decided it had been worth waiting for.
After that, my youngest and I decided to have lunch at a nearby restaurant from a major chain. We waited a few minutes to be seated--and then discovered to our dismay that our waitress was very seriously and visibly impaired (high on crack, if I had to guess). We watched in horror as she lost her balance while walking and fell against a wall. She clearly could not handle a large, heavy tray, and other servers brought our food and filled our water glasses. However, the impaired waitress continued hovering over us and constantly bothering us about trivial things in an obnoxious manner. By the end of our meal, we saw her nearly fall again, and we'd reached the point where we just wanted to get away from her. As we were leaving, the hostess asked us if we'd enjoyed our meal--and then started laughing at us!
We made a few more stops (and saw more vehicles and people from home) and then headed for a store we'd planned as our last stop. As we walked in, we discovered my ex-husband and his wife waiting for us just inside the door. His wife walked up next to me to make sure I'd seen her and then hurried away. My ex- walked up to our youngest and spoke with them briefly (also to let us know he was there). My youngest and I discovered the store didn't have what we wanted, so we decided to try one more store before heading home.
We then found what we needed and started back on the interstate. It didn't take long for us to realize that a woman in a gold car was tailgating us with her headlights on. She did this for about 20 miles or so and refused to pass us despite many opportunities to do so. When she finally sped off, she also switched her lights off. Several other vehicles also tailgated us with their lights on for various lengths of time.
Now that I've detailed things for you, let me explain more fully what was going on. The owners of the 70+-year-old company that was recommended to us have ties to our area, own land here, and know my ex-husband and his family well. No doubt we were told our order wasn't ready for several days in order to get us to drive to San Antonio on a day my ex-husband had off. We were followed and under illegal surveillance the entire time we were gone, probably by associates of my ex-. The business probably overcharged me and certainly violated our privacy by disclosing our order to my ex-husband without permission. (The letter my ex- sent me implies that he intends to blame me for being overcharged.) We were harassed by an obvious doper working at the restaurant (there's no way this woman could pass a drug test!), and other employees thought it was funny. My ex-husband and his wife then staged the meeting at the store (because it's no fun stalking someone if you don't let them know at some point who's behind it). Finally, we were "harassed by auto" going home.
These events form a variation on the themes of stalking, harassment, and illegal surveillance perpetrated against us every time we go anywhere--and we've been victims of this for at least 10 years and almost certainly much longer. Some parts are the same virtually every time: the locals following us; harassment by both employees and customers in various businesses; my ex- and/or someone very close to him turning up briefly at some point; and the automotive harassment (tailgating, flashing light, reckless driving around us, etc.). Some aspects differ from time to time, though; for example, sometimes marked law enforcement vehicles (from multiple jurisdictions) are involved in harassing incidents directed at us. In one particularly memorable incident when I was coming home after picking up one of my kids at the airport, one of the vehicles tailgating us and then speeding off was a very large, bright red SUV with a custom lt. governor's license plate. (The white pickup that immediately took its place tailgating us that day was being driven by my ex-husband with his wife in the front passenger seat. My ex- was shaking his head "no" back and forth in a bizarre, exaggerated fashion.)