Friday, September 08, 2006

Strange Phenomena

Many years ago, a petite, eccentric British singer named Kate Bush had an album on which there was a song that went, "We raise our hands to the strange phenomena . . ." (Forgive me if it's really "we raise our hats"; she has a very odd, keening voice, the word is hard to understand, and I don't have the album liner with lyrics anymore. The song talks about coincidences, awesome natural occurrences, and seemingly mystical things that we don't understand.

A couple of weeks ago we were returning from vacation after stopping on the way at the Connecticut shore to visit friends. Just before leaving the beach town to get on the highway, we stopped at a Shell station for gas.

Immediately something looked wrong to me. There were cars all around. We were second in line at a pump; we had pulled in behind a guy in a late-model silver Volvo. Somehow the guy didn't look as though he went with the Volvo, though. Of course I'm typecasting, and he might have just come from boating or something, but he looked very scruffy and too young for that kind of Volvo, unless it was his parents'. Anyway, he was standing outside the back of his car and the trunk was wide open, revealing three HUGE gas cans which he had just filled up. (For a really big yacht? Otherwise, what was that about?)

The minute DH got out of the car to pump our gas, the guy started talking to him. There was nearly an altercation so I rolled down the window to ask DH what was up. Apparently the guy was asking him for a jump. Uh, excuse me? You have three huge gas tanks and you're at a gas station right next to the pumps and you want to get a real good spark going, blowing the whole place and all the people in it sky-high? What, are you nuts??? He asked again, but DH ran into the convenience store to talk to the clerk.

The kids were asking me questions about what was going on and I felt uncomfortable. Besides, the guy was within earshot and I didn't want him to hear me talking about him because intuition was telling me he was creepy, so I hushed the kids and told them to wait for further instructions.

Now I have to tell this a bit out of order in order for it to make sense. Just when he was getting ready to pump, DH locked the car remotely but the locking mechanism was working funny and he had to do it a few times to get it to go. He usually locks the car when he leave the family in it at a gas station because I have told him it makes me feel safer while we're waiting. It's a courtesy thing he does for me. It appeared that DH ran into the shop as soon as he turned Mr. Jump Man down, but that wasn't the cause. DH later reported that when he had lifted the pump, at least a cup of gasoline spewed out all over his sandaled foot (yuck), and he wanted to alert the clerk that the pump was in some way defective.

DH came back, finished the transaction and went back into the shop to pay. While he was momentarily back, Jump Man harrassed him about not helping. He said something like, "What's wrong with you, man? You locked your car a bunch of times and ran away, and you won't give me a jump."

Anyhoo, just as DH was walking back out of the shop, a car pulled up next to Jump Man. The car had been parked somewhere else across the station, and I did not see Jump Man motion to the car or go over to it; it seemed to just appear. This made me extremely nervous. Not only did I not understand how the car appeared, but it had parked in such a way as to completely block us in. I didn't have my car key and DH was not quite back yet to back out of there. The jumper cables came out and the moment DH came back the guys were connecting them to their batteries. I jumped out of the car to see whether there was room behind us, and what did I find but some guy at the pump behind us. We were utterly blocked from behind as well. Not only that, but this asshat was SMOKING while he pumped! Another big red flag.

I was just about to tell the kids to get out of the car and run when DH convinced the guys not to do the jump there. Somehow the car that came up to "help" drove either away enough to let us out, or completely drove off. Whew. We took off out of there like greased lightning.

Maybe everyone will think it is we who are crazy. And because of a traumatic teenage experience, I am an avowed fearer of gas stations and have written about that before.

We were all shook up and soon as we got on the highway, the onramp of which is immediately adjacent to the station, DH and I started talking about how weird it was and both of us suspected it might have been some sort of perfect setup for a robbery. It just didn't look right, and the coincidences of timing, the convenience to the expressway onramp, the spillage, the mysterious car that appeared out of nowhere, the juxtapositions of opportunities for terror (robbery? a guy picking a fight? danger to kids? blowing up everything for a mile around?) , and the boob with the cigarette naturally blocking us in were strange. Thing #2, Tyke, piped up from the back seat, "You should have gotten his license plate number. That's what Officer Kavedon [the school's police community relations officer] says to do." (Pretty smart Tyke.)

I said, "I thought about that, but his trunk was up the whole time, and I couldn't see the license plate."

We talked about it off and on the whole way home. And we sure were happy to get there.

I am NOT a conspiracy theorist. Much. I only play one at home. But this event sure reminded me of the "Strange Phenomena" song, and I had to go play it.

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At 9/21/2006 7:08 AM, Blogger Tuesday said...

What is this thing with gas stations and you? That's bad -- if you thought he was creepy then he was. Your instincts are fine.


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