On Friday night I drove to Synagogue as is now usual for me. It is wonderful being able to drive again after a 4 month enforced break, due to cataract surgery.
Eve, my partner arrived soon after and got my chair out of the back of the car for me. Normally this is something I can do for myself, but I have a trapped spinal nerve at present, causing me severe pain on standing or walking – so all help is gratefully received!
After a lovely service and chats with friends, weusually give our Rabbi and her husband a lift home, but this week they were delayed so we left on our own. The Synagogue is just off a busy shopping street, on a bus route and near to a local pub, somewhere I’ve always felt safe.
Eve quickly got my chair into the boot and we were just beginning to reverse slowly out of the parking space adjacent to the Synagogue when I became aware there was something directly behind us. I stopped immediately, and the next thing I knew, a guy was banging on my car window, trying to open the drivers door and shouting he wanted money.
I simply couldn’t understand what was going on. I looked in my mirrors and saw the front and rear light of a low slung car, which had definitely not been there 1 minute previously. There was no way I could or would get out of the car, and I certainly wasn’t going to let my partner do so either. With the benefit of hindsight I reckon he must have been watching us, and deliberately parked where he did to try to ensure we hit him. A known insurance scam.
He had parked in such a way that there was no possibility of me being able to manoeuvre my car passed his and get away from him.
For the next several minutes he continued to harangue us, asking for my address and wanting to record my voice saying I had hit and damaged his car. No way was I doing either of those things! I gave him my insurance details, but that did not satisfy him.
I could see him pacing round my car and shouting and swearing angrily at the person on the other end. Was he phoning for his mates to come and join him?
Eventually he must have phoned the police, he banged on my widow again and demanded I give my address to the police. When I spoke to the police control center and gave them the details, they seemed satisfied, but he clearly was not. I gave him his phone back, opening the car window even a little felt very scary.
I tried phoning our Rabbi to see if she was nearby still, but got no response, but at least my partner was with me, which made me feel safer. I was so pleased Eve was there!
Several minutes later two police officers arrived. They checked my insurance details on the national database, gave him the same info as I had – but looking at his body language, I could see he was arguing with the police. He even tried coming up to my car whilst the police officer was speaking to me and was firmly told not to approach me.
Meanwhile we were getting cold and I could feel my pain increasing, I should have been home and had my meds by now as it was almost midnight – we’d been stuck there almost 90 minutes.
The police told me that they were going to make sure he had driven off so he couldn’t try and follow me home. They were sympathetic and helpful, and said I should have called them the moment he started asking me for money.
At the beginning my brain had just frozen, I had felt scared and trapped and I guess I just hoped he would give up and go away. The policeman said nothing to me either about any damage I may have done to his car, I suspect there was none! When we checked the rear bumper of my car on returning home there was no evidence that I had hit anything!
Eve and I were both glad to get home, and enjoy a restorative measure of alcohol!
Whether anything will come of this encounter, I don’t know. I felt protected by the police and grateful they had ensured my safety as much as possible. But it has made me very aware of how easy it would be for someone to take advantage of a disabled person being on their own in a similar way.
For the next few weeks I will be making sure I have some able bodied friends around when we leave Synagogue just in case he tries the same trick again.