Veteran Paranoia….or Not?

Earlier this very morning my better half and I were out to run some errands; we needed some meat from the local butcher to grill tonight (best friend and Army buddy is coming to town for the weekend) and we decided to stop at the Goodwill for a look, because you ever know what you find there (pun now intended!)

My better half went to stand in line [giant sign, ‘line forms here’]. She was the first one there, waiting a moment for the cashier who, noticing there was a customer, was on her way. I was on the other side of the store, but walking back to her. When I got around some aisles, I noticed she was still standing there, but there was some woman checking out.

“Don’t get me started…” my better half says as I walk up to her with a quizzical look. The other woman had apparently walked up to the counter, looked at my better half with solid eye contact, and then put her items on the counter. So we stood and waited, the better half seemed frustrated. When the woman finished – and took a bit honestly – my better half says in passing “that was a bit rude, but have a nice day.” The woman walked past, unfazed.

There is a reason I call her my better half; I would have had more choice, 4-letter type words for her.  As we checked out, I was on my phone looking at something and glanced outside to see the woman getting into the passenger side of a silver early 2000’s model Ford SUV. She looked at me as she did so.

‘People…’ I thought to myself as we finished checking out. When I turned to leave, the woman was standing in the door.

“What? Was I in your way??” she asks.

“Well, yeah…” the better half begins. I just raise my arm and finger to point;

‘Giant sign. Line starts here. Giant sign.’ is all I said. The woman made some odd face at me and walked away.

“I like the ‘tude…” she cops as she gets back in her SUV.  We walk to my truck, shaking our heads. My better half isn’t big on confrontation so she was a little anxious by it all, somewhat. We got in my truck and we were off to the butcher.  Its hard to explain the parking lot, but needless to say I drove away from these two people in their SUV, and around a way that would take me to a traffic light so I could go back the way I had come (its a divided highway).  The SUV made a quick-cut out of the parking lot, and was beat us to the light.

No biggie. They were second car in the left turning lane. We were first car in the other left turning lane (there were two).  Light goes green, we all depart. Now, mind you, I am a little paranoid on my good days, so I am keeping an eye in the rear and side-view mirrors. I move to get to the far right lane of this three lane highway, because I need to go right at the next set of lights.  The SUV was in the far left lane, behind us by about twenty meters. They mimic my movements, getting right two lanes to be behind us, but by twenty meters or so.  Just as I think these cats are following me, they make a quick right into a strip mall.

Ok, I thought.  So, we get to our light, and we go right, and as we’re traveling down the road what pops out ahead of us? The SUV. I made note of this to the better half. We are now both approaching a light that has a go straight lane, and a right turn only lane; we are going right and they have no way of knowing this. Nor do we know where they are going because 1) they are ahead of me, and not using indicators, and 2) I don’t care where they’re going!

There is a line of traffic at the go-straight line; they are 2nd car in a stack of 5. We are the sole car heading right, and we proceed to do so.  As we make the right and begin to travel down the hill, I look in the rear view and BOOM – out pops the SUV.

I am being followed. There is no coincidence, no mistaken – we are being followed. My mind now runs through the gambit of scenarios; I usually keep a key ring in my center console that contains a Mace dispenser (can’t carry firearms in this state, sadly) but I had taken it out; it keeps the key for my the truck box in my bed, and I specifically left it in the garage as a reminder to myself to re-inventory the toolbox I keep in the truck box, and ensure I put some more / newer tools in it.  Shit.  Ok, well, I don’t have much else than my fists and some of the glassware bought at Goodwill. I can make do…

We’re driving through a residential neighborhood, and ahead on the left I spy a home for sale with no cars parked in front of it. I quickly duck over and park – letting the SUV pass me. I pull back out and now the hunter is the hunted. I should’ve written down their license plate but didn’t think to. I can describe the vehicle and style of plate and perhaps a few numbers, but what use is it. I have no idea who these people are (they’re about in their 50’s, if I had forgot to mention so) or what they are capable of doing. And they are following me, and now have confirmed my suspicions that they had intended to do so from the moment the woman left the store.

She came back in looking for something; trouble, an apology, an explanation – something. And I know in my heart of hearts, and via my finely honed ‘who me? Oh, I’m just a dumb cavalryman’ skills that they had been following us from when we left the parking lot.

With them now in front of me, they reduced their speed from 25mph to a whopping 12 to 15; sure, I can play that game.  I can follow slowly, keeping my distance and obeying the posted speeds and signage – in my mind they are now calling the police to report us as some sort of threatening, possibly armed assailant and they feel in trouble – all lies mind you but ran through the scenarios of why they would be following us.  [the scenario of them following us to the butcher isn’t terrible, but the scenario of them following us home does not play out well in my mind for them…]

With a line of traffic now behind me (since they’re going to slow, remember) they pull a “me” and duck off to the side of the road in-between some cars. I see them turn their headlights off; they may have parked, they may have been trying to throw me – I am not sure. But they can’t get immediately behind us because I have three cars behind me.

We got to the butcher fine; the entire time we were in there I was watching my back and looking outside to see if they’d drive by. The entire ride home I also kept my eyes peeled – and when we got home I was prepared for them to be waiting (ok so now my mind was just running away with itself).

And that is where we are now; we are home, and I keep expecting them to show up on the front porch – force their way in even, for whatever confrontation they want to have next.  I told my better half I’d feel safer if I could walk around the house armed (she is not a fan of that concept to say the least).  But what was just an average Saturday is now what I guess could be my veteran paranoia.  Waiting, wondering, pacing around and peering out the windows.  That’s why I decided to write this blog post.

To take my mind off of it by reliving it (much like I do for my combat experiences) and also to see if you, dear reader, think I am being overly paranoid…


About anotherwarriorpoet

Mathew Bocian served as a Captain in the United States Army with the Stryker Brigade and was deployed to Mosul and Tal'Afar in 2004 - 2005, and to Baghdad for The Surge in 2007 - 2008. He left the Army in 2012 and now uses his poetry as a way to heal from the traumas of war, while attempting to express to readers the realities of war. He is the recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, and holds a master's from the Graduate School for Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh.
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5 Responses to Veteran Paranoia….or Not?

  1. We can never just turn it off, can we? That was definitely a strange encounter, but I’d say you’re fine. They were probably just pissed off and got scared off for good by your actions afterward.

    That would be my guess. Enjoy your dinner and weekend! And strategically place a weapon or ten near the door in case they pay you a visit. : )

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.
    Once aware it never turns off does it but your restraint is a hell of a lot better than mine.

    Last time it cost me £300 in a fine for ‘over-reacting’ to a stop and search by a LEO in a plain car. It seems that approaching a LEO with a 6 cell maglite in hand is over reaction. Or perhaps it was his drivers window which somehow got stove in when he didn’t show me his hands quick enough.

    Good job the magistrate was ex-mil and “understood” what had happened rather than the B.S. the LEO spouted off. Even better he educated the LEO about the dangers of tailgating ex-mil in open court. Nice guy.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. JH says:

    Possible vs Likely….I feel you though. Hard habits to break when there are no ROE’s, inconsiderate idiots, and the safety of others involved. I’d carry a couple bags of slightly bent 8’s, 16’s, and decking screws in my glove box for future trips to the GW. Your better half must be one hell of a better half. That would take a lot of understanding and trust, tell her you love her for being as crazy as you and go shoot some rounds off tomorrow.


  4. robakers says:

    Maybe the right answer is to go shop at a store that is a little more upscale. You never know what kind of “jackleg” you will find at the Goodwill.

    I would like to say more but I need to run down to the local Goodwill to buy a shirt. Ha ha.

    Great job checking your six!


  5. What an unpleasant experience :-/ Hope those people didn’t show up again


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