It’s been something of a surreal sort of day, not least because I found myself having to go to the police station to give a statement as a witness to a road rage incident.
The incident in question involved a man and a woman, each in separate cars. The woman (who I actually thought was a man until she had occasion to step out of the car) was tailgating the man for quite a way, as well as hanging back before speeding up behind him so quickly that she almost touched his rear bumper. Generally, she was driving quite erratically. I was in the next lane to these two cars, and once or twice, I glanced over to see the man looking in his rear view mirror and gesticulating in a kind of “What the hell are you playing at?” kind of way.
At a particular point in the road, these two lanes become one, and I found myself falling in behind the woman’s car. From this position I could see that she was all over the place, her driving so bizarre and erratic that I thought she was either high on drugs or drink. Ahead of us, a bus had stopped on the opposite side of the road and cars travelling in the opposite direction were drifting over onto our side of the road as they navigated their way around the bus. Naturally, seeing the oncoming traffic, the man slowed down almost to a halt. The woman, however, was travelling so fast that she had to slam on the brakes so hard that her tyres screeched. She avoided slamming into the back of the man’s car…but only just. At this point, the man leaned out of his window, looked back and shouted something at the woman behind him. I, meanwhile, was shaking my head, wondering what on earth could be wrong with her.
The road ahead was now clear again, and so we continued along until we came to a zebra crossing. Here, two teenagers, as well as a lady with a baby in a pushchair, were waiting to cross. The male driver stopped at the crossing and the two teenagers began to cross. The female driver, however, did not stop. She came up at speed behind the male driver, swerved around him without slowing down and sped across the zebra crossing, causing one of the two teenagers to jump backwards slightly to avoid being hit. More than anything, this shook me up, primarily because of what could have happened. If the lady with the baby in the pushchair had been crossing first, the woman’s car would have slammed straight into the baby. The female driver neither stopped nor gave any indication that she had done anything wrong. She merely sped off into the distance. I was now able to pull up behind the male driver, who was now leaning through his window, talking to the two teenagers and checking if they were both OK. After assuring that they were, he pulled away and we continued down the road.
A little while later, I was still travelling behind the male driver, and we came to a particularly busy section of road. Here the road splits into three lanes, with traffic lights placed every three hundred meters or so for a couple of miles. Consequently, the traffic is often horrendously backed up. Today was no exception, and as we moved onto this section of road, I moved into the left hand lane. As I did so, I saw – just slightly ahead of the male driver in the middle lane- the car driven by the bizarre, erratic female. Due to the position of the traffic, the male driver was now in the right hand lane, right next to the female driver. I saw him wind down his window and gesture for her to put her window down. Being the nosy parker that I am, I put my window down a little to try and hear what was said. I heard him say “You nearly went into the back of me a couple of times and then you nearly hit two people on the crossing! What the f**k were you doing?” The woman then got out of her car (I now saw, to my amazement, that it was a woman) and stormed around the back of her car. Seeing this, the male driver got out of his car. The woman was going nuts, screaming various obscenities at him, most of which involved telling him to go and fornicate with himself, or to go and see who was fornicating with his wife.
At this juncture, the man shouted “I’m calling the police because you’re either drunk or high, you f***ing nutter!” In response, the woman launched two kung-fu-style kicks to the side of the man’s car, leaving a couple of sizable dents in the bodywork. Then, seeing that the lights were on green and the traffic was now moving, she ran back around her own car, got in and drove off. Fortunately, I had had the presence of mind to jot down her number plate before disappeared into the distance.
The police were called and I told the male driver – who I later found out was an Australian called Daniel who had lived here in Belgium since he was four years old – that I would happily stand as a witness. When the police arrived, the gave me a choice of either going to the police station in a couple of days to give a statement, or going practically straight away. I decided, since I was not in a rush to be anywhere and while the events were still fresh in my mind, to go there and then.
Fast forward an hour and a half. I am at the local police station and I have just given my statement as to what I saw. The officer I had been speaking to – who was actually the station’s Deputy Chief Inspector – thanked me for my time, told me that due to the various loopholes and vagaries of Belgian law it would be a some months until I heard anything and pointed the way for me to go out, before saying, “Oh, and you’ll have to dance in front of the door if you want it to open.”
“What?” I asked, thinking I must have misheard.
“You’ll have to dance in front of the door. It’s an automatic door and the sensor doesn’t work properly so you have to kind of dance in front of it, otherwise it won’t open.”
“Oh, OK.” I giggled, more out of self-consciousness than anything else. Did she really, genuinely expect me to dance in front of the door of a police station?
Well, yes. She did. At the doors, I moved from side to side and waved my arms in the air. Nothing happened. I did it again, this time a little more exaggerated. Still nothing. Then the same Deputy Chief Inspector appeared and said, “Here. Let me.” She then walked around me, ran up to the door from the side and did a star jump. I’m serious. The Deputy Chief Inspector of Police did a star jump in front of the door. The clunked and swung open.
By now I was struggling to stop myself becoming a giggling mess, and I was still giggling as I exited onto the street. When I awoke this morning, of all the things I could have possibly considered myself doing, dancing in front of a police station door certainly wasn’t high on the list!