“Thanks, Mom and Dad,” I yelled as I headed for the front door, the keys to the family car jingling in my hand. “Don’t wait up for us—it’s a double feature, and the second movie isn’t over till nearly midnight.”
Dad gave first me and then my cousin Sandi the piercing look for which he was famous in our family. “Listen, I don’t like you girls staying out late all by yourselves. Why don’t you go to an earlier movie?”
I rolled my eyes. “Dad, you’re so old-fashioned. Sandi and I are hardly babies.” We had finished our first year at Ricks College, and Sandi had come to spend the summer in Rockford, Illinois, with my family. We had jobs at a local factory, and we felt pretty responsible and grown-up. I said so to my dad.
It didn’t help much. He still quizzed us. Which theater were we going to? What movies would we see there? Were we coming straight home afterward? Finally he sighed and said, “Your mother and I will be awake when you come home, so check in with us no matter how late it is, all right?”
“Yeah, Dad,” I said, resigning myself to the inevitable.
The movies were comedies, and when we walked out of the theater late that night Sandi and I were laughing and repeating our favorite funny lines. We got into the car and headed toward home.
Even at midnight there was a lot of traffic on the main streets of Rockford, so I turned onto a side street, taking a shortcut in order to avoid most of the traffic. A battered brown car followed us around the corner. I drove three blocks and then turned onto a deserted street. The brown car turned too, close behind us. I made several other turns, leading us toward home through the back streets. When I looked into the rearview mirror, the lone man in the car waved at us and yelled something obscene.
Although it was a hot night, we quickly rolled up the windows and locked all four car doors. We decided that if we ignored the driver of the brown car he would probably lose interest. But instead he moved his car closer to ours, driving nearly bumper to bumper. Then he pulled into the middle of the street and edged his car toward ours, forcing us toward the curb. By now we were getting pretty panicky.
As I neared an intersection, Sandi said tensely, “Turn right—quick!”
I did, and with a left turn at the next light I entered the main stream of nighttime traffic. Maybe in all the noise and confusion our pursuer would lose sight of us or forget whatever crazy ideas he had.
He didn’t. At every light he was there behind us, leaning out his window to yell lewdly. He was obviously drunk, but he was persistent. Even in the bright lights of Rockford’s busiest street, we were scared.
Finally we reached Fairview Boulevard. My house was only half a block away. We turned the corner, and he followed us, only inches behind our rear bumper.
I pulled to a stop in front of my house. The front sidewalk seemed miles long. Worse yet, the porch light was off, and no light showed from any of the windows. And the brown car had already pulled to a stop behind us. Sandi checked to make sure the car doors were locked.
I got a sick feeling deep in the pit of my stomach. “Sandi, we’ve got to say a prayer,” I said.
“I know. What do you think I’ve been doing all the way home?”
We were both silent for a split second, each pleading for the Lord’s guidance. I guess I was hoping for a miracle. But the stranger was out of his car and running toward us, yelling and cursing. There was no chance of getting past him, so Sandi and I sat in the locked car. The stranger grabbed the handle of my car door, then tried the door behind me. When he found the doors were locked he began pounding on the windows and trying to pry them open. He was shouting threats, and his angry drunken face was only inches from mine.
Suddenly good sense returned to me, and I pressed on the horn, making long blasts of jarring noise. Within seconds the light went on in my parents’ bedroom. Mom appeared at the window. Light from the front porch fixture suddenly flooded the yard, and my dad flung open the front door and ran out onto the lawn, bellowing, “Get out of here!” in his most menacing voice.
The man who had been so threatening and persistent moments before suddenly turned and ran. Leaping into his car, he drove off into the night.
A few minutes later Sandi and I sat at the kitchen table with Dad, giving a blow-by-blow description of the unpleasant incident. My mom bustled around the kitchen making hot chocolate and offering us occasional hugs as she passed us at the table.
Suddenly my newfound college independence didn’t seem so important. The kitchen was cozy, familiar, and comforting. Mom and Dad, scolding us because we had forgotten to write down the car’s license number, were pillars of strength and security. In that moment, my eyes flooding with tears, I thanked God for old-fashioned parents who insisted on waiting up until all their children came home.
What We Should Have Done
Here are ten simple guidelines to help you do better than Sandi and I did.
Seek inspiration. In your morning prayer, ask Heavenly Father about activities you have planned for that evening. If you feel uneasy about an activity after you have prayed, don’t go.
Listen to your parents. Mom and Dad can sometimes worry too much, but listen anyway to their concerns about evening activities you have planned. Carefully evaluate their advice before you make a final decision.
Tell Mom and Dad. Let your parents or guardians know exactly where you’re going and when you’ll be home.
Lock your car. While you’re traveling at night, keep your car doors locked. When you leave the car, make sure the car keys are out and the headlights are off. Then lock all the doors. Have keys out and ready when you return to your car later.
Don’t park in the dark. When you arrive at the theater (or anywhere else you go at night), park your car in a busy, public, well-lighted area.
Drive down main streets. Stick to main thoroughfares, and stay away from dark, quiet back streets. If you live in a city where some neighborhoods are known to be unsafe at night, stay away from those parts of town. Save shortcuts and new routes home for times when you’re driving in broad daylight.
Know the locations of police stations. And fire stations, and even all-night convenience stores and all-night gas stations if there are no police stations nearby. A teenager I know got rid of an unwanted follower simply by pulling her car into the parking spaces in front of a police station. Her pursuer got the message and made a hasty retreat.
Honk or scream. If a stranger follows you all the way home, start honking and flashing your headlights before you stop the car. If you are on foot, scream and make a lot of noise.
Leave some lights on at home.
Don’t stay out into the wee hours of the morning.