Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Joe Rooney - Local Journalist Held Accountable

No need to be alarmed—yet—but I’m nearly positive I’m being followed.

This is a small Borough and I guess that it is possible this is just a matter of coincidence, but how many times does the same grey Ford Focus need to “show up,” whether I’m driving, walking or running with my dog, or sitting on my back porch, before it’s seemingly coincidental presence no longer qualifies as coincidence? When can I stop guessing and be certain I’m being followed?

No doubt this scare has had a strong emotional impact. If it’s not a coincidence and there is someone following me what are they following me for, and who they hell are they?

I first caught on someone might be following me when I was sitting on my back deck. I lifted my eyes off the book I was reading, looked over the railing, and noticed the car in question parked, facing downhill, on Fairview Street. It was the same car that had become very familiar to my routine of late, that followed me from Main and Bridge out of the Borough on my way to work that morning, the same car that twice drove past my dog and I walking after I got home from working that evening, and it appeared again, parked facing my house. Being the third time the grey Focus was coincidentally in my immediate presence I shot up from my lounge chair and walked across my deck to the railing staring the car down. Just as I did the driver started the car and reversed up the hill and turned into Needles Street and disappeared.

That all happened on Wednesday last week and since I’ve seen the car here and there—not nearly with the same frequency as on Wednesday and the week or so before then, but I still see it enough that the thought of its possible presence has been enough to really affect how I go about my day.

For instance:

I’ve not only been on time, but I’ve most days since Wednesday arrived early to work. Before work when I run with my dog I find myself running without the rest I would sometimes allow myself for fear someone would find out I wasn’t quite running the distances I’d purported. And driving along Township Line Road with my wife over the weekend I stopped her from throwing a banana peel from the car window, “You don’t know who’s watching,” I told her.

When you think about it, whether this grey Ford Focus is following me or not, I’ve actually made some really simple changes in my life in the event someone is following me. If I am being watched, I’m not going to let them catch me doing anything even remotely wrong.

After I stopped my wife from throwing the banana peel from the car Saturday, she asked, “What’s the big deal? It’s not hurting anyone if I throw a banana peel into onto the grass. It might actually help the grass a little bit.”

I didn’t tell her—and haven’t yet because hopefully it is merely coincidence—that I wanted her to hold onto the banana peel until we got to a trash can because I thought someone was following me, but found myself speaking to her as though I was some sort of moral authority, when I said, “When it comes to discarding refuse, either a piece of paper or a quickly biodegrading banana peel, we have to follow the law. Discretion in this case is out of our hands. As citizens here we’ve agreed to follow the law and the law says no littering of any kind. We can’t decide what constitutes litter. Anything thrown from a car or dropped on the ground—no matter what you think—is litter.”

After this see looked at me with wide, astonished eyes and a slightly opened mouth and, without looking, threw the banana peel from the car while we waited for the light at Township Line and Nutt Roads.

It’s the end of the day now and the grey Focus hasn’t appeared, so I’m hoping, coincidence or not, this car stays out of my life.

And even if I don’t see the Focus ever again I’m happy it pushed me back on the straight and narrow in little and seemingly insignificant ways that make me a little bit of a better person. It was paranoia that got me this time. And that’s ok. Even though it was the grey Focus I thought was following me when I slacked off on my morning run, I ran harder afraid of it. And just because I was extra careful to show up to work on time fearing (as unlikely as it is) my boss was following me, I became a better employee. And the banana peel…well, I’ve learned to choose my battles wisely in marriage, and I’ve learned enough not to take the banana peel issue any further.


If not to a strange car that might be following you through Phoenixville, make yourself accountable to you, for the sake of living to your fullest potential, for the sake of your neighbors that trust you to follow the rules.

Be accountable for your actions in the jobs you perform too. Whether your boss is defined by his pay grade or your boss is a small municipal electorate that has charged you with protecting their best interests, never let them down, never put the comfortable move over the right move, never take off when you know they’re not looking, because I’m sure that final breath can be a difficult one to let go of if in the end you never realized it wasn’t ever your thoughts, opinions and beliefs that mattered, but those agreed upon by everyone else around you that mattered more.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Big Joe. I'm sure it's those scary liar-brary goons who are so mad you've exposed their lies. Goodness gracious. Don't be askeered.