I am used to going home late. Or rather -- early. In the wee hours of the morning.
When I was at the NST, the news editors would take turns to do late OC (officer-in-charge) duty. I don't know whether the shifts have changed. But when I was there, the late duty was 4pm to midnight. You did not usually get to go home at midnight, though. This, that and the other and you'd only be able to leave just before 1am. Sometimes later.
Of course, these days, it's not work that keeps me back late. Usually it's dinner or khenduri at Bapak's or any of my sibling's home that's to be blamed. Or some celebration with friends.
So, I am very used to being on the road in the wee small hours.
This morning was one of those times.
Yesterday, Dino Herrerra decided to invite a few friends to the Commonwealth Club at Damansara Heights for drinks to celebrate Rocky's birthday (which happened to fall on Hari Raya Aidil Adha).
He told us to be at the club by 8.30pm.
I managed to be be there about 9pm. Stephen and his wife, Anna and birthday boy Rocky were already there. Then, Bernard and Tony came.
They played pool and snooker. Had a bit of makan. Chat and chat. And it was already midnight.
By the time we got to leave it was almost 1am.
Bernard and Tony who always go for a good supper suggested we head for Penang Nasi Kandar in Taman Tun Dr Ismail for nasi lemak.
Now, if it was anywhere else, I'd take a rain check but it was in my neighbourhood. So, no problem.
I was the last to reach there. But something happened on my way to supper.
In all those early morning drives home, I had never experienced any trouble. I am always alert and very careful.
My antennas are up. I always check out any vehicle near me. Always exercise caution at traffic lights. Have got my cellphone ready, just in case. I know where the nearest police station is....
At about 1am, I was at the Pizza Hut traffic lights at the entrance of TTDI.
Mine was the only car there but I did notice a lone motorcyclist behind my car.
In fact, I noticed the motorcyclist when I passed the Bukit Kiara Muslim cemetery. But I did not suspect anything.
I turned into the road infront of Penang Nasi Kandar and drove not too slowly, keeping to the left and then turned on the left-turn signal light. Just before turning, I noticed the motorcyclist who was at first behind on the left and then on my right.
He overtook me, came close and kept giving a thumbs-up sign for which I had no idea what it was. He passed me but when I turned a sharp left into the lane to get to the restaurant, he U-turned from where he was and followed me.
I had no idea why.
I was alone, he must have thought.
What he did not know was that Rocky, Bernard, Tony, Stephen and Anna were waiting for me.
As I past them, I wound down my window and told them that the guy behind me was following me.
And as I turned into an available parking bay, the motorcyclist went past me and stopped his motorbike in front. By then, Rocky and Stephen were already making their way towards me, and him
I think the guy must have been shocked to see a 6-footer (Rocky) and a ....er er okay-lah macho-looking Stephen going straight to him.
I got out and asked him why he was following me. Anyway...he had to deal with Rocky and Stephen who asked him the same.
He said I was not driving properly.
That was impossible. I was driving okay. I was not speeding. I was not mabuk or anything like that. (Coke lights surely could not have dulled my senses). In fact, my senses were sharp.
Well.... he was wrong. Very wrong.
He told Rocky and Stephen it was not their business and his "problem" was with me because I was the one who was driving.
I said okay, talk to me but what was the problem. I was driving okay. I did not knock into him or his machine and he did not knock into my car.
So what was the problem.
Rocky told him that if there was nothing else, he should leave.
He was ranting away...So, Stephen broke into Tamil. The ranting continued.
It was pretty heated. In a bit, a younger man on motorcycle appeared.
Apparently, he was the other guy's son.
Stephen spoke to the younger man, also in Tamil. Rocky spoke ..in English and Malay.
Some heated 10 minutes later, the "son" apologised. So did he.
We all sat for supper. I had teh tarik kurang manis. Pinched a bit of Rocky's roti canai.
Tony and Bernard were tucking into nasi lemak and sop kambing. Tony had sotong and fried chicken to go with his nasi lemak. Bernard also had three "telor tiga-suku masak" . Stephen had a tiga-suku masak boiled egg. Anna was enjoying the sop kambing.
Back to the earlier episode with that motorcyclist.
I told the guys I was not at all afraid. Not because they were all there. But I was very prepared.
That guy was following me. He thought I was heading straight. As he was overtaking me, he did not see my left-hand signal. So he had to turn back when I turned into the lane.
If I had no supper plans and was heading home, would he have followed me?
Could it have been worse?
Well, I know that I'd speed off and head for the police station near my house.
Rocky said a relative of his was extorted by a group of men some time ago. A motorcyclist fell in front of her car as she was driving.
Although she did not knock him down, she stopped to ask how he was. Then, a few men appeared and suggested quite threateningly that she pay him.
She had her grandchildren in the car and feared for their safety as well.
She had no time to think about anything else. She had RM200 on her and gave it to the guy.
I don't want to impute motive but, could it have been worse for me if I had gone straight home?
I know one thing, I won't be taking chances.,