Don't follow us, we'll follow you

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

I have a pretty terrific imagination, and by that I mean I can be a wee bit paranoid.

It is this innate bent towards suspicion that recently drove me to convince my entire family that we were being followed while visiting a small town in The Netherlands.

It all began when, while exiting a shoe store, I passed two smartly dressed men wandering through the narrow streets.

I’m a visual person. I notice things.

No more than 10 minutes later, I walked into a clothing shop to look at jackets. There again, were the men.

The cheese shop, the bakery, the electronics store.

The men.

At first, I chalked it up to coincidence. But later, when I spotted them right beside my mother, my 4-year-old and I in the supermarket, I began to feel nervous.

No, that’s not true. I FREAKED THE F*#K OUT.

Me: Psssst.
My mother (intrigued): What?!
Me:  Don’t look now but I think those men are following us.
Mom (believing me immediately): Okay, where are they?
Me (turning around, grabbing the 4yr old’s hand):  The bananas. They are at the bananas.

I wildly explained that I had noticed the same two characters in our vicinity for over an hour. I pointed out that they had no shopping bags. I impressed on my mother the fact that they did not look happy. And, they had cell phones. And, really shiny shoes. I went into full-on profiling mode while my mom started warming up her stink eye.

“Just look at them.” I hissed, “That one just picked up three tomatoes and put them back without choosing one. Who does that?!”

We pulled my 4 year old close and headed to the bread aisle on the opposite side of the store.

The men followed us there.

Just then, my husband appeared.

I casually walked over and filled him in, careful not to take my eyes of the little guy fingering the loaves of bread. At this point in our relationship, he knows it’s easier to go along with my imaginings than to question them so he did what any husband and father would have done.

He started tailing the pricks.

He may or may not have talked into his watch - secret agent style.

“Okay Kevin, I’ve got a visual. Have you got my back?”

Understand, we watch Netflix. A lot.

The men picked up half a loaf of whole wheat and headed back to the produce department, my partner walking closely behind them. He returned a few moments later and offered to "secure the exit" while the rest of us finished throwing yogurt and Paprika chips into the cart.

At the checkout, my mom and I looked up to see the “perps” - ahead of us - paying for six slices of bread, two apples and one avocado just as my hero came into view. While my blissfully (thankfully) child sang Crimson and Clover at the top of her lungs, the men quickly paid for their food, stepped over to the cigarette counter - where they bought two cigars - and scurried towards my husband who was standing, arms crossed, in the middle of the doorway.

They had to say, “excuse me” to get past him. (At least, we think that's what they said).

My husband. My hero.

As we drove back to our rental house, I wondered, had we really been followed, or did we just unnecessarily frighten the hell out of two innocent men, who were now busy telling their friends and family about the crazy man in a fedora who talked into his watch and bullied them out of the grocery store?

Back home, we decided if anything like that ever happened again, we would simply take out our cameras and start snapping.

Just then, a car slowed down in front of our floor-to-ceiling window. It was dark and we couldn’t see the driver.

“Oh shit!” I said, “They must have put a bug in my purse and followed us here!”

My heart was racing as hubby grabbed his camera. He talked into his watch (again) while pretending to dial numbers on a deck of cards and taking photos like a mad man.

Within seconds, the car sped away. But not before we captured this incriminating evidence.

Yeah, we couldn’t see anything either but as it turns out, the driver of the car was our next door neighbour. Just a guy, on vacation with his wife. He was just fiddling with his seat belt before heading off to the gas station to pick up chocolate bars when he saw the flashes from our camera and got the f#*k out of there.

Or at least, that’s what he wants us to think…

No, really.

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