For someone whose mother brought her up right, I’ve gotten into a lot of cars with strangers. For the record, it was never what was in the car that lured me, it was where I wanted to go that made me do it and seeing as I didn’t have a car, someone else was going to have to get me there.
Here’s how my mother brought me up: We were not to get into cars with anyone we didn’t know. Not if they offered us sweets, toys and especially not if they said they wanted to take me to see their kittens. We were not to trust anyone that told us my parents had asked them to pick us up. We were not to help anyone read a map in their car and we were not even to go near to an open car window of someone we didn’t know. We got a bit older. Appendage added to original rules: We were not to get into cars with boys we didn’t know. Even if they looked like Adam Ant or Matt Dillon. Especially not if they looked like Adam Ant or Matt Dillon. We were not to get into cars with anyone who’d been drinking. We were not to get into cars with anyone who’d been drinking who assured us they could still drive okay when drunk, in fact, we were just not to get into cars with pretty much anyone. And all the other mums concurred.
It was with this foundation, at the tender age of 16 that we started dating. Up until that point, not getting into cars with anyone who’d shown any interest in me wasn’t a problem because no one who tried to cop-a-feel round the back of youth club was old enough to drive let alone have a car. But then one night, my friend N and I were standing in a drunken stupor waiting for the last bus home when we met some boys who were old enough to drive, and we agreed to go out with them on a double date. They were to pick us up the following Friday at N’s house at 7.
I’m sure that if these two young men, J and P actually spared a thought to us in the week leading up to this date it was probably to figure out who was going to try to get off with whom. Or how to get us drunk. Or where to take us to get served- after all, we were only 16. But N and I were not concerned about these things. We were in a mounting panic about the fact that we were going to get into a car with strangers who were obviously going to abduct, rape and kill us. The fact that their full names and phone numbers were stuck up on the pin boards in both of our parents’ kitchens was irrelevant; by the time that the police tracked them down we’d be long gone. During the mounting panic about getting into an orange Escort with J and P, and about our impending deaths, it didn’t occur to us to cancel the date. No. There was obviously only one answer. We had to get a gun.
With hindsight, the date didn’t really stand a chance. The fact that these nice two boys turned up on time and opened the car doors for us and took us to a nice pub in Litchfield where they paid for the drinks and entertained us like perfect gentlemen all passed unnoticed because of the thickening fog of panic over what was going to happen next. And sure enough, on the way home J and P drove into Sutton Park and pulled up in a deserted dusty car park where they made a lame attempt to get something going. But they quickly realised that they were onto a non-starter when we nervously confessed that there was a gun in N’s bag and she might even have waved it around for them to see that we were serious. At that point, they probably wanted us to get the hell out of their car as fast as possible, because what kind of nut-job girls go on dates with certain killers and end up brandishing around a miniature gun cigarette lighter in a dark car park.
J and P didn’t ask us out again, though in fairness, we are all still friends. Maybe they feel safer knowing where we are at all times; keep your friends close and your enemies closer and all that.