So I was driving along in my car on a main road as I made my way back to the office from a press briefing in Bradford the other day and I had Billy Talent cranked up a little too loudly on the car stereo.
It was a fine day, I’d picked up the material I needed to write my main news story that day, had got the first coffee of the morning down me and lunchtime was still a few hours off. Needless to say, I was in a good mood, and Billy T’s high pitched screaming against their trademark thrashing of drums and guitars was feeding my good vibe.
As so often happens in situations like this, I broke out into song. “Surprise, surprise; surprise, surprise; you’re much better looking when you’re in disguise,” my namesake Benjamin Kowalewicz and I belted out in unison.
A couple of choruses in, with both Canadian Benjamin and Yorkshire Benjamin in full voice, my eyes happened to lock on to the rear view mirror of the black Peugeot I’d been tailing for some distance. Mouth agape as I rattled out a particularly heartfelt note on par with my sing-along brethren, I was struck by the sudden sight of a pair of female eyes staring directly at me in the reflection of the Peugeot’s rear view mirror. Her eyes seemed to be smiling. You know what I mean. There were little creases to either side of her eyes.
I had one of those moments where time compresses and the seconds stretch out as my mind took in the fact that I’d been caught singing my lungs out without restraint by a fellow motorist in broad delight. Oh! What do I do? Do I stop singing mid-lyric immediately and pretend it hadn’t happened? Would the lady driver in front still be watching my reaction and be grinning to herself in amusement? Do I gamble and hope she’s only just that second glanced in her rear view mirror and so I could morph my open mouth into a fake yawn? But what if she’d been taking in my front seat pantomime for the last two minutes? Pretending that I wasn’t doing what I was doing when all the time she knew what I was doing because she’d seen me doing it all along wouldn’t wash.
As the seconds edged away I continued emitting a sound with my mouth open as I weighed up my options, eyes still locked on the rear view mirror in front of me, hers still locked on me.
Maybe it was the caffeine working its way through me, but my mind suddenly snapped back into the car and off I went, carrying on my performance undeterred and unashamedly.
The eyes in the rear view stayed with me at first. I pressed on. “No time to be afraid, chase out the rattle snakes, don’t let your fear control your fate,” Benjamin and I were on the next track now.
Stuff the momentary anxiety I was embracing my time in this minuscule spotlight. Then the eyes in the mirror ducked away to be replaced by forehead. I was a little disappointed. Then the eyes darted back. I sang away. The pattern repeating for the next two or three miles. My audience of one then took a right as I proceeded onwards. I’d like to think I brightened up her day.
It then occurred to me that I was going to have to get used to that feeling of being watched. I’d made tentative inquiries earlier that day to a music teacher about guitar lessons. I’ve not played an instrument since the recorder in primary school, but I’d dropped the chap a line based on this dream of mine to go busking next summer. Until now, I’d not considered that to play an acoustic guitar in public with the hope of attracting the odd coin being flipped in my direction in recognition of my efforts, that I was going to have to be able to sing along in some capacity.
I might have to tone down the ferocity level from Billy Talent tracks, but my moment caught in the gaze of a pair of eyes in a rear view mirror and my reaction, however unexpected to me and perhaps the driver in front, made me realise that I might just have it in me.
I’ll let you know where I get to next summer so you can decide whether to look away or to stop by and give me a glance.