He would usually have been on the road by now. His body would have taken over for the motions of starting the car. But today he could sense that something was wrong. His brain wouldn’t take a back seat for this drive. It told him not to turn the key.
So he took his hand away and got out of the car. It was then that he saw that he had a funny feeling for a good reason.
Aaron Robinson was, by his own admission, a regular guy. He didn’t have especially big aspirations and he wasn’t fussy. He appreciated the simple pleasures in life and knew that you only needed a few things to make you happy.
For Aaron, it was spending time with his long-term girlfriend Brianna, seeing his beloved Cincinnati Bengals win, and tending to his Ford Mustang GT. As far as Aaron was concerned, his blessings weren’t hurting anyone else. But not everybody saw it that way.
Aaron would be the first person to call himself a grease monkey. The Ohio native could often be found under the hood of his car when he wasn’t sitting in the driver’s seat beaming with pride and joy. His car was his prized possession and he gave it a lot of his time and attention.
However, this level of dedication doesn’t always result in good maintenance. What Aaron didn’t know while he was modifying his car was that someone was watching him closely. And they didn’t appreciate his car or the work he put into it. They wanted the car gone.
Aaron was a local man who was proud of where he came from. If a stranger ever asked him about his upbringing, he would start off by saying ‘firstly, I’m a Middletown son’. To Aaron, being a good member of the community was a high priority. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
This attitude, this civic responsibility, made Aaron many friends. It was the type of community where everyone knew each other. While it was a long way from being a white picket neighborhood, it captured the ideal of that to Aaron. However, not every Middletown resident agreed.
Although Aaron tried to get along with everyone on his street, it wasn’t all friendly between his neighbors and him. One man living on his road seemed to take a clear disliking to Aaron. Regularly giving Aaron and his car the ‘stink eye’ understandably rubbed Aaron the wrong way.
Aaron sought out information on this mysterious man but his queries usually led to dead ends. All he knew was that he was a builder.
Aaron deduced that this foul-humoured neighbor was a builder from the equipment he would regularly see him hauling into his truck. The scowling that he was on the receiving end could have been interpreted as intimidating. Aaron knew one thing: It certainly wasn’t friendly.
Wondering what it was that could have illicited such treatment, Aaron thought hard. Then he remembered where most of those looks were directed and he thought maybe he should nip this problem in the bud. With that in mind, he had a look at his car.
Aaron’s car was just as he wanted it to be. To him, every detail of the car was great. But, he would later find out, it wasn’t to everyone’s taste. The thing that neighbors didn’t like about his car was the muffler. To them, it sounded like it was far too loud to be in good shape.
Modifying or ‘tricking out’ exhaust systems has become a popular hobby in recent years. Yet neighbors don’t care for it when the noises they produce can often be mistaken for gunfire. It can be bothersome at the best of times and at the worst, downright dangerous.
Even Aaron, as biased a car enthusiast as he was, could admit that the noises his car produced weren’t exactly musical. He didn’t expect to see anyone stepping out on to their lawn to do a jig when he started the car but he didn’t expect them to cover their ears and scream either.
Unfortunately for Aaron, he was about to find out that aggressive noises provoked aggressive responses.
Tensions had been rising in the neighborhood. Aaron could feel it. He was starting to get a funny feeling in the pit of his stomach, especially went out to his car. On this particular May morning, the sun was beaming and Brianna seemed to be in a good mood. But Aaron couldn’t smile.
His bowl of cereal was relatively untouched. He had a bad feeling about today. Then, he got up to go to his car.
Aaron sat in the driver’s seat of his Ford Mustang GT. It was at this point that he would normally turn the key and drive to work. On his way, he would wave at the friends he knew locally, all of this with a smile on his face. But today was different. He could feel it.
His gut told him to get out of the car. ‘Someone has been here,’ he said aloud. That’s when he noticed the note on the windshield.
The note was written in marker and didn’t address Aaron by name. It seemed like the person who wrote it didn’t even know him. Aaron felt his stomach drop reading it. Before he registered a word, he knew this was a threat.
It said: “I finally found you! You want our attention, you don’t want our attention. You have 14 days to fix the mufflers or put the stock [exhaust] back on. Don’t egg us on, you will only regret it. We encourage you to call the police [or] install video [cameras], nothing will work. Fix your muffler!” Aaron blinked in astonishment. How right his gut was. What kind of person or people was he dealing with? He checked on his muffler.
When Aaron took a look at his muffler, he wasn’t sure of what he was seeing. The exhaust pipes appeared to be filled with cream. On closer inspection, the contents of the exhaust were hard. It was then that he realized it was Great Stuff expanding foam.
This foam had blocked up all of the modifications on his car and would require a great deal of money to get fixed. The person that did this wanted to instill fear in Aaron. Instead, they had enraged him. It was then that he took to Facebook to send a message to this vandal.
Aaron stormed to his laptop and began to type furiously. Posting alongside pictures of the car damage and mystery note, he wrote: “Isn’t this cute, please come near me or my family or my car cameras and guns for days. If anyone knows anything, let me know. Honest to God, I’m a reasonable human being I would have changed it no problem, just had to ask.” His post got a lot of attention, going viral on the internet.
When no answers were forthcoming, Aaron’s fury reached boiling point and he added a nasty wish to his rant: “I hope someone gets Covid-19 and dies a slow, painful death over this.” That was taking things too far but Aaron spoke out of anger. Right as he typed that, a message arrived.
One thing that comforted Aaron throughout this ordeal were the messages of support he received from members of his community. Family, friends, neighbors – his faith in them was only reinforced by this experience. Yet it’s hard to shake the feeling of being targeted.
Aaron asked himself the question: ‘Will I be looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life?’ All he wanted was to know his enemy.
With no leads in his hunt for a perpetrator, Aaron decided it was best to move on for the time being. Although he didn’t want to live in fear, he decided it would be best not to further antagonize a person who was clearly ready to act on their feelings of aggression.
His next car was a Ford Mustang was a quiet exhaust mode. All the better to let sleeping beasts lie.