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Friday, June 12, 2009

Never Get In A Car With A Stranger

So here I am touring Denver on 16th Avenue,

On a Thursday night, (here's a pic of it during the day)

At this very Starbucks,

In this very chair,

Immersed in Imagination Land,

working diligently on my new teen novel,
asking for no ridiculousness whatsoever… when a voice above me says, “I’d like to make you a business proposition.”

I look up to see a man dressed very much like my accountant. Business proposition? Blame it on being in the middle of Imagination Land, but I hear “business proposition”, and flashes of the movie Indecent Proposal eerily play in my mind.

A well-dressed man approaches a girl sitting alone and asks her if she wants to make some money? I mean, seriously, who does that?

…then I smell the alcohol, and my senses clear.

“Oh yeah?” I say, and even the Starbucks barista is intrigued. He’s stopped wiping the counter to hear this financial opportunity.

“I’ve got to get home. I’m drunk. I will pay you $200 to drive my truck home, and then I’ll pay for your cab ride back here.”

“I’m sorry,” I say, smiling sympathetically. “But I can’t do that.”

“Two hundred bucks!” he shouts. “I will hook you up! Come on! I’ve got to get home.”

“I’m sorry,” I say again.

“Okay, okay,” he nods and then sits down next to me, trying hard not to slur his words. “Here’s the deal. I’m camping tomorrow, and my girlfriend didn’t think I’ll be ready by tomorrow morning if I went out partying tonight. The camper’s packed, I am READY TO GO. I just need. My truck. Home.”

I shake my head.

“Okay, okay,” he says and scoots his chair in closer. “What’s your name?”

“Heather,” I say.

“Heather? Jack,” he introduces himself and shakes my hand.

“Daniels?” I joke, but he doesn’t get it.

“No,” he says nicely, like I’ve confused him with some guy named Jack Daniels. It isn’t that funny, even with a drunk crowd. “Okay, okay. Here’s the deal. I am always late, and my girlfriend will be pisssssssed if I’m not ready in time. You’ve got to help me. I’m hooking you up! Come on. Who would turn down that kind of money?”

I close my laptop. He’s really sweet. But so was Charles Manson, I’m sure. “Okay, Jack,” I say, and get eye to eye with him. I’m somewhat amused by his persistence. “I know there’s some Jim Beam arguing with your logic right now, but I’ve got a question for you.”

“Sure,” he says. “Fire away.”

“How wise do you think it is for a young girl to get in a car at 10 PM with a drunk man she's never met and drive to a location she’s never been?”

He stares at me a minute, and I can see Mr. Beam wrestling a good match. But then he says, “Oh. You may have a point.”

I laugh. “Okay, then, so we’re cool then with a no? I can help you call a cab, or a friend…”

“I’ve got it!” he shouts and slams his hand on the table, rattling my laptop. “How about I get a cab, I’ll sit in the cab, and you follow me with my truck to my house, and then you take the cab back here.” I look over at the barista. He shrugs his shoulders and leans his head from side to side like he’s my sports agent deciding whether the contract is worth my talent.

“Hmm…” I say. “You won’t ride in the truck with me?”

“No!” he says, unable to contain his excitement that I’m swaying his way. “What’s a fair amount to pay you? I live 20 minutes from here.”

“Not two hundred,” I say. “That’s generous, but you’ll be kicking yourself tomorrow when you’re sober.”

“One hundred?” he says. “One hundred is definitely worth it. You have no idea how badly I want to prove to my girlfriend that I can do this.”

One hundred? I think. One hour out of my day, one hour out of my writing… ah, why not?

“All right,” I concede. “Maybe. What’s your address?” He gives me his address, and I text the address to a friend, and salute the barista. “Let’s do this,” I tell my coffee maker/agent.

He nods. “Be careful.”

“Hope you don’t see me on the news tomorrow!” I respond.

As we walk out, Jack shares all about this great camping trip, and his girlfriend, and how excited he is. As we get to his truck, something in the core of me just clicks. I don’t know why I know sometimes, but it’s this Jesus thing and I can’t very well explain it because I never know when it’s going to happen. But suddenly, I just know like I know that I have an arm, that everything is okay. I know he is just a dorky financial planner who partied a little two hard, and truly wanted to get his truck home without drunk driving. He is calling a cab when I say, “You’re okay, Jack. Just get in the truck. But no doing anything crazy like killing me, got it?”

“Are you serious?” he squeals, and yes, he does squeal. “You are so fucking cool!”

We jump in his truck and off we are, him giving me very inebriated directions that consist of, “Oh, wait, you’re in the right lane. You gotta make a left here,” and “Just stay in this lane. Oh no. This is the wrong lane. Why are you in this lane?” Three times he asks me if I know where I am. Three times I say I have never driven in Denver before. Many times he spontaneously slams his hand on the dashboard, and says, “I can’t believe you’re driving my truck home. You are so fucking cool!” and then shouts out the window, “She is so fucking cool! Wooooo!”

We stop at the bank so he can withdraw money. He is actually true to his promise. “Don’t drive away with my truck!” he says, and then disappears for five minutes. When he returns, he gives me a high five. “You didn’t steal my truck! Fuck yeah! I’m telling you, you are SO cool.”

As we drive further, he tells me all about how rad his girlfriend is, and how excited he is to win this bet of getting home before the next morning. He calls in a cab to meet us at the house, and then leans over to me. “You’re seriously going to have some good Karma coming your way. Yes, totally good Karma. You believe in that, the good Karma, or something like that?”

I laugh, “…or something like that.” I am not about to delve into drunk Jesus talk. That never bodes well.

We arrive at his house, and he says, “This is SO cool! Come on in. We’ll wait for the cab inside. I want you to meet my girlfriend. She’s this wild Hispanic.”

We walk in, and he exclaims very ecstatically, “Karmen! I made it home.”

Karmen, true to his depiction of her as a “wild Hispanic”, stomps into the entry way, looks at him, and says, “Fuck you, Jack.”


He coos, “Baby! Don’t be that way. I made it home. Look. This girl brought my truck home. Isn’t she cool?”

Karmen is livid. There’s Hispanic smoke coming out of her Hispanic ears. She looks at me. “You, I like.” She turns to Jack. “But you. Fuck you.” Then she storms out of the house.

Maybe Jack wasn’t entirely clear on the terms of the bet…

He looks at me. “I’m so sorry,” he slurs, and then leans in to whisper so the couches won’t hear. “She’s on her period.”

He’s looking for recognition on my face like I would suddenly nod understandingly and say, “Ohhhhh. Period.” All I keep thinking is, Where’s the dang taxi?!

He says, “Hold on. Let me go talk to her. She’s usually really great.” He exits the front door, and then returns not two seconds later. “Guess she left. Oh well. I feel so bad. I don’t want her to make you feel bad. Here. Let’s do a tequila shot.”

“No thanks!” I laugh, because it is kind of funny.

“Are you driving tonight? ‘Cause if you’re not, let me give you some bourbon. Something. You’ve just been so cool.”

At this point, I see the blue light on his phone blinking. “I think that’s your phone,” I say, and thank goodness, it’s the cab.

He pays the money, gives me an enthusiastic hug, and thanks me once again profusely.

And I leave with one hundred dollars in my pocket and an adventure with Jack Daniels, the dorky financial planner who “throws it down” on Thursday nights and lives with a wild Hispanic who likes to cuss him out in front of strangers. Just another day in the life….


  1. Are you kidding me. This should be your novel. You are CRAZY!!!! I love your CRZAINESS!! But you are still CRAZY!!!

  2. Who's calling out the craziness? I do remember a certain 16 year old who taught me how to drive stick down the Las Vegas Strip, and drove with me to California with no plan and no place to stay and no parent knowledge! (Yeah, I had more, but those are the only ones I can mention...)