This is a true story about when Apo and I picked up a hitchhiker. Before we begin, we had just finished eating dinner at Chipolte, then we stopped to pick up some Vodka. She got in the car, and we started driving home.
As we were leaving the parking lot, a heavyset black woman flagged down our car. I rolled down the passenger side window to see what the problem was. “I need a ride home, can you give me a ride home?”
Being the overly helpful boyscout I am I agreed to help, and told her to hop in the back. In 2003 I used to drive a taxi for Suburban Green and White in Minnesota, and since I drive a Crown Victoria Police Interceptor now, I was feeling pretty nostalgic. Being a cab driver is essentially being paid to pick up hitchhikers. I asked her where we were going, and then she started to ramble.
“Doubleyou-shawdae-druh! At the HEB. No, you can drop me off at the walmart. My mom is looking for me for ten minutes now. Lets go to the HEB I live around the corner from there.” She went on like this for a little while, much more than I can actually remember. In all honesty, this should have probably been my first warning sign.
I was trying to concentrate on where she was really trying to go, because I really couldn’t understand what she was saying. I did know there’s there’s a Walmart down the road, and I know of about 5 HEB stores nearby. So I asked her again to see if she could clarify, I got the same unintelligible answer. Instead I switched tactics and asked which direction I should be going. To which she said take I-35 north, and that’s where I started to go. HEB and Walmart, can’t be that far right?
So as we’re driving to I-35, she asks about three times if we’re on 35 yet. I-35 was no more than 3 minutes away from our current location. Given the previous dialog with her, and her current unawareness of what’s going on, the red lights are starting to light up in my head. Maybe she’s high. She can’t be drunk, because she doesn’t smell drunk. This was possibly a bad idea. So I dug out the GPS and plugged it in. I knew it would take about 5 minutes to charge up to a point where it could be turned on, and then load it’s maps…
Apo had been silent since I picked the person up, and with good reason because anything she said seemed to be pretty surreal. Then suddenly the hitchhiker started talking again without anyone asking a thing.
“My name is Tiffany (I forgot her last name). I’m female. I am 27. I am black. I am 100% black. I used to be blacker, but I spent time in the sun and it made me lighter. Like a tan you know? The sun does that to me. I’m 100% black. I’m a female.” I am paraphrasing to a degree, but not by much. If anything I’m making her sound way better than what she actually said. So in my head, I was thinking perhaps she’s having a panic attack, or a bad drug trip. Either way that’s more of a reason to get her home, and I’m a little weirded out by now. Perhaps this wasn’t such a great idea.
While the GPS was charging we had driven quite a while on I-35, so I decided to ask how she got stranded down here. “A person stranded me down here.” I asked if she knew them, but she kept going on about how it was “just a person”. To try to ease the tension between us all, I told her I used to drive a cab, and that this car is the same car they use for cabs. I only got a chuckle out of it. Apo told her some cab stories as well, but she was still very silent.
The GPS finally turned on, and as with any potentially high or crazy person, it’s very important to dictate your actions. So I told her we were going to pull over so I could type her address into the GPS. What I didn’t tell her is that I wanted to know where exactly we were going, and that if she got any crazier I’d leave here there. She then told me it was Poague street in Killeen Texas, and that it was just 30 minutes away. I know the Austin area kind of okay, but I haven’t committed to memory all the nearby cities. I know Killeen is nearby, but not in my head exactly where. Already 10 minutes into this adventure, the GPS is telling me we’re an hour away from our destination. I’ve committed myself to this, so there’s no turning back. It’s not like I DIDN’T have time either, and I DO like to drive.
We drove for about another five minutes and the fuel light was on. I hadn’t filled up in a few weeks, so I told her we’d have to stop and get some gas. I threw $20 in the tank, sat back down and looked back at her to ask if she was ready. More importantly I wanted to read her body language. She seemed delighted and relaxed. Which put my mind at ease.
We drove for about 20 more minutes, everything is cool, everything is mellow, when suddenly out of no where: “I am female. I am small. I am small because I am female.” That “at ease-ness” I had… Totally gone. With her evasiveness about why she was stranded down here, how apparently high she was, and her repeated assertiveness about how she was female. I drew up a mental image of an overweight but passable transsexual homicidal prostitute crackhead who kills drivers as she hitchhikes across the nation. I started to make a mental list of all the potential weapons in my car. I silently cursed myself for not keeping my half-hammer half-hatchet in my drivers side door as I always used to. I am not a very paranoid person, but I wanted to be prepared. I put on her favorite radio station — If anything to keep her silent, mellow, and pre-occupied.
If things went extremely south I was ready with:
- My drink would make an excellent opener to any sort of brawl. Cold, wet, shock.
- That bottle of vodka would make a great club, or painful shiv.
- I have a steak knife in the glovebox.
- The dome light (as seen in the Rock Driving Meme picture above) is actually pretty blinding when turned on in a totally dark car.
- Car keys make superb punching augmentation devices.
- I don’t think she put on her seatbelt, and if worse comes to worse, I could wreck the car.
Satisfied with my defense plan and music playing, we kept driving forward into the night. Eventually we arrive in Killeen, and she asked me if this is where all the clubs were. I didn’t fuckin’ know, but her recognizing the place made me feel a bit better. From there on she started giving directions towards home. One thing I noticed is that Killeen is a dump. There are pawn shops and same day check cashing places on EVERY block. It was only as we were leaving that we found out there was a military base nearby.
We finally pulled up to her place, where she told me to drive forward more, so I pulled up 20 feet and stopped. Then she told me to go backwards, so I rolled 10 feet back and stopped. She wanted me to go back some more, so I did. Seriously lady, I drove you 60 miles, you can walk those extra ten feet. When she did finally get out, she thanked me several times and walked away into the night. I was just glad it was over.
In the end, she was just trying to get home; but probably higher than a kite. I like to think we’ve all been stranded someplace at some point. I feel sort of good helping someone, even if it was pretty risky. She didn’t really do anything to assure me that she was just wanting to get home. It’s a shame she wasn’t more forthcoming in what was really going on, because I can only speculate as to what was really happening.
On the way home though, my Lighting Control Module glitched out and my headlights went off. It’s a notoriously known problem with Crown Victorias from my era. It happens when LCM overheats, which means it’s more prone to doing while running the lights in the summer. Swiftly pulling over in the dark, and going over those very noisy “WAKE UP YOU SLEEPING ASSHOLE” road groves caused my engine to stall. While I am very familiar with the LCM issue, this was totally new.
I pulled over and tried to start the car. It was cranking, but it wasn’t starting. So I began pulling and testing every fuse with car manual in hand. Interesting thing is that I found a few fuses that were in there but underrated. Such as a 5a fuse in place of a 10a slot, and a 10a fuse in place if a 15a slot. What I didn’t find was any blown fuses. So I started flipping through the manual, and saw something that says if you’re in an accident your fuel pump switch may turn off. Turns out that’s what happened, and all I needed to do was open the trunk and press the switch.
We finished driving home talking about how crazy it was, with the AC on max to keep the car cabin chilly for the headlights.