I have this bizarre personal policy to never refuse a ride from a stranger. I really don’t know why, but there’s just this prompt programmed into my system.
Regardless, I’ve only been offered rides by strangers a handful of times. The instance detailed below occurred during my junior year of college.
Stella (name changed) and I were waiting under a highway overpass for the next bus back to Allendale. The steaming sewer grate was emitting strange smells which made my head hurt. Cars whizzed by overhead as we watched a homeless man dig through the trash for pop cans. Too engrossed in the plight of the human condition, we failed to notice a newcomer to the bus stop until he engaged us in conversation.
“Hey, I’m Lewis (name changed). You guys like music?”
I turned to face my questioner, annoyed at the vague nature of this opening query. Stella responded in the affirmative before I had a chance to blast the interloper with my bitchiest stare. Pausing to run a hand through his messy auburn hair, Lewis squeezed himself onto the bench next to us and proceeded to blare Starfucker from his MacBook Pro.
“So, you guys going into Allendale?” He asked before launching into his own story without pause. “Yeah, I was partying there last night. You guys smoke pot?” He pulled a pack of Marlboros out of his waistband and began patting his pockets absentmindedly searching for his lighter.
Stella and I shook our heads before he continued on with his tale.
“Oh, yeah? Well anyway, I was really fucking high at this party in Allendale last night, and I lost my debit card somewhere.” He mumbled with the cigarette in his mouth, still questing for his Zippo. “I’m not sure where I was exactly because I was also kinda drunk. I blacked out for a little bit, and now I need to go back and find my card.”
Lewis then proceeded to discuss the deflowering of virgins in a modern context with seemingly no segue from the previous conversation. I looked at him with distaste as he flicked the ash from the end of his cigarette and swore.
“Shit. If I take the bus to Allendale, I probably won’t have enough time to figure out where I left my card before the last bus heads back to Grand Rapids. I’d better drive. You want a ride?” He stretched out his long legs before standing up and tossing his laptop into his backpack.
Even as my brain processed that I probably shouldn’t accept a ride from a man who admitted openly to a complete stranger his penchant for drinking himself into a frenzy, getting stoned out of his mind, and deflowering virgins, I heard myself respond,
“Sure, I’d love a ride.”
Stella stared at me; her eyes almost popping out of her head as Lewis smashed his cigarette beneath his foot and replied, “Cool. My car’s in the parking lot right here.” We followed Lewis to his car which smelled faintly of marijuana and peppermint. He began transporting some things from the front seat into the trunk, rearranging the contents of his vehicle and chatting at us nonchalantly as Stella continued to stare at me with her mouth slightly ajar.
“Are we seriously taking a ride from this guy?” She whispered incredulously to me, arms crossed protectively in front of her.
I opened my mouth to retort “Of course not!” but instead heard “Yeah. He seems legit” emerge from between my traitorous lips. Stella’s eyes bulged out of her head unattractively as she put her hands on my shoulders and shook me lightly as she repeated my words back to me.
“He seems legit? Jordan, he seems legit?! What the FUCKING FUCK!” She whispered as loudly as she dared while Lewis continued his steady stream of chatter at us.
Lewis closed the trunk with a thud and dusted off his hands perfunctorily. “Okay ladies, hop on in.”
I clambered into the front seat, tossing my backpack in the back. Stella hesitated before throwing her bag in the back and reluctantly entered the back seat. She piled our bags next to herself, creating a barrier between her body and the driver’s seat. And then we were off.
The thirty minute ride passed without incident, despite all of Stella’s misgivings. Lewis continued to talk to us about sundry topics, and we arrived unmolested in Allendale. It only served to reinforce my internal prompt to accept rides from strangers in the future, no matter how bizarre.