Since posting about my worst ideas, more and more memories of well-intended things gone wrong have bubbled to the surface. There are a few that require important details, so instead of listing them all at once, I am going to break them into a few posts this week.
#1 Attempting to give a parking lot dweller a Lunchable, circa 1997.
Heather and I were doing what most college students are doing on a Tuesday night at 11:30PM: driving to the 24 hour grocery store to get ourselves a package of cookie dough. Not partying or studying, just late night eating. (So maybe we weren’t most college students after all.) My Tampa people will remember that when there were Kash N Karrys, they were open ’round the clock. So if you wanted to eat raw cookie dough in your PJ’s at 1:00 in the AM, Kash N Karry was your jam. But if you have ever been to a retail establishment that is open 24/7, you may have noticed the rule of 60 applies.
1. The location must be at least 60% dodgy.
2. The employees must be at least 60% dodgy.
3. The patrons must be at least 60% desperate for whatever it is that brought them out in the wee hours.
4. There is a 60% chance of a wild card.
Most times the wild card was the dude who mysteriously appeared one second after you parked and was washing your windshield with newspaper before you even stepped out of your car. So you had to roll down your window and yell, “NO! I don’t have any cash for you,” so he would leave and you could safely exit your car. But on this Tuesday night, Heather and I were lucky enough to not have any windshield washers meet us when parking and walked happily to the doors of the store…where we were stopped by a guy blocking our way into the doors. Before he would let us into the store, he had a very important message for us.
Him: My girlfriend is sick and I need to get her to the hospital. We have been sleeping over there (points to a dark corner of the parking lot) and I need to get some money to get her to a doctor. I just need some money for the two of us to take the bus.
Me: Well, I don’t have any cash.
Him: You can get some from the store when you pay. I just need $10.
Me: I will pick up some extra food for you and your girlfriend while I am in the store and give it to you when I leave. (Push past him and enter store.)
Him: mumble, mumble, mumble
I wandered through the aisles in search of something nourishing for my parking lot friend. What would he like? Slim Jim? Can of beans? Bubble tape? Then it occurs to me that he could use something that represents all the food groups – or comes close – because he clearly does not have access to a balanced diet and it is my obligation as a fellow human to help a brother out. So Lunchable it is! I even grab an extra for the alleged under the weather girlfriend. Now let’s see…what else would these two need? Water! Yes, hydration. And Avian at that, because I was a well-meaning 20 something and felt that if I would by expensive water for myself, and I was no better than them, then they too shall have the finest bottled water. And also a candy bar because everyone loves chocolate.
After proudly paying and feeling like a stellar young citizen, I head out the door expecting to find my buddy where I left him. Except he isn’t there. Huh? That’s odd. At this point the only smart thing to do is start wandering through a 60% dodgy dark parking lot at midnight searching for a homeless man. After a few minutes a figure appears from the shadows of the parking lot and I recognize it is my new pal! I smile brightly and start to walk towards him, holding up the bag full of goodies I have just purchased. When he sees this, his stride quickens and he is rapidly approaching me, eager to chow down on a nutritious meal-in-a-box. Except, instead of eating that Lunchable, he wants to kill me with his own two hands. He knocks the bag out of my hand and says, “I told you I don’t want food. I. Want. Your. MONEY!” Then he started chasing me (and Heather. Yes, she is still with me) through the parking lot.
I start running faster than the fastest fast because this guy is surprisingly speedy for someone wearing 4 backpacks and a blanket. But whatever drugs he ingested while I was browsing the aisles of Kash n Karry gave him some super rocket feet! I make it to my car and with shaking hands get my key in the door so it will unlock. (Because it’s 1997 and my Nissan Sentra does not have a keyless entry.) Heaving for breath, I get the keys in the ignition and start the car. It occurs to me that Heather is still not back to my car. It must have been fight or flight because I started backing out of the parking space. I decided I love Heather a whole lot, but I want to live. Then I see Heather near the car, open her door and start going forward at full speed – even though she is half hanging onto the door and half still running. After she jumps in we head safely back to the apartment to decompress. And guess who managed to keep our cookie dough safe through this whole ordeal? Yep! Heather. She did it! I guess I feel a little better knowing if I had abandoned her in the parking lot with a cracked out random at least she had a tube of cookie dough to defend herself with.
I learned a few things that night.
1. Do not search for strangers in dark places. Or maybe, just don’t search for strangers, period.
2. I may value self-preservation more than the life of a friend.
3. I am a pretty fast runner.
Thankfully, Heather is still my friend and we still laugh about this story. Stayed tuned for more bad ideas this week!