Friday, March 10, 2006

Bookfield, Close Call

We slept well, and in the morning Beverly drove us north on Prince Avenue and out of town. She let us off in a suburban development and we spent the day going house-to-house. I didn’t sell any books, but I didn’t seem to have much trouble getting in doors. I estimated that given a full day of selling I could do 15 demos a day easy. I also got al bit more comfortable with the demos. Mary and I rendezvoused after a while. We decided to hitchhike back to town. She was going to follow-up on some lodging leads, and I wanted to start selling on my own and in my own territory. We could meet at a central location later.

We crossed the street and walked to a gas station where we could pick up a ride. I went to the ladies room, and when I came out Mary was waiting for me.

“Hey! It’s all taken care of. I found us a ride with a really nice guy.”, she said excitedly.

“Great!” I said as I rounded the corner of the gas station. I could not believe my eyes. The guy had shoulder length, unkempt oily hair, was not shaved, was dirty, and wore torn clothes. He looked worse than a bum. His car was a beat up old station wagon full of dents and rust. One of the car’s doors hung off of its hinges and I wasn’t sure how it stayed on.

“Mary”, I said, “I don’t think we should take this ride. I mean, look at that guy.”

“Ya know you New Yorkers just don’t trust anyone. This is the South, its different here. He’s just dirty because he works.” she whispered as the guy came up to where we were standing.

The guy smiled and said, “You girls need a ride to town? I’m goin’ there.”

“Mary!” I whispered furiously hoping all the while the guy wouldn’t hear me. “There is no way that we should take this ride with this guy! I refuse to get in his car.”

“Look, I need to make this one decision. Don’t you trust my sense of judgment about people?”

Meanwhile, the guy had walked back to his car to replace his car’s gas cap. He stood by the back passenger side door, and opened it. “Nothin’ to worry about. I’ll take y’all to town.”

Mary got in the back of the car and sat down. It seemed that I could either, abandon her, make a scene or get in. I sat in the front seat next to the driver. “Okay,” I said, “You can take this road straight into town.”

“No problem. This road, straight into town.” It was strange that he repeated me.

Everything seemed okay for the first half a mile or so. After that I saw that there was a right hand turn onto a one lane road. To my horror, he made that right hand turn. I looked over at the guy, but he just kept driving. I couldn’t think of anything to say. I was frightened and my adrenaline started to flow. The fact that the road seemed to cut through a woods only heightened my fears. There were no houses or even buildings in sight. I hoped like anything that Mary realized that this was potentially a very dangerous situation. I was too petrified to turn around and look at Mary. I didn’t want to alert the driver to my heightened sense of fear. The car was going about 40 miles per hour; it was too fast to jump out.

We drove on this deserted road for another half a mile. A pickup truck was pulled over to the right up ahead with four people in it. The two guys sitting in the front were wearing caps and had their feet up on the dashboard, and the two in the back of the truck had their feet up on the sides of the truck.

“Hey look!” said our driver, “Its some buddies of mine. Now we can have a party.” He began to slow down and pull over to the side of the road behind the truck.

I was in a panic. Visions of the two of us gang raped entered my brain. I only hoped that Mary also understood that we must get away from this dire situation immediately. I put my left hand on the handle of my sales case, and my right on the door lever. I planted my feet firmly on the floor of the car. I was ready and I had a plan.

Before the car even came to a stop, I had opened the car door. Holding my sales case in my clenched left hand, I jumped out of the still moving car. I had to make some quick steps so as not to be dragged or loose my balance, but I stayed on my feet. Dust swirled up around me. As the car continued to move past me I grabbed the back passenger door handle with my right hand. I pulled as hard as I could on the handle while pressing the release button, and the door flew open wide. I reached inside the car grabbed Mary by the front of her shirt and pulled both her and her sales case out of the back seat and away from the car. Fortunately she was somewhat prepared for this outcome and landed on her feet with sales case still in hand. With my hands on her shoulders, I turned her around to face the highway we had just come from and yelled, “Run!” I gave her a little push to make sure she got my point, but she needed no urging. We both ran for our lives while hanging onto our sales cases all the way back to the main road. With fear motivating me, I felt no fatigue or much of any physical discomfort the whole way. I turned once to see if the guys were coming after us, but they were not. All of them got out of their vehicles, but they didn’t come after us on foot. They just watched us run. My fear was that they would come after us in their vehicles.

Back on the main road, I could tell Mary was as scared as I was. I had never seen her usually relaxed gaze transformed into this panic stricken wide eyed glare before. Perhaps I looked much the same. We still feared that they would come after us. We were desperate to get another ride while we continued running back towards the gas station. We waved frantically to passing cars. We must have looked like two crazy women to the cars that sped by. No one stopped.

A state trooper car passed and he saw us. He made a U-turn and pulled over in front of us. He waved for us to get in the back and we did. “Boy are we ever glad to see you!” I said. “You won’t believe what just happened to us!”

He cut into what I was saying. “Did you know that I could arrest you girls for hitchhiking? I could take you in. Do you know how dangerous hitchhiking is?” he lectured.

We laughed at that and told him what had just happened to us. He shook his head. “You were lucky. I’d go back there and look for them, but odds are they’ve left. Looks like you’ve learned a lesson today, so I’ll take you into town.” He continued lecturing us by telling us about the rapist- stabber on the loose in Athens, all the while keeping an eye on the digital radar detector readout from the oncoming cars. I asked how fast folks needed to be going to get pulled over. He answered, “Well now, look at these guys they’re goin’ 60 to 70 miles per hour or so. When I’m on my way somewhere it’s going to take the real speeder to get my attention, like 80 or more...whoa, here we go! Hang on!”

I saw the readout: 85 miles per hour. The trooper slammed on the brakes, and made a sharp left turn at 40-50 miles per hour. The rear end of the car spun around behind us, the tires shrieking as they left black marks on the pavement. He gunned the engine and headed down the deep grassy drainage ditch that was in between the opposite lanes of traffic. The car bottomed out as we headed up the other side of the gully. We had already turned to the direction of the road before we left the grass. Our spinning wheels jerked onto the pavement and the car shimmied as we accelerated to over 100 miles per hour in just seconds. The speeder had not slowed and it took a bit of pursuit to catch up to him, but he did pull over when we came right up behind him with all of the car’s lights flashing. The trooper leapt out of the car and wrote the ticket.


savante said...

My God. What a harrowing experience. Can I take it you don't hitchhike no more?


Sue said...

Not quite. But never with Mary again. Stay tuned; lots more to come. Thanks for commenting Paul.

Anonymous said...

i had a similar hitchhiking experience on the bookfield with a naive roommate. i pulled her out of the car at a light, and the driver followed us until we found a cop. but hitchhiking was necessary to selling books back then, so we all did it.