giving rides to strangers

I was sitting at my computer, thinking about a few different blog posts I could write, when I saw this post just sitting in my drafts…a couple of years old, but MAN how did I ever not share this?  So here we are.  I wrote this post back in December 2014, and I’m sharing it now.

Before I go into this story, let me begin with a preface: I am alive and well!

I woke up on Saturday morning at 5:30 am to drive to Macon, GA to pick up my car from the Honda dealership where it was being repaired.  This ordeal is a story in itself, and one that I won’t go into in this post.  I spent four hours driving to Macon only to swap cars and turn around to head back to Gainesville.

When I pulled off the highway into Gainesville after eight hours of solo driving, I decided to stop at the mall and get a pedicure.

Flash forward to an hour later.  My toes were polished, my heels were soft and I was relaxing as I sat under the lamp letting them dry, when a woman came and sat next to me.  My best visual for her is Cynthia Rose from Pitch Perfect (but about 10 years older).

So this woman starts making small talk with me, and eventually asks what part of town I live in.  She seems friendly enough, so I tell her that I live near the UF campus.  After I tell her, she asks, “Can I hitch with you?”

It took me about 45 seconds of dumbfounded silence to realize that she was asking me for a ride.

She went on to explain that it had taken her three hours to get to the mall by bus and that she just really wanted to get home.  Weary, I explained that I had to stop somewhere else before I headed home.  “That doesn’t matter,” she said.  “It’ll still be faster than by bus!  I can’t even hardly find my way out of this mall!”

So reluctantly, in an effort to do a good deed (and an inability to say no when she put me on the spot), I said yes, that I’d give her a ride.

We leave the nail salon, and are walking to my car, when she began shouting at a mall cop.  “Look at you, you little peanut head!  I see you!”  I picked up my pace; she followed suit.  “Do you know him?”  I ask nervously with a giggle.  “No, but did you see his little head in that helmet?!” she exclaimed.  Oh man.  Ohhhhh man.

We get to my car, and I put the windows down.  At this point, I’m just thinking, “Crap. I hope this woman doesn’t rob me.  Or hustle me.”  So I figure that if I have my windows down, I can at least get some attention should she try anything.

So I begin the drive to her home, and as we drive she tells me of her jilted ex-lover who’s been texting and calling a lot.  “He needs to step off or else,” she said.  I giggle nervously (a theme for this entire saga).  “I got a new girlfriend, and she’s real jealous,” she tells me.  “She doesn’t like me talking to anybody else.”

My mind is swirling with scenarios of her new girlfriend and ex-lover both awaiting my arrival.  She continues telling stories as I drive aggressively and hastily, trying to make every possible light and get this good deed done as quickly as possible.  I would recount more of the stories, but I don’t actually remember them.  I think I blacked out in anxiety.  “This is our turn,” she tells me.  We were almost there.

About five minutes later, we pulled up to the house.  I keep my hand on the gearshift, ready to throw it in reverse as soon as she’s out of the car.  “THANK YOU LADY!” she shouts as she walks away from the car.  “YOU’RE WELCOME!” I shouted back, as I sped away and thanked God for sparing me from harm in that stupid decision I had just made.

surf’s (kind of) up

1743571_10152873962407715_919633151_nA week ago, I got a text from my friend Sean.

It said all it needed to in one word: “Surf?”

A short conversation later (and an internal debate on whether or not I should indeed skip my class to go to St. Augustine spontaneously), Sean was all set to pick me up.  I had tried to convince him that we should wait and go on Sunday afternoon instead but he was adamant that the waves were not to be passed up on this particular Thursday.  And seeing as it’s senior spring, and this was on my bucket list, I obliged.

We got to his house in St. Augustine, and after a quick meet-the-parents, I was putting on a wetsuit.  This is the first of many things people never tell you about surfing: wetsuits are totally awkward to put on.  My calf muscles have never felt more thunderous than they did as the neoprene legs of the wetsuit clung to them like that creeper from Plaza of the Americas clung to me back in January.  Following Sean’s lead, I left the top half of the wetsuit around my waist and prepared to load up for the beach.

We loaded the surfboards into Sean’s car and headed to the beach…where a red flag was flying and not a single soul was in the water.    Another thing no one mentions about surfing: carrying a 7-ish foot long surfboard is no monkey business, particularly when you are on a narrow beach walkover and trying not to hit anyone in the face as they try to walk past.

Sean knew that I had never surfed before and that he was dealing with a total amateur.  After we put our stuff down in the sand, I followed his lead and zipped up my wetsuit all the way.

“You ready to hit the water?” Sean asked me.

I was stunned.  In all the movies/episodes of Made on MTV I have seen, the rookie practices all of the motions of surfing on the sand before they even go near the water.  The instructor gives lots of tips and encouragement and then, only then, do they actually hit the waves.

1948210_10152873962472715_691846972_nBut Sean seemed to think this method was overrated.  He walked confidently toward the Atlantic, knowing I’d follow.

Let me tell you, that water was cold.  Yes, the wetsuit was miraculously effective at keeping my body warm.  But my poor hands and feet, and lower half of my arms, and neck and face and OH YEAH MY ENTIRE HEAD FULL OF COLD, WET HAIR were all freezing.

Then we began the painstaking process of paddling out.  The waves were rough and coming from all directions.  Sean made it look easily as I was repeatedly pummeled into the ocean floor and pushed backward (like one of those math problems from elementary school where you go two feet forward but slide back three).

At one point, Sean asked me if I wanted to go back to the shore.  No freaking way was I heading in after ten minutes of effort.

We finally got out past where the waves were breaking and it was the most peaceful, beautiful, awesome thing.  I was content just to sit on the board and soak it all in.  Sean was right when he said that it’s pretty tough to be stressed or upset out on the water.

If I gave you a vivid description of all that followed, you’d be reading until your hair went entirely gray, so I’ll be brief:  I never stood up on the board and caught a wave.  I did, however half-stomach/half-knees, clenching the board with all my might, ride several waves, literally screaming and squealing as I went.  I also cheered for Sean as he Johnny Tsunami-style made the whole thing look like a piece of cake.  The end of the day came when, as dusk was approaching, a giant wave came at me head on.  My board slammed into my nose and mouth, the wave pushed me under, then my board slammed into the back of my head for good measure.  Panicking, I went to the shore and Sean followed, concerned.

Of course, I was fine.  Of course, there was no blood.  My hands and feet were numb.  The board was heavy to carry back down the shore to the car.  My nose was throbbing.  My hair was a tangled mess.  My body was exhausted.  We were starving.  But I loved, loved, loved my first experience surfing, and I can’t wait to go again.