I Am Just The Victim of Random Acts of Chivalry
It was a silly fight...even I can admit that. But after eleven days of travel, shoulder to shoulder in the front seat of the 1972 Plymouth Valiant fondly known as "La Bomba", the three of us were all a bit cranky. After washing the road dirt off the car, Mag wanted to dry the car windows with newspaper and there I was, in flagrant disregard of her request, with a roll of Bounty paper towels in my hand taking care of my side of the vehicle.
Kevin, the final member of our little trio would naturally side with Mag...short people always stick together. And don't say that couldn't possibly be true. You weren't the one trapped for nearly two weeks, wondering how you ended up playing David to their Alvin, Simon or Theodore. If I could have switched their high pitched chatter to a lower RPM, I might have stood a chance...
I counted to ten, resisting the urge to punt them like a couple of annoying yappy little dogs. Instead, I decided it would be best to take the high road and just remove myself from their company. Clenching my jaw and fists tightly, I did a quick about face and stalked down the driveway that wound back and forth upon itself through the woods to the main road. I learned this from my father...when it's futile to argue, a long walk works wonders for your state of mind...
"Where do you THINK you are going?!" Mag yelled when I was about ten yards away and showing no sign of stopping.
"For a walk...what does it LOOK like I'm doing," I yelled back over my shoulder.
"Hah!" she said, in that annoying superior tone of voice she sometimes used, "Well you'll be walking for quite a while then. The nearest town is four miles down the road...have a good time getting there!"
And then...as if that weren't nasty enough, she added in a lower voice to Kevin, "At least out here she can't expect a man to rescue her! Not even Laurie could possibly find a man out in the middle of these woods."
It could happen...
Now that hurt. It wasn't like I actively sought out the services of these wannabe knights in shining armor. It wasn't in my nature to swoon or play the damsel in distress. First of all...I don't even look remotely helpless. When I walk places...I walk with confidence, just like all those women's articles on safety say that you should. Most of the time I'm just minding my own business...
Still...I could see where Mag might have misinterpreted a particular situation.
Earlier on our road trip, while parked just off Yonge Street in Toronto, I'd exited the car abruptly in the pouring rain and returned several hours later with a male escort. I hadn't set off to find anything hotter than a cup of coffee...but once again, I had been hijacked by some guy with a chivalry complex. It wasn't my fault...
Mag had managed to piss me off yet again...and to be perfectly honest, I was beginning to feel a bit like a third wheel anyway, sensing some sort of romantic attraction between the two munchkins. Perhaps giving them a little bit of alone time was a good idea.
We were poor college students, living out of the car during our trip from California to Connecticut. Most nights we would simply find a relatively safe place to park before nodding off to sleep...all three of us...sitting upright in the front seat of the Valiant. Currently our Motel Six on Wheels was hidden anonymously amongst a parking lot full of cars in Toronto's red light district.
Mag didn't bother to hide her derision when I announced my decision to take a walk. The rain was coming down in almost solid sheets at the time and within a few feet of the car I was drenched to the skin. I briefly thought about sucking it up and just going back to them, but my pride wouldn't let me. Instead, I made it a mission to find a cup of coffee...it sounded like the perfect solution.
So I walked...past the hookers and the triple x-rated porn palaces...past the obnoxious flashing neon signs that reflected harshly on every wet surface...feeling angry and sorry for myself. I caught my reflection in a plate glass window and realized in horror that I looked like a cross between a drowned rat and a teen-aged runaway...and that wasn't a very good thing to look like on Yonge Street...not this late at night.
Up ahead...a few doors down from where I was walking, I noticed a shadowy figure standing in a doorway holding a long black leather case. He was probably just seeking shelter from the downpour, but I moved over a few feet on the sidewalk with the intention of giving him a wide berth. As I drew closer, however, he nonchalantly stepped out of the doorway and directly into my path.
"Can I buy you a cup of coffee?" he asked.
I stuck my nose up in the air a few more millimeters and gave him my most haughty New England "no thank you," without breaking stride. I made it about five feet before my feet came to a complete halt, rebelling against my wishes. "You unutterable snob," I thought to myself. "Weren't you just thinking about how much you would like a cup of coffee? Are you an idiot? At the very least...this man might know WHERE you can get a cup of coffee."
I turned around, keeping my face as unfriendly as possible and asked abruptly, "Where?"
He nodded to the left, to the opposite side of the street, "There?"
With one eye on him in my peripheral vision, I gazed in the indicated direction. Well, damn...I would have walked right past it. It wasn't like it was a small place either, taking up one whole corner as it was with a big sign in bright orange neon advertising it as Flo's Diner. Duh!
"Okay," I said, "but I buy my own coffee...understand?"
He bowed his head in agreement with a small smile...and the two of us crossed the street together to the diner. This was nice, I thought as we took a booth close to the front window. It was warm and dry...the coffee was nice and hot...and to my immense surprise, the company was rather interesting. He showed me the contents of his leather case...a snooker cue...and told me about how he competed in various championships. He claimed he was actually pretty good...and having no reason at this point to doubt him, I chose to accept him at his word.
"Have you ever played snooker?" he asked.
"Nah...just pool. But I pretty much suck at that," I replied in total honesty.
"Would you like to see a snooker game?" he inquired.
I thought about his offer...weighed the possible outcomes, but ultimately realized that I was enjoying myself and wasn't ready to go back to my friends just yet.
"Sure," I said, "Where are we going?"
It was a short walk, barely a block away, but part of our journey was down a very dark alley. I tensed a bit...prepared for fight or flight, but my companion never slowed down as he reached a staircase at the back of a building and began to ascend. With a shrug, I followed, willing to take my chances rather than be left alone in that dark alley by myself.
When he opened the door I was momentarily blinded by the bright fluorescent lighting that poured out of the place. I blinked, trying to peer around him. Well, this wasn't what I had expected...it looked like some sort of neighborhood club...no bar, no smoke, no questionable characters lounging around looking for trouble. The floor was a well-worn pale gray linoleum and the bright white walls were lined with rack upon rack of pool cues. There were at least a dozen tables...all of them occupied in various stages of eight-ball or snooker...and wasn't that a billiards table in the back? How cool!
"Pretty wild, eh?" my friend said with a grin as I stood there with my mouth gaping in wonder. All I could do was nod as he ushered me in and took me around the place introducing me to each person in turn. Some seemed rather curious about my visit while others glanced over and simply went back to their game. I made a note that I was the only female in the place, but oddly enough...as far as these men seemed concerned, I was more gender neutral.
They took turns teaching me various techniques at shooting pool...but in the end they all humorously agreed that I was pretty damn bad. I had so much fun that time flew by quickly and although I hated to go, I didn't want to worry my friends even though they'd ticked me off.
As I headed for the door, the gentleman that I'd had coffee with dropped into step beside me. I gave him a questioning look, but he just shrugged and said in a rather bashful manner, "I can't let you walk out there alone. It's just not safe...I'd feel better if I knew you got to where you were going okay."
And that's how I ended up back at the Valiant with a male escort. You can see how I had nothing to do with it...can't you?
She was right about one thing though. As I made my way to the little podunk town on my current walk, I realized the chances of my meeting anyone on this outing were pretty slim. Still, it was a pretty walk...the woods, the fields...it was beginning to have the desired effect and I could feel my anger waning. I was pretty sure there was an ice cream parlor in the town and I figured if I made it that far, I would treat myself to an ice cream cone before turning around and heading back. Having a destination and a reward in mind made me feel even better...I now had a purpose.
Shortly after that, I passed a solitary white farmhouse on the right set back about a hundred or so yards from the road. In the yard, several young men were tinkering on their motorcycles. They waved and kept tinkering. I waved back and kept walking.
There, I thought...proof that I could walk by and nothing could happen. Mag was obviously wrong. Hah! I was feeling quite vindicated at the moment.
At length, I arrived in town and just as I had remembered, there was a rather quaint ice cream parlor. I ordered a chocolate soft serve cone and climbed up onto the top of a picnic table to enjoy my treat in well-deserved peace.
I enjoyed moments like these...by myself, people watching. It reminded me of summer vacations spent at North Hampton Beach with my family. At sixteen, it wasn't my first choice to hang around my parents...but my father was a strict man and liked me to be within viewing range at all times. My compromise was to sit on the barrier wall, apart from them, which commanded a panoramic view of the ocean and was also a perfect position from which to observe people as they walked along the boardwalk.
Of course, sitting there and thinking about those times reminded me of...well...another time when I was simply minding my own business...
Oh Thank You Mr. Speedo For Saving Me!
Perhaps if Mr. Speedo looked like this...
...and not like THIS...I wouldn't have minded as much.
I loved the ocean and was still young enough to be impervious to the numbing qualities of the cold Atlantic lying off the New England coast. Once you got used to it, it was actually rather refreshing. My younger sisters and I were riding the waves, body surfing...having a great time...when suddenly I realized my pinky ring had slipped off my finger at some point and was probably lost forever. Although my chances of finding it were slim at best, I still had to make the effort. I bent over in the waist deep water to grope the sandy bottom by my feet. Perhaps I would get lucky...you never know.
As I was preoccupied with my task, I missed the wave that came in and knocked me ass over teakettle. Not a big deal. This is what waves do occasionally...it's their job. It spun me around like a washing machine a few times, but it wasn't a riptide and I didn't feel myself being sucked out into deeper water. Even that wouldn't have concerned me...I'm a strong swimmer and knowledgeable enough to know how to deal with something as dangerous as that. So I was rather shocked when just as I began to plant my feet onto the sandy bottom, I was hauled rather unceremoniously from the water like a kitten snagged by the scruff of its neck.
I blinked the salt water from my eyes and coughed into the face of my well-intentioned rescuer. "Are you okay?" he asked with concern still not releasing his hold on the back of my neck as he sort of dangled me in the air. I nodded, sputtering a bit.
"I lost my ring," was all I could come up with in a rather lame attempt at explaining the situation.
"Do you want help finding it?" he inquired.
"No...I think it's gone," I replied waiting for him to put me down.
There was an uncomfortable few moments as I waited...and he waited...
Finally, he switched his hold from my neck and made a move to scoop me up in his arms and carry me out of the water.
I quickly backed up. "I'm fine...really."
"Are you sure? You look a bit pale...perhaps you should rest."
Actually, this sounded like a great idea. A perfect opportunity to get away from this awkward situation...
"Yeah...you might be right. I'll just go sit by my MOTHER over there and...uh...rest for a while," I said, tossing in a last minute grateful smile for having been rescued from not drowning.
To my horror, he followed me like a puppy....right on my heels, all the way to where my mother sat on her towel reading a book. With a sidelong look, I worried that perhaps he was one of those people that believed once you saved somebody's life you were then responsible for it. And that's when I got a really good look at my hero...
Of course, my mother got the best show from her vantage point. As he stood there with his chest puffed out in his tiny little yellow speedo, dripping water all over her, he was completely oblivious that he had an "escapee" situation. To my mother's credit, she has the most amazing poker face I've ever seen. Me? I was mortified and decided perhaps I should go to the room to "rest" instead.
Sir Harley of Davidson?
Okay, so maybe Mag had a point...but still, that was only two examples. How could she base that comment she made on two flimsy examples? Alright...so maybe there were more than two. As my roommate in college, well, she had been privy to perhaps a few other occurrences like...
The rather attractive policeman that had rescued me late one night as I waited, stranded at a bus stop, for a bus that wasn't going to come. Sure...at first I thought he was trying to arrest me...thinking mistakenly that I was a hooker. Well what would you think if a dark blue LTD Ford suddenly pulled up to the curb, and as the passenger window rolled down you spied a shadowy figure thrusting a badge into your face?
And then there was that whole incident on another late night where I was walking home after work and a carload of partiers passed by me. One of them shouted, "I love you!" And of course, I shouted back, "I love you too!" I thought I was in trouble when the car braked suddenly and reversed. Instead, one young man climbed out and insisted on walking me home safely...proving his sincerity by keeping his hands up in the air the entire trip while his friends followed along behind us at a crawl. How demented do you have to be to do something like THAT?
Is it my fault that men are somewhat prone to random acts of chivalry? Is it really my responsibility? I don't think so. I'm merely minding my own business. To suggest that I'm incapable of returning from a simple walk without a man in tow was absolutely silly. And just to prove it, as I passed the white farmhouse once again on the homeward leg of my journey, I returned yet another friendly wave to the guys still working on their motorcycles in the front yard.
I managed to make it about fifty or so yards before hearing the distinct put-put-put of the bike as it drew up alongside me.
"So...do you need a ride?"
Ahh...screw it, I thought as I threw my leg over the seat of the bike, giving my knight in blue jeans and black leather a grateful smile. Besides...it would be worth it just to see the look on Mag's face...