It’s 10:29 on a Wednesday night. I’ve offered to be a designated driver for two individuals at a company Christmas party. When I say “offered,” think more along the lines of begrudgingly agreed while sighing heavily. That’s generally how I like to do things.
It’s cold and, obviously, dark. I’m sitting in my 2007 Kia, wondering about the possibility of some no-goodnik coming up the alley and robbing me. Or attacking me. Oh my God, I could be attacked right out back of my house! Why hasn’t that motion-sensor light been fixed? I could wind up unconscious on the concrete!
Focus. Start the car, let it warm up (how long does it have to warm up? Is two minutes OK? Because every second I sit out here, I’m a sitting duck for a potential attacker), and head to my destination.
Turn the key. Nothing.
Uh oh. How will they get home if I don’t pick them up? Should I call and tell them to find another ride? No. Relax. It’ll start. I check my phone to make sure I haven’t missed a call or a text. Nope. We’re still on.
Oof. Only 24% battery remaining. I shrug it off, figuring that between a) not using the phone and b) the strong vibes I was sending, it would stay powered up. Why didn’t I charge it before leaving the house? No, I don’t have a car charger. It’s become something of a game that I play with the universe…can I maintain a charge until I get home? Ah, the universe and I had become accustomed to this dance. I’d outmaneuvered the universe thus far; she wasn’t going to win this time.
Turn the key again. Nothing.
Wait. How long did I wait before trying a second time? It couldn’t have been more than 30 seconds. Is that enough time? Is there some rule about wait times? Probably not. Relax.
Isn’t this a typical slasher movie scenario? A woman, alone, in the dark, with a car that won’t start? Great, I’m a cliche. And with a phone that’s barely got enough juice to make a phone call. Why don’t I have a car charger? At least in case of an emergency, like I could find myself in any moment.
Has it been a full minute yet? Not sure. The hell with it, give it a go.
Turn the key. Nothing.
What the hell is wrong with this car? Could it be the battery? If the battery is on its last legs, would I have power in the car, and headlights? I furrow my brow, trying to draw from some mechanical knowledge reserve that I mistakenly believe I have deep down. Turns out, I’m clueless.
Could it be the alternator? Someone once said something about the alternator. What is an alternator? I don’t even know. But it sounds like it’s expensive. I wonder if I called the shop and described the problem they’d know right off the bat what was wrong. I can’t call him now, though, and certainly not with 24% battery remaining. I seriously need a car charger.
Maybe I could google it. How would I phrase that? “Is my alternator bad?” That’s pretty broad. Maybe “my car won’t start but lights are working.” Oh, and it happens when it’s cold, so “my car won’t start when it’s cold but the lights are working.” That’s pretty good. I might win the Internet with that phrasing.
Wait a minute. It also doesn’t make any noise when I turn the key. That has to be important. Since I’m adding some words, I should drop a few. “Car won’t start makes no noise lights working.” Could that take me to the precise answer I need? I hope so.
Turn the key. Sweet glorious delight, it starts.
I decide to respect the machinery and let it warm up for an actual two minutes. I watch the clock. Two minutes later, I pull out of my driveway and embark on my journey.
I don’t encounter many cars on my route, but I assume that anyone who is out at this hour on a Wednesday night must either also be a designated driver or is driving drunk. Figuring it’s pretty evenly split between the two, I decide I shouldn’t assume who is who. I suspect that every other car is a drunk driver, which makes me a little anxious to get to my destination.
I also get anxious every time I pass a bar. A drunk driver could come flying out of the parking lot and T-bone me. I am disgusted that the universe would allow me to be killed while doing a good deed.
I arrive at my destination significantly earlier than I expected, probably because I was trying to get away from so many drunk drivers. OK, not significantly, but 13 minutes is worth mentioning. As I pull into the parking lot, I spot this youngish guy (youngish to me is 20-something, a fact that makes me sad) hobbling down the sidewalk. He has no cast and no crutches. I wonder what’s wrong with him. I’ll probably never know.
The agreed-upon time was 11:00, I was in the parking lot at 10:47. I decide to call to let them know I was there and my phone with 24% battery remaining dies after the first ring. Great, another slasher movie cliche. The universe had beaten me at my own game.
That’s OK. They’ll see that I called, try to call back, the call will go to voicemail, they’ll try four more times before realizing, “Hmmm. I wonder why she isn’t answering her phone (in my imagination, they’re not real technologically savvy). I wonder if she’s outside?” And then they’ll step outside to see if I’m waiting in the parking lot. It’s all good.
But they don’t step outside. That’s OK, I guess. We did say 11, so they’ll be looking outside shortly anyway. See, it’ll all work out.
I guess I’ll just enjoy the Christmas music while I wait. I was on a roll, since I heard “Last Christmas” (Wham version, folks, not a crappy cover) and “Santa Baby” (Eartha Kitt version, folks, not a crappy cover) on the ride here. At this point, I fancy myself quite the upstanding citizen; patiently waiting in the parking lot, enjoying Christmas music, and doing a good deed all at the same time. Look at me: Saving lives and throwing in a dash of Christmas cheer for good measure.
Hey, there’s that guy with the bad limp again. Wow, it took him all this time to walk like 150 feet? He has a sneaker on one foot and a shower shoe on the other. Man, it looks like he’s having a really hard time. I wonder what’s wrong. Then it occurs to me that it would have been a nice gesture to offer the guy a ride, considering it’s freezing and he’s having a hard time walking. But who offers rides to strangers? He could have robbed me, or attacked me, or stolen my car. Whew, I dodged a bullet there.
I am not loving this Christmas music. Flip to other Christmas music stations. Still nothing.
Hmmm. It’s 11:04. Where the hell are they and why haven’t they come outside yet?
I’ve now been sitting in the car for 17 minutes. Let me turn the heat off. I guess I’ll turn the car off, too. I can turn it back on when they come out to the car.
Now we’re at 20 minutes. I’m getting annoyed.
I look to my right and notice that the walkway (or is it “gangway”? Gangway sounds way cooler. OK, gangway it is.) between two buildings makes me think of this blog post that I recently read, about an awesome kingdom mirror that a blogger found on Craigslist. Hmmm. That blogger was smart enough to take pictures of her Craigslist adventure. I, on the other hand, have a dead iPhone (the lack of a car charger is maddening at this point) and therefore cannot document this misadventure. Blogger fail.
I’ve also been sitting in a parking lot for 24 minutes. Human fail.
I wonder if I should beep the horn. I hate it when other people beep their horn. It’s so rude. Would anyone even hear it? I’m about 40 feet from the outside patio that is covered in plastic. However, just past that outside patio is the bar. It’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility that someone might hear my horn. I have to try (at this point, I’m weighing my options as though I’m in a 27 Hours type of scenario, which makes me think about how I dislike James Franco), douchebaggery be damned. I beep. Not a quick tap, but not a prolonged “Man, that guy’s a real jerk” honk, either. Just right. Like Goldilocks.
About two minutes after I beep, I see two tall guys walking out of the restaurant in my direction. That must be them.
Nope. Not them. Wait…a…second. Is that my cousin? He’s thin and he kinda has the same hair. They get closer and I realize that it’s not him. I try to look nonchalant, like it’s totally normal to be sitting in an almost-empty parking lot at 11 at night. Not sure what nonchalant looks like (that realization makes me wonder if I’ve ever achieved the “nonchalant” look organically), so I try to simply not look at anything in particular.
I also try to think about not thinking about anything, because I assume that’s what nonchalant looks like. They are getting into a car about 10 feet away from me and don’t give me a second glance. Actually, I’m not even sure they gave me a first one. I yawn because that seems a very nonchalant thing to do and glance in their direction. The driver is messing around with stuff in the console and the passenger is still standing next to the car, waiting for the other guy to unlock the door.
What the hell? It’s freezing out. Doesn’t he know his friend isn’t in the car? How does he not notice he’s alone in the car? The guy not in the car keeps trying the handle over and over. I hate when that happens. It also makes me think of that scene in Baby Mama, when Amy Poehler can’t open the car door because she keeps grabbing the handle at the wrong time. For a second, I wish that movie had been funnier. It was OK, but not great. Oh well.
Good God, this seat is uncomfortable. I’m hunched over because it’s uncomfortable to sit back with my head against the headrest (I could lose the ponytail but my hair would probably look like a rat’s nest), so now my coat is riding up in the back. As a result, the tiny portion of skin exposed from my hoodie also riding up is against this stupid “As Seen On TV” back support thing. I don’t think it even works. I can’t really tell. It only cost like $4, so it’s not a huge loss.
Speaking of $4, I wonder how much a car charger would cost. I’d gone this long without one…did I need to cave and buy one now? Sure, in the midst of a quasi-emergency (like right now), the answer would be yes. But come morning, I might be singing a different tune.
OK, now it’s been 30 minutes. This is officially ridiculous. Do I go inside? That could be embarrassing. Should I continue waiting in the car? What? Like a chump? Crap, I’m wearing sweats that I wouldn’t even wear to Walmart. Great, so I can’t go in. Plus, I’m so annoyed at this point that I can’t imagine going inside, making pleasantries and smiling. Perfect. Well, they should be coming outside any minute.
In fact, they’re probably going to see the time and realize they’ve kept me waiting, feel like big jerks, and come running out. It’s not the end of the world. And technically, I was 13 minutes early, so I can’t hold them accountable for those minutes. OK, so they’ve only kept me waiting 17 minutes past our agreed-upon time. That isn’t so bad. It won’t be long now.
I check again (for roughly the 11th time) to make sure the doors are still locked. I’d really be in a pickle if some criminal snuck up on my car and tapped his gun against my window. That’s how it would happen, right? If I was approached by a robber or a carjacker with a gun, he’d tap it against the glass, right by my head, so I could see it, right? What the hell would I do if that happened? Do I lower the window? Wait. That’s downright ridiculous. The guy has a gun! He’s not gonna ask what time it is! Use your head!
But would I be able to start the car and throw it in reverse fast enough to get away? I’m not so sure. Maybe I should practice that a few times, just in case. Eh, maybe not. That would look bizarre if someone saw me. Yep, let’s file that activity away for later. One thing I couldn’t do is call for help. Wait. Can I still call 911? Wasn’t there an episode of SVU where a little girl was able to call 911 after the phone died? Maybe it was just low battery. Hopefully it won’t come to that. Note to self: I must get a car charger, immediately.
Now that I’m worried about gun-toting carjackers who could be glaring in my window at any moment (because they would glare, right? Obviously. Anyone with a gun is going to glare, that’s only natural.), I figure I should check my mirrors so I’m aware of my surroundings. Damn, I should have thought of that sooner. What is wrong with me? I’m a sitting duck!
I look in my side mirror and spot a sign for “Asian Fusion…the best Asian food in the area.” Just who determines that it’s the “best”? Are they just saying that? Wait a minute. Didn’t that place used to be a Chinese buffet? I look over my shoulder and, yep, that’s the same place I used to go with my kids. Actually, that was a really good buffet. I start wishing it was still a buffet.
OK. I’ve been entertaining myself for 37 minutes now. I’m embarrassed for myself, but only until I convince myself that staying in the parking lot was for the best. After all, if I’d gone inside, I probably would have acted like a jerk. Yep, sitting in the car was definitely the best choice. The mature, level-headed choice. I almost start believing that.
I check a couple of the preset radio buttons. One is a sports talk radio station. They’re talking about the news that Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins had been traded to the Dodgers. Why wasn’t I listening to that?
Speaking of Philly, I wonder if the blogger who found the kingdom mirror on Craigslist lives nearby. She refers to “Philly,” but mentioned driving on I-95 to get to Philly. For some reason, I try to deduce where she lives, based on what I know, which is that she’s restoring an old Victorian somewhere near Philly. Where exactly would someone restore an old Victorian? The Main Line? Perhaps. West Chester? Can’t rule that out. Havertown? Eh. Not getting that vibe. I’m getting a cool, trendy vibe. Yep, probably the Main Line.
I imagine that we connect over one of her witty Craigslist posts and we decide to get together for coffee. But what would I wear? I want to make a good impression, but I don’t want it to seem like I’m trying too hard. And what would I call her? Victoria? Vicky? No, probably Victoria. That’s the vibe I get.
Whoa, Nelly. Slow your roll. Maybe she doesn’t like meeting strangers for coffee. More important, maybe she’d be a little creeped out by said stranger randomly thinking about her (and imagining how we would laugh, regaling each other with bizarre Craigslist stories) at 11 p.m. on a random Wednesday in December. Maybe I should pace myself. Yep, definitely take it slow.
All right. It’s been 45 minutes. Should I keep sitting here? Do I leave? I have to do something at this point. If only I had a car charger, I wouldn’t be in this situation. WHY DON’T I HAVE A CAR CHARGER? Sweats be damned, I have to go inside. But it’s so cold. I really don’t want to walk from my car to the restaurant. I could drive over to the other parking lot, on the side where the door is.
That’s exactly what I shall do.
Wow, there aren’t many cars here. Could these two still be inside? Of course they could, there’s free alcohol.
As it turns out, hardly anyone is inside. I have to go into the bar and do a visual, which means everyone in the bar is going to look at me. I hate that. I try to look nonchalant again, like it’s totally normal to wander into a bar at 11:37 p.m. on a Wednesday, scanning the room for two guys who shouldn’t be driving. Technically, no one in this room should be driving, but then I recall the saying, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”
Focus. Where are they? I know where they aren’t, which is here.
Wait a minute.
When they left for the party, they said something about a cab. I think hard, furrowing my brow, trying to tap into my short-term memory. Wait. Did they say they could get a cab or that they would get a cab?
Oh, hell. I think they said they would get a cab since it would be so late. Did they? I can’t quite remember the conversation. I was half paying attention because I was reading about the Jimmy Rollins trade. Way to be in the moment.
Apparently, my evening is over. (Does this still count as a good deed?) I get back in the Kia and head homeward. Less than a mile down the road, I pass a Walmart. You’re probably thinking, “What an amusing ending…here she was within walking distance of a Walmart, where she could have bought that car charger she desperately needed to resolve her dilemma.” Seriously, folks? Do you think I was unaware of the proximity of a Walmart? I was well aware that I could have driven there, bought a car charger, and been back in my parking space in all of 11 minutes. And that it would have literally prevented this entire debacle.
In fact, there’s no reason I can’t stop right now. Except…I can’t. I cannot bring myself to buy a car charger. And, I don’t really need a car charger at this point. Soon I’ll be home, with my phone plugged into my charger, on my nightstand. Hey, I’ve made it two years without a car charger and I just made it through tonight, no worse for the wear.
You won tonight, universe. Enjoy it. I’ll be prepared for our next battle.