The Incorrigible Night Owl

August 12, 2004

Psych-O-Roni, Chapter One

It occurred to me this morning that I would like to share the following story with all of you. What you are about to read is true; everything here happened just as I tell it. The incident occurred in 1993 and was told and re-told orally for years before I finally put fingers to keyboard and committed it to written form in 2002.

I will be posting it in three parts, as it is rather long. So grab a cuppa, sit back, relax, and enjoy:

Psych-O-Roni, the San Francisco Treat
(or "How We Narrowly Escaped Certain Mutliation and/or Death")

In 1993 my friend Robin and I decided that it would be wicked fun to take a car trip from our home in California to a small town near Dallas. The ultimate point of this journey was to visit a former co-worker who had moved to said small town. However, we thought it would be a terrible shame to simply blow by all the interesting things that lay between us and Texas. Consequently, we built into our intinerary several side trips including Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and a visit to Robin's future brother-in-law, who was at the time in the Army and stationed at Ft. Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma.

We pick this particular story up somewhere west of Tucumcari, New Mexico, which was to be our stop on this, our third night out. The trip had gone well except for a minor wrinkle in Flagstaff, where we had overslept by several hours, thereby cutting our visiting time to the Grand Canyon down to about 20 minutes. Apart from that, things were going swimmingly. Then about 30 miles from Tucumcari, it began to rain. This in itself was no problem, but then the blade on the passenger side windshield wiper came loose. I was all for ignoring it and continuing to our destination but it was really bugging Robin. She decided to pull off at a rest stop and fix it. I really don't recall the time; it was dark and probably somewhere after 9 p.m.

There were several semi trucks in the parking lot of the rest stop in addition to a handful of cars. I noted this and decided it was probably safe enough since there were quite a few other people around. Now, here is where there is some discrepancy as to exactly what happened. According to Robin, a light blue Honda Civic was already parked in the parking lot when we pulled in, several spaces away. I, on the other hand, maintain that the car didn't arrive until just after we did. I will admit, though, that I was paying very little attention when we got there and even less when we left (which I'll explain later). I didn't even realize the car was blue until much later on. I had the vague impression that it was silver.

At any rate, the car was there and its occupant, a lone male, went to the restroom. Robin was outside the car fixing the blade. I remained in the passenger seat, door open, holding the flashlight. It was this scene that the other driver witnessed on his return from the restrooms. Robin was still struggling with the obstinate wiper blade when the guy approached us.

Now I will provide a brief side not to explain my lack of attention starting from this point. It seemed to me in those days that every time I turned around guys were always trying to pick up on Robin. Now whether that's true or not I don't really know. It just seemed that way to me. And when I saw this guy coming over to talk to us I thought, "Great, here comes another one. We're out in the freakin' middle of nowhere and this clown is trying to get a date." Turns out the guy was probably an equal opportunity stalker. However, I didn't know this at the time and got a tad miffed. So when he walked up and began talking to Robin, I completely tuned out. I didn't look at the guy and didn't say anything and I didn't watch when he walked away and got in his car. Fortunately Robin was a little more alert than I was that night.

The driver came up and said hi. Robin said hi back. He asked if we could use any help. Robin told him no, she almost had it taken care of, and that this had happened before. Now one would expect that after this exchange the guy would continue on his merry way. But he didn't. He stood there and began to make small talk. He noticed we had a California license plate and asked where we were from. Robin, being appropriately vague, said San Luis Obispo. Oh really! He had just been through SLO county several days before on his way to L.A. He was from San Francisco and on his way to somewhere in Texas for business. All this time Robin is fiddling with the windshield wiper and saying, "Mmmhmm," politely, and I'm refusing to acknowledge the guy's presence. Finally he says he'd better go. He starts to walk away, then stops. "Are you sure you don't need any help? I've got a screwdriver in my car." (Editorís note: Sure, we need a screwdriver to put on a rubber wiper blade. Then maybe you can BLUDGEON US TO DEATH with it afterward!) Robin assures him we'll be fine, so he goes to his car and gets in. He sits there for a while then pulls out of the parking lot and onto the freeway.

A few minutes later Robin had succeeded in forcing the wiper blade into submission and we were on the road again. As we zipped down the highway we started to come up on a car traveling in the slow lane. Robin glanced at it and said, "Hey, that's the guy who tried to help us!" Still thinking he was just some chivalrous fellow Californian Robin said, "I'll honk my horn when we pass him and you wave, to say thanks." As we buzzed around him I lifted my hand grumpily, not even looking over at the car. Robin got back over into the slow lane and continued at the same rate of speed at which she had passed the California guy. Only now, he was catching up to us. He passed us, waving, and got in front of us. A second later it became apparent that he had slowed down drastically, because we were coming up fast on the car again.

Tune in tomorrow for chapter two of the story....