4/28/15

Driving with a Stranger . . .

It seems, dearly readers, like if there is ONE thing you all really enjoy about this blog is when I share stories of my own short-minded stupidity and silly decision making. Well, friends, buckle in as I share the tale of my trip home from a recent business trip.

Let me set the scene . . . I was in sunny, humid, Orlando for four days. In that time (three nights) I slept a TOTAL of about ten hours and I ran nine miles and I worked all day and I hung out with colleagues, vendors, friends, etc. alllllll evening (in to the wee-small-hours of the morning). While not your quintessential business trip (no sex was had, etc.)  it was pretty run-of-the-mill in that I actually uttered the words "I can't WAIT to get home" as I headed off to the airport.

Of course this is where the fun begins. First thing . . . my flight was delayed two hours. Apparently the Weather Overlords had some grip with Dallas, Texas so we were not welcome to come over from Orlando right away. Fine, fine. I had a three hour layover anyway and if flights in were delayed - so were flights out. So we boarded the plane and pushed back (I had the ONLY empty seat on the plane between me and a guy who kept reading the pages of a book and then taking photos of every page as he completed it and then scribbling notes based on each page. Also - he ate about six pounds of Starburst yet weighed about eighty pounds.

So we get over Texas (the proudest state in the Union) and held there - for 45 friggin' minutes. Then, in time, touched down. I turn on my phone . . . text from the airline . . . flight home cancelled. Ugh.

I go in, stay calm, get in line for reschedule options and am told there is ONE more flight to Wichita for the night. I go to that gate. There are 43 people on stand-by for a flight with only 36 seats. Not a good sign. So I go to another line to get a flight on Saturday. 5:50 PM departure (21 hours later).

So this guy - who seems very anxious and very agitated - in front of me in line turns and asks "How far do you think it is to Wichita?" I respond back "I know it is a little less than six hours." And then he says "You want to split the cost and driving on a rental car and go tonight?" and I say "For a reason I'll never actually understand - "Sure." We go get on the shuttle to the rental place. We wait in line. We negotiate who will pay, etc. We get a car, we go to the bathroom, we change clothes, we get snacks, we get in the car. I look over and - only at this point - say "My name, by the way, is Sean."

"Oh great. Yeah. My name is (mono-syllabic name here)." Truthfully - I don't remember his name (I'm sorry, but I don't). We get in the car and away we go.

Now I should admit here - I LOVE people. I love their stories and their adventures and getting to know people and I also love observing them. This guy was really interesting. Had two phones (a new-ish Blackberry and a wicked-old flip phone). He had a very distinct speaking cadence and a great vocabulary. He had bright-orange shorts on. He fascinated me well in to Oklahoma. Home, family, friends, previous jobs, how the large-money-match-making-business works, and how out of his element Oklahoma and Kansas are (there was a lightning storm ahead that was beautiful but not all that engaging for me - he seemed to truly love it).

We drove and drove and chatted and laughed and then - shortly after Oklahoma City - he fell asleep. And I was alone in the car. I'm not saying it was unsafe for me to be driving but we're super, super f*cking lucky to be alive. It is the truth when I say that I don't know what happened to the time between 2:34 and 2:41 AM and I don't really remember crossing the Kansas state line shortly before.

But - here's where the story gets random - I got off the highway and on to the streets of Wichita and looked at the guy and said "Hey, instead of driving on to your wedding weekend this morning - do you want to crash in our guest room for a bit?"

Now - I'll admit this - if anyone offered this to me I would say "No, thanks." MORE because I would fear they were going to kill me and use my skin for a sex costume than for looking rude but I would not do it. But this guy - perhaps just overcome with the "midwestern" (High Plains-ian) hospitality he was offered said "Yes. That would be great." so I said "Great" and we pulled in the driveway and I set him up for the balance of the night.

I climbed the stairs and told SLF that we had a guest for the night. She, lovingly, mumbled "We'll talk about this in the morning." and went back to sleep.

So - three hours later - we were awake and ready for the day. We made our way downstairs expecting to be alone but, nope. We were still with guest. And he slept for a few more hours (which is fine with me) and woke up in just enough time to get on the way to return the rental car, get another one, and drive up to Hesston.

We said our "Good-byes" and he drove away. Perhaps never to be seen or heard from again (unless he does follow up and send me some ideas on how to best enjoy Yellowstone (from his old wilderness guide days)).