Monday, January 18, 2010

Blonde in a Convertible

Wherever hitchhikers gather... you will hear the tale of the Blonde In The Convertible.

For that matter, you will often hear the tale where guys of ANY stripe gather. Sometimes, they claim to have been abducted by the Blonde while standing on the roadside with a thumb out. Other times, they claim to have encountered her while pumping gas. More often, they claim to have stopped to help her with a flat tire... and been EXPERIENCED.

The truth of the matter is... that the Blonde In The Convertible occupies an ecological niche much like that of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. People claim to have seen her, but her existence is suspect, indeed.

But I met her, once.

I was young, then, and I worked at a home for mentally retarded children. The place was twenty miles from my house, though, and at the time, I had no car. I carpooled whenever I could, borrowed a car whenever I could... and on occasion, I simply left for work a couple hours early, and stood upon the side of the Interstate, trusting in the fates to help me keep making a living.

You meet lots of interesting people this way. Once I got picked up by a stoned Mexican national whose English was about as good as my Spanish, and we were able to talk. I asked him why he was driving a rusted-out 1940s model school bus full of stuff that looked like he'd raided every garage sale south of Austin. He answered that he'd bought the bus for $200, and if he could get it across the border, he could sell it for three times that... and he was going to take all the stuff and open his own department store.

...and, once... I met the Blonde In The Convertible.

She was blonde, and wearing a giant pair of shades, and she was driving a champagne-colored convertible of some make or model that I couldn't make out because she whipped past me at 70 mph without so much as a glance.

I watched her speed past, and thought about The Blonde In The Convertible, and chuckled to myself.

A few minutes later, an identical champagne-colored convertible sped past. The same blonde was in it. She looked at me.

I did a double take. Huh? Was that the same chick? How many champagne colored convertibles could there be on this stretch of road? She sped away into the distance, and I watched her go... and then stuck my thumb out again, and smiled big, hoping someone would decide I wasn't an ax murderer...

...and a few minutes later, I heard a honk. Behind me, on the feeder road, was the blonde, motioning me to get in.

No dummy, me, I ran down the embankment and scrambled into the car. She asked where I was going; I told her. She agreed that this was on her way, and she took the turnaround and got back on the highway.

My mind was racing. I had been picked up by a Blonde in a Convertible. This was damn near a violation of natural law; women as a rule don't pick up hitchhikers, and a woman alone in an expensive car doesn't pick up hitchhikers any more than rabbits invite foxes out to lunch. What the hell? She HAD to be horny. Why me? Maybe she was just a nympho who was out for a drive and just happened to SEE me there, and she thought about it, and now we were going to find a motel... could I afford to miss work? Maybe I could just be a few hours late or something... but what if she wants me again, and again, and again...

I glanced at her. She said nothing. She drove, eyes on the road. What was wrong with this picture?

We drove. She said nothing. She kept her eyes on the road, arms ramrod stiff on the wheel. It hit me: this chick is scared stiff. Of what? Of you, ya damned idiot. But why did she pick me up, then?

"So," I said, trying to break the ice, "My name's Bedlam."

"Glad to meet you," she said in a tone that implied she'd happily abandon me on an ice floe. She didn't offer her name.

"So where you headed?"

"South." Same monotone.

"South to...?"

"San Antonio." Same monotone.

"Pull over, please," I said, in as level a tone as I could manage.

She looked at me for the first time since I'd gotten into the car. Her expression was almost panicked. She looked at me as if she were quite sure I had a gun.

"No, just let me out," I said.

Her expression changed to puzzlement.

"Most people pick up hitchhikers because they want to talk," I said. "You don't want to talk, and you look at me like you think I'm about to kill you. I'm not gonna kill you, and the only way I can think of to prove that is to get out of the car. I don't wanna do that until the car stops. If you'll stop the car, I'll get away from you, and you can go on about your business."

She looked at me funny again. "I ... um... I don't think you're gonna kill me," she said.

"You sure act like it," I said. "I just want a ride to work. I'm not a psycho. I'm a guy who works with little retarded children, and I wanna get to work on time, okay?"

She looked at me like I'd taken off my George W. Bush mask to reveal the face of Brad Pitt beneath... and she began to talk.

She was Born Again Christian, rebirthed less than a month, and in the process of turning her evil and sinful life around... and working on becoming less self-centered. Apparently, the idea of living one's life for others had been on her mind when she was driving down the highway... and she had seen this long-haired, bearded biker-lookin' guy trying to thumb a ride.

She'd blazed past him without a second look... but then, thought about it. Was it right to judge this hairy mutant by his appearance? What if he really needed the ride?

She'd turned around, gone back, and gotten on the interstate again, meaning to pick me up. She'd blazed past me again, as her nerve gave out. What if he's a rapist? What if he's a killer? WHAT IF HE'S A NECROPHILIAC?

...and what if he's a perfectly nice guy who just needs a ride?

She'd got off the highway again, turned around, and FORCED herself to stop on the feeder road behind me... and honk... and motion me into the car. And had placed her safety in the hands of the Lord.

I was kind of disappointed, to be honest. It looked like I was going to be getting to work on time, after all.

"Well," I said, "you were right to worry. I might have been a maniac. Hell, I might have just been a crook, and all a crook needs is an opportunity. You shouldn't pick up hitchhikers, at least not when you're alone."

"But you WEREN'T!" she giggled ecstatically. "You're just an ordinary guy, and you work with little retarded children! You're not gonna rape me at ALL! You've rewarded my faith! No, GOD has rewarded my faith!"

For one evil, twisted minute, I thought about raping her just to demonstrate the danger of misplaced faith. After all, you can't be TOO careful, and God helps those who help themselves. Instead, I reiterated the danger of trusting just any loony on the road.

For the rest of a short drive, we discussed one's duty to one's fellow man versus the necessity of reaching out a helping hand occasionally. I mentioned that one should judge oneself by one's actions, and others by their intentions, and she liked that one so much she asked me to write it down for her... and when we got to town, I asked to be dropped off at the roadside, and she wouldn't hear of it; she made me tell her where, and she delivered me to the front door. Quite a few of my coworkers were hanging around out front, waiting for the shift to start, and being dropped off by a drop-dead-gorgeous blonde in a convertible did quite a bit for my reputation at work for awhile after that. She thanked me effusively for all I'd done for her (What? Did I do anything?) and gave me a little peck on the cheek before driving off into the sunset of my memory...

...and nowadays, when I dwell where men gather, and men tell the story of the Blonde in the Convertible... I smile and say nothing.


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