CONtagious Part 1

Well, I’m home sick today waiting to go to the doctor’s, and I realized that my anxiety for this damn month to end has caused me to not update as much as I should. Instead, I’ve been spending most of my time in the corner, wringing my hands nervously.

But I’ve had this story on the back burner, and I’d like to share it with you as a cautionary tale. I’d like to title it “How Watching Forensic Files and Assuming Every Stranger is a Criminal Can Save Your Life.”

First, it may not come across often, but I am a nervous, jittery person. When I was 8, I was staying at my Grandmother’s house, watching “Pinwheel” on Nickelodeon with my 5 year old brother. Grandma and Grandpa were off somewhere, but my parents were there watching us. When the show was over, I called out for them. No answer. I ran in every room in the small house, shouting for them, and no answer.
I grabbed my brother’s arm, dragged him to the house next door, and tearfully informed the neighbor that we had been abandoned and he would have to take care of us for the rest of our lives.

Good thing the neighbor had been warned that I was insane, and I guess when my mom got out of the shower and finished her conversation with my dad who was talking to her in there, he returned us to our parents’ loving arms.

Or there was the time I watched a Forensic Files marathon and was washing some dishes at night, when I noticed our back gate opening up. Without missing a beat, I grabbed a steak knife and assumed a ninja stance on the opposite side of my door. Luckily, my landlord who was taking out the trash through the back entrance didn’t happen to look in the glass door to see me ready to ninja stab him, because I don’t think you can get your deposit back after things like that.

But, no, this story is about a little naivete mixed with emotional ninja stances. I had lived here in LA for six months, and looking back, I should have known that filling your car up at midnight in Pittsburgh is a little different than doing the same at midnight in Los Angeles.

I needed gas, and I was returning to the Valley from an evening with Melissa late at night. I pulled into a gas station which was right across the street from another gas station, because that’s how things are in the Valley. It was empty, and it was one of those where the tiny walk-in part of the gas station closes after dark, and you have to pay the teller through a plexiglas drawer. That possibly should have been my first hint.

But I was paying with credit card, so I didn’t notice. I did, however, notice as I was pumping that a lone man was walking towards me from the gas station across the street. I hadn’t noticed where he was coming from and there was no one else at my current gas station, but he had the look of a person on a mission.

Actually, at the time, I noticed that he had the look of a person who wanted to talk to me, which I am usually right about in diagnosing strangers, and no amount of repeating “please don’t talk to me, please don’t talk to me” will stop them from their beeline towards me. Just file that under “Why you should never wear a red shirt in a Target or a blue shirt in a Best Buy.” No, I cannot help you!

Anyway, he circled around the back of my car, and I let out a sigh of relief. Only to see him complete the circle and appear in the front of my car.

“Pennsylvania, eh?” He had a thick New York accent and was looking at my car’s plates. “I miss the east coast. Did you move here, or are you just visiting?”
Yeah, buddy, I frequently put 2,000 miles on my car for “just a visit.” Actually, I still live in Pittsburgh, but I work here. The whole five-day commute is a bitch!

He was dressed nice enough, so I didn’t think he was homeless. I just assumed he was a lonely, chatty, weird guy, so I chuckled, told him that I lived here, and pretended that the gas price ticker on the pump was REALLY interesting.

“Hey, I was wondering if you could help me out.” Here we go. He told me that he was really embarrassed, but he had a flat tire. He said he worked for SKG DreamWorks, and he couldn’t believe he was in this mess. He flashed me a bunch of business cards from towing companies and said most of them were closed.
“Oh, I can give my landlords a call. They probably know some good ones around here.” It was only after the fact that I realized he sort of flinched when I said this.
“No, no, I found one, but they don’t accept credit cards, and I don’t have any cash. They only charge $32, and this is so embarrassing, but I was wondering if you could lend it to me.” He laughed selflessly and couldn’t believe his misfortune. He kept telling me that he would pay me back the next day and I could keep his sport coat if I wanted as collateral. He said everyone at his office was really going to make fun of him.
This kind of sounds ridiculous reading over it, but he seemed like a really nice, joking guy caught in a bind.

I wasn’t buying it. I felt bad for immediately being suspicious, and imagined what I would do in a situation where I couldn’t call anyone, but really needed the kindness of a stranger. In fact, I HAD been in that situation. Before I had a cellphone, I dropped my friend TOM off at the airport and told him to remember to pay for my parking before he boarded because I left my wallet at the dorm. Of course, he DIDN’T, and I actually had to panhandle to be let out of short-term parking. It was the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done, and I think the guy who helped me out was pretty sure I was going to stab him.

Will our hero pay the New Yorker off? Will they become lifelong friends? Will our hero be stabbed, and is actually ghostwriting this? Haha! Well, our hero has a doctor’s appointment, so tune in tomorrow. Same bat website!

Part 2:

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