“Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends.”
Through the media, we are constantly instilled with the fear that strangers want to kill us. As children we believe that strangers are grotesque figures who want to lure us with candy and lock us in a tower. As we get older we learn to use our own discretion in figuring out the good strangers from the bad strangers. We take risks everyday speaking to these dangerous people who want to kill us. I was never one to follow the rule “don’t talk to strangers.” Sure my parents, like everyone else’s, tried to drill it into my head more times than Tiger Woods has cheated on his wife, but it just never stuck. In fact, I thought it was insane to walk around fearing other people just because I didn’t know them. How would things ever progress if we never spoke to anyone outside of our immediate circle of acquaintances? So as someone who prides myself on trusting the right people, I have never discriminated against anyone new that I randomly meet. However, it is exactly a year ago that my faith and intuition were deeply challenged.
Last year over Christmas vacation a close friend of mine from LA was in for a few days. I was excited to go with him and two other guy friends to a party at Bread and Circus, in Kensington Market. Now, if you happened to be in Toronto last winter, you will probably remember the excessive amount of snowstorms that fell in December. This was a particularly snowy night. I had volunteered to be the designated driver because I needed to be home by a certain time to give my oldest dog, Charlie, medication. My parents were on their usual three-week December holiday, and I was staying at their house taking care of my dogs.
I would be lying if I told you that I did not drink at that party, because I did. After an awkward run in with “The LifeSucker,” who you will learn more about in later postings, I had a couple of drinks with my friends. By the time we returned to my car, a few hours later, I was sober enough to drive. It was around one in the morning and the snow was falling lightly, as we drove back to my friend’s condo. Once there, he invited me in to play a game of poker with the other guys, before I headed home. Without hesitation, I parked my car in the back alley behind his condo and joined them upstairs. For reasons that you will never know, we lost track of time and suddenly it was 3am. Noticing the snow coming down hard, I quickly grabbed my stuff, said goodbye to my friends, and rushed out the door. All I could think of was that I had to get home to Charlie. Once outside, the wind hit me in the face harder than “Jon and Kate Plus 8’s” breakup. Other than a black SUV parked beside me, there was not another car or person in sight. I quickly cleared the snow off my car while it was warming up inside. When I was ready to go, I put the car in reverse and proceeded to leave. However, my car would not move. I seemed to be stuck on something and my wheels spun every time I gave it gas. I tried rocking it out of the spot by moving my gear back and forth from reverse to drive. After fifteen minutes, when the car had still not budged an inch, I started to panic. Suddenly out of my passenger window I saw a large guy come running through the alley to the SUV beside me. I watched him clear off his car, and his dreadlocks turned quickly from black to white, as the snow fell heavily on his head. As he was about to get into his car, I realized he might be my only hope and quickly rolled down my window.
“Hey, could you help me?” I shouted. He came over and asked what was wrong. I told him that I was stuck and desperately needed to get home. He went and stood at the front of my car and tried to direct me out of the spot, telling me when to turn the wheel and give it gas. My car still wouldn’t move. Next I got out, letting him replace me in the driver’s seat. Still nothing. After a few more attempts, he asked if I wanted him to drive me home. I thought it was a strange offer, considering he didn’t even ask what part of the city I lived in.
“Thanks, but I will just call my friends upstairs to come down and help,” I said. Within a few minutes two of my friends were downstairs and we all tried pushing. My tires continued to spin. The man told my friends about his offer to drive me home.
“It’s okay, I will take a cab,” I said, interrupting him. My friends encouraged me to take the lift. Besides, where would I find a cab at this hour and in this awful weather? I stood there for a moment looking at my guy friends. They were cold and wanted to go inside. I just wanted to get home. The guy assured us I’d be safe. He tried to make himself sound more like a civilian by telling us he was a bouncer at a club down the road, however, it never occurred to any of us that he never told us his name. I finally realized it was up to me to make this decision, and I needed to do it quickly. I said goodbye to my friends and got into the car with this stranger, every parent’s biggest fear. I had no idea I was about to embark on a life changing journey. (To be continued on Monday)