…there was a girl trying to get to a farewell party off the I-40 who got stranded on the highway in a stick shift car that she could barely drive.
And it goes a little something like this:
Back in the day, I got my first professional job at Opryland USA…it was an incredible experience, and I still have friends from the time that I worked there. I heard lots of rich and interesting comments while I was there. Among them:
“You’re kinda pretty for a black girl.”
“I’d like to buy you some grits at the Waffle House.”
“You look really nice. I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but are you a hooker?”
“I’ll meet you down by the old KKK club house.”
Different kind of chit chat than I was used to coming from Southern California, but then this wasn’t So Cal. All that nonsense aside, I did manage to have a really fantastic time there.
I had a friend who was leaving our contract early, and his friends were throwing a farewell party for him about 10 miles away from my apartment. My roommate had taken off for another gig and left his car there, which he told me I was welcome to use. I’d never been good at driving a manual car (he tried to teach me and definitely concurred) but as that was my only means of transportation, I decided to put my big girl pants on and go with it.
I got dressed in a nice black skirt suit with my best high heels and got in the car and on my way. It was a straight shot down the 40, and I drove pretty well and was feeling somewhat confident. I arrived at the party location, and noticed that there were just a few cars in the parking lot…it started at 9pm, and I was a fashionable 45 minutes late, so I thought that was odd. I went inside and when I stepped through the door, I saw chairs on the tables and the wait staff mopping the floor. I asked about the party, and was told that the party location had been moved.
As you can imagine, I was not happy with that news. I called my friend, read him the riot act, and he apologized for not updating me and begged me to still come and say goodbye. New location? His apartment. That was walking distance from mine. Mmmm hmmm.
So back in the car I go. I’m about 2 miles from my exit, when the car stalls out. I coast over to the shoulder of the road and put it in park and try to get it started. Nothing doing. I remember what my friend said about flooding the engine, so I waited there for 20 minutes before trying again. Nothing. I’m sitting there alone in the pitch black night, with big rigs speeding past me and no help in sight. I give it another half hour, and try again. Dead as a door nail.
Decision time: stay in the car all night, or make a run for it.
I decided to run. I prepared for my 2 mile jog (in heels) by arming myself as best I could. I took off my belt and wrapped it around my right hand leaving the buckle exposed, and I took the sharpest key on my chain and clenched it between the index and middle finger of my left hand.
I reviewed my situation. I’m wearing all black, I am black, I’m stuck on a southern highway an hour before midnight in a pitch black night that is sporadically punctuated by the occasional light post and the speeding beams of light from the rigs that pass by close enough for me to feel the wind of their wake.
My adrenaline is at an all time high as I begin to run.
I’m indifferent to the rocks in my shoes, the rips in my hose, the straining of my calf muscles as I run and run and slowly get closer to my exit. Finally, FINALLY, I’m about a ¼ mile away from the promised land and I begin to relax a little and slow down to a walk. That’s when the cab of a semi pulled up in front of me.
I wasn’t comforted to see the confederate flag that was waving from the truck’s antennae. And that discomfort spiked when the driver got out and approached me…besides the tee shirt and baggy jeans he was wearing, he was also sporting a matching flag on the trucker hat that was placed on his oily brown mullet-styled head.
Him: “You alright?”
Me: “I’m fine! My car broke down a couple miles back, but this is my exit,
so I’m good.”
Him: “Well, lemme getcha off this highway-I’ll give ya a ride.”
Me: “Thanks so much, but I’m ok…I’m almost there and I’ll be fine.”
Him: “Listen…ain’t nothin’ funny gonna happen…I’ll sit on my side, you’ll
sit on yer side and I’ll getcha off this stretch. Been hearin’
‘bout some girl running down the highway for the last 10 miles, and I
tole myself if you was still out here by the time I get to ya, I’d do my
Christian duty and getcha off the road.”
I know it sounds crazy and stupid, and it feels a bit crazy and stupid to admit this, but I got in the cab. I believed him. Confederate flag and all. Yes…I know there were atrocities committed there in the name of Christianity, and God knows I wasn’t ignorant of that, but in that moment, I somehow knew he was alright. And he was as good as his word—he got me off the highway and dropped me off at the gas station across the street from my apartment. Though I did wait until he was gone to head over to my place.
What a night. I never did make it to the party. And when I got back to the car 45 minutes later (a friend went with me after I dealt with my cuts and abrasions), the stupid thing started right up.