Going to School.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
The second of four pieces I wrote for my non-fiction class. Its about me getting a ride to school from a stranger (yes, I do take rides offered by strangers).

Submitted: December 18, 2013

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Submitted: December 18, 2013

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“Do you need a ride? Where are you going to?”

I did need a ride, desperately. The combination of work and the unpredictable CTA had conspired together to try their best to make me late for school. I had missed days, I would miss more days, but, I had resolved that I would make it into school this day. I needed to get downtown, and I needed to get there fast.

I checked the bus tracker, late as usual. If I was to take them I would never get to where I had to go on time. I needed to get to the Halsted train station and the bus wouldn’t be coming until 1:30, another 20 minutes, and I needed to be downtown and in class by 2 o’clock.

I had spent to much time getting ready to leave work. Sometimes like at a car wash can be absolutely miserable. The vacuum container had to be emptied that morning; the boss had said so. I dragged out the trusty blue tarp and flipped over the container of dirt and sucked up junk, dust particles filled the air and poured out like encroaching fog on the lake. It settled and caked into our skin and clothes. Standing there I imagine I looked like some Oklahoma from the 1930’s who had just survived the Dust Bowl. Before I left I was able to get the dirt of my hands and face, but I could not get it off my clothes. Fortunately I had brought an extra change of clothes, I knew I would need them because whatever clothes I wore to work would inevitably become dirty and wet.

My struggle did not end at this point. The boots that I wear to work do not keep my feet dry, day in and day out my feet would become soaked. Most days I shrugged that fact off with indifference; those socks were necessary casualties of my war on poverty. I would do my best to attend to their would and patch them back together when I got home.

Today would be no different. I had brought an extra fresh pair of socks, I would be prepared for the worse. The current pair, unfortunately would have to be tossed unceremoniously into the dumpster – nameless and forgotten soliders in the struggle to bring about economic prosperity.

I left the garage early to go change and clean up for school. I thought I would be able to get out of there before 1. I was wrong. The stick in my spokes would be trying to fit my wet and dirty boots and clothes into my backpack. By the time I managed to make everything fit it was already 1:05.

I had decided not to stand around waiting on 39th and Halsted for my bus. I would walk towards 35th and maybe there I would be able catch the 35th street bus to the 35th street station instead. It wasn’t until I was about to cross 37th street that I heard someone talking to me.

“Do you need a ride? Where are you going?”

There was nice silver 4-door car stopped at the stop light and inside it was an elderly lady trying to get my attention.

I didn’t recognize the car and I didn’t recognize her. A total stranger had just me a ride. I have taken rides from people who have said they know me from the car wash or that they’re friends with some member of my family, but I’ve never taken a ride with someone who I didn’t know and who didn’t know me. Despite all this she offered me a solution to my exceedingly dire predicament. Angel from above, or demon from below, I would take he up on her offer.

“Sometimes if I see someone waiting at the bus stop I give them a ride.” She was going to the Walgreens on 31st and Halsted. I suppose I was at the right place at the right time, looking just enough like a lost puppy that she decided to pick me up and take care of me.

In the car now I assessed my options. I started to plan, if need be, my escape. She looked like a typical old lady; you’re typical short gray hair wrinkled old lady - maybe too typical, maybe that’s what she aims for when she abducts people off the street. No, I was certain that her intentions, mysterious as they were, were not cruel and insidious in nature. If things were to get hairy, if she was to brandish her fang, I could unlock the door and tumble roll out into the busy street. If she was a wolf in sheep’s clothing then I would do whatever I needed to do to survive. I would not drift gently into that good night, but instead would rage against the dying of the flame. The inherent awkwardness never subsided.

“So, you’re headed to school? Where do you go?” she inquired.

I confessed that I went to Roosevelt University downtown. I was sure that wasn’t giving away to much information. I would oblige her, answering her own casual small talk with casual small talk of my own.

“What are you studying?”

At that point I was a History major.

“So what do you plan to do with that?”

Ah, the question everyone seemed to be asking, the question that I did not have an answer for. I told her that maybe I could be a teacher or get involved with a museum. I didn’t tell her that I didn’t like History very much anymore, and that I was think of switching to English. I didn’t tell her that college in general seemed like giant waste of my time. I didn’t tell her that I only went because it was what was expected of me. And I didn’t tell her that I sure as hell never wanted to be a teacher.

“So are you married?”

I’m still not sure why she asked this question, maybe my beard had fooled her into thinking that I was older then I really was. Maybe she thought that despite being young that I could be married. Maybe I look like the marrying type. I don’t really know. I wasn’t married. I wasn’t seeing anyone. I just wanted to get to school on time.

“That’s good. Focus on school. Me and my husband were married for a long time.”

They had been married for decades though I can’t remember the exact amount. She said that they had met when they were young and had fallen in love. He had just passed away recently. I found it strange that a stranger would open up so much and leave themselves so vulnerable in front of a person that they had just met five minutes ago. It made the car ride much more intimate then I would have liked. The atmosphere in the car began to mirror the melancholy expression that had taken over her face.

I didn’t know what I should have said to her. Death was an inevitability of life and there’s nothing we can do about it. I didn’t know her or her husband, I had no clue what their relationship was like. I’ve never had to experience someone close to me dying. I didn’t really have the emotional depth to empathize with her. I could say “I’m sorry for your loss” a thousand times but I don’t think it do any good and I don’t think I would mean it from the heart either.

“I’m sorry” I said to her.

We were at the train station and I had to go. I managed to get to my goal unscathed and without having to beat up an old. I conjured up some cliché words of gratitude and went on about my business. If I remember correctly I was indeed on time for school because of her generosity


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