Crazy Things: The Stranger
As a newly widowed mom, I imagine I’ll be inclined to take less risks and therefore translate as a boring mom to my kids in the next few months or years. Guess what, kids? Your mom used to be a little crazy, still has some whimsy, and just may be super fun again someday. In the meantime, I’m going to share a few stories that may make you proud or embarrassed that you’re my loinfruits. And to the general population reading this, keep in mind I was in my early 20’s before you get all judgy.
After completing a semester exchange at the University of North Texas in 2001, I found myself missing Texas often. I had moved home, gotten my old job back at a bank, and was attending college full time. A coworker, J, had listened to countless stories I told from the winter and spring spent in Denton. The California summer was coming to an end and I just had to go back to visit the Lone Star state. J wanted to come, too. We started planning and scheming all the outrageous things we would do on the trip. We headed to one of our favorite hangouts, TGI Friday’s in Long Beach, and lingered over dinner to strategize the upcoming weekend. It was a Wednesday and we were flying out that Friday.
Our waiter that evening, Michael, asked what we were working on, with our maps and notebooks sprawled across the table. We told him about the magical place called Texas that was causing all of our school girl excitement. He said he had never been on a plane, or even left the state, and that the trip sure sounded fun. Since we had known him all of five minutes, I blurted out that he should join us. I was completely serious and completely prepared to get the “YOU ARE INSANE” look that I have recognized well my entire life. He looked at us completely serious back and asked when we were leaving. We said in two days. And he said sure. So Michael, the waiter from TGI Friday’s that we had known for five minutes, bought a plane ticket that night. And we went to Texas with a stranger. Well, not a total stranger. We had known him for five minutes.
I know. Worst judgement ever. But because God is a gracious God, and because my parents didn’t do anything to justify having the scandalous daughter that they did, it turned out Michael was the nicest, most normal guy. He got along great with J and I, our friends, and with the great state of Texas. He was a complete gentleman and wouldn’t even budge when we mildly flirted with him. It would get a little weird when we introduced him to people. The first question was always, “How do you two know each other?” The answer varied from, “Oh, we met at a restaurant” to “Um, we don’t.” We felt particularly bad when his mom called him; he hadn’t told her where he had gone and, knowing she would be furious, fabricated a story that he was staying at a local friend’s house for the weekend.
In addition to bringing a stranger along on our trip, we got into plenty of other shenanigans. J got a speeding ticket but the officer was so nice, we weren’t even upset. He even wrote directions on the back of the ticket to help us get where we were headed. I backed that same rental car into a pole at our hotel. Oops. We also fit in some square dancing at a church one night. And the best part?? J got a tattoo at the Beer Barn with a guy she had just met! I can sense your disapproval. Knock it off. Cause it happened. We turned out fine.
We lost touch with Michael shortly after the trip. There was no email or Facebook then. I couldn’t even tell you his last name. But boy, those were some fun memories! Michael, if you ever read this, thanks for not being a weirdo or serial killer and for taking a chance on adventure! And to my kids, you better not do anything like this when you’re in college. But if you do, wait fifteen years to tell the story, like I did, so your parents will be less mad when they’re hearing about it for the first time.
Me, J, and Michael