The Scariest Day of My Life (Part 1)

I was kidnapped. Granted, I chose to enter the car by my own free will. The van whisked me away…the person driving did not intend to return me to my car. Ever.

A few shorts days after we arrived home from our honeymoon, Chris’ job took him to Charleston, SC for the week. He was in charge of a trip for teens and was painting houses and habitat-ing for humanity.

My job kept me home for the week, but I had decided to make a quick weekend trip to join Chris and his team. Early Saturday morning I hopped in the car and made my way down highway 95.

I was enjoying the restful “me” time, the warm sun on my face, REO Speedwagon blaring through my speakers. Quickly, my mood changed as I saw the cars in front of me beginning to swerve. I noticed patches of “something” in the road ahead and I too attempted to miss the “whatevers” strewn across the highway. I realized whatever we were avoiding was unavoidable…and now recognized my tires would be driving directly upon pockets of nails polka dotting the highway. Soon a familiar and dreaded thump came from one of my tires. I moved in to the right lane and then pulled off the side of the road. Not good. This, was in the pre-cell phone stage of my life.

The cars were flying by at about 75 miles per hour seemingly unharmed by the mine field of nails I had recently traversed. Yes I did have a spare. Yes I did take driver’s education and had a decent idea how to change a tire. But I was feeling very unsure of myself and my ability in the present moment. Soon a silver sedan pulled in front of me…and an irritated and uptight business man exited the vehicle. I approached him and he gruffly explained he had hit the patch of nails and he was driving a rental. He offered no assistance nor sympathy and as quickly as he arrived, he left.

I popped my trunk, pushed up my proverbial sleeves and decided I would get to work. Seconds later a large semi-truck pulled on to the side of the road, and a 30 something driver jumped out of his truck. He introduced himself as “Steve” and offered me a hand. He wore mirrored sunglasses and a big smile.  I couldn’t see his eyes…but he had a bright personality and more experience with tires than me. I accepted his help. He explained he had been chasing me since Fayetteville, and was afraid he was going to lose me at the next weigh-in station. Slightly uncomfortable with his flirty familiarity, yet completely relieved that I was not changing this tire alone…I allowed the conversation to continue in whatever direction he wanted it to go. He told me the truckers have been talking about me up and down highway 95. He wished the ring on my finger didn’t mean what he thought it meant. He asked if I wanted to grab coffee, “as friends.” I politely declined. I think he made reference to the fact he would never leave his new bride on the side of the road defenseless and wondered if I was sure I might not join him for an early lunch, but again I politely declined.

Quickly he shifted subjects and began to scold me for my guliable nature. Clarifying how trusting I was and how careful I had to be accepting help from strangers. He expounded upon a personal story of a man he had worked with for years within his company. A man who recently was arrested for multiple rapes and murders of women he had “collected” on the side of the road. In great detail he told of the specific body parts found in baggies in the mans’ refrigerator. He laughed and said, “he had the cleanest truck in the fleet!” I smile uncomfortably. I scanned my trunk and found a random kitchen knife. (No idea why it was there.) I picked it up and placed it on the side of the car near me. Did I actually believe I might “over take” the man with this knife if he his intentions proved less good Samaritan-like? Steve chattered on and on about abductions and stranger danger and made a chivalrous offer to follow me as far as I needed to go to get my tire fixed before joining my husband in Charleston. I politely agreed. The moment I climbed in to my car I pressed the gas pedal to the floor, attempting to get as far away from Steve as I possibly could. I felt safer inside my car, but could not get the images of truckers abducting women and keeping their breasts for souvenirs out of my head. It was enough to make my skin crawl…I wasn’t going to take any chances with Mr. Steve “catching me” again.

Moments later the sound I had recently heard and immediately recognized was back. My bobbing and weaving through pockets of nails had not endured one flat tire but two. Though my spare was snuggly fitting in place of the first injured tire…I had no hope for my second tire. Who would take his place?

I pulled once again in to the right lane sucked in a deep breath and said a little prayer. Please help. What now? This is NOT good. I opened my eyes and watched Steve my “flirty trucker friend” fly by…probably very much trying to catch me. Only he passed too quickly. The traffic was thicker than my last stop, and the speeds were exceeding 80mph. He would have been happy to help, but wasn’t going to pull off another exit, turn around, and come to my rescue.

Surveying my surroundings I saw a sign for an Amoco station 2 miles away. Walkable. Definitely an option. I began to pray for a police officer to drive by. One did but kept driving. Minutes later a second state trooper drove by…and did not stop. I realized walking was likely  my best option. I closed my eyes and said another prayer…a little longer one this time…when I opened my eyes a navy A-Team type van pulled off the side of the road and backed up directly in front of my car. Was this the answer to my prayer? Hanging from the rear-view mirror was one word, Jesus.

A dark-haired disheveled looking man approached my window. He had thick horn rimed glasses and eyes that were not kind, and a crooked smile with teeth begging for braces. Was this a test of faith? Trusting a man that looked far more creepy than the more attractive truck driver, who had been flirting with me but telling me stories of rapists and murderers happening roadside?  Or were those words of warning? Should I hoof it and polietly decline this man’s offer to help?

I would have sold my wedding ring for a cell phone in that moment.

I had no real “gut” feeling except that I was in a particularly helpless situation. The van had driven up just as I said, “Amen.”  A sign? It is difficult to make a split decision on a person’s character and motives in matter of moments. My mind raced.

I accepted the help of my new “friend” Jim. I told him I need to go to the Amoco station two miles away. He took BOTH my tires off my car and we hopped in to his A-Team van and away we went.

Me, with the intention of it being a quick two mile trip down highway 95, Jim with very different intentions.

Too much to write in one day…more tomorrow!

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