It all started with a ransom note and a wristband.
My friend, Kat, asked me a few weeks back if she could have a wristband sent to my house as a favor to her. I told her that this was fine, and I sent her a message when it arrived. Since she was bogged down with finals, she completely forgot to come pick it up.
I hadn’t heard from her in a week, so I decided to have fun while reminding her that I still had her wristband.
We had a good laugh and she told me she’d take me out for coffee in a little while.
She showed up at my house a couple of hours later, and we went to a drive-thru. After we got our drinks, we began to drive around for a bit when we noticed a dirt path that we had never driven through before. This is something that Kat and I do occasionally. We see roads and trails off the beaten path and will drive through it to explore.
“Hm, never been through there before,” Kat said.
“Fuck it. Let’s go!” I replied.
There were a couple of gigantic, glaring flaws in this plan, however. Firstly, Kat and I are dumbasses and we thought it would be cool to be adventurers to begin with. Secondly, neither of us took into account the fact that this was a dirt path and that it had been raining all day. Not even as we began to drive up the muddy, flooded trail. Not even still when I said, “You know, if we get stuck, it’ll be terrifying, but there would be a ten second period of time where it would be hilarious.”
I swear on everything I hold dear to me that I said this. And, no. It wasn’t hilarious. Not even for one second. I didn’t even get to finish this statement before we were deeply sunk into the mud.
We totally deserved to be stuck there and to panic and to reevaluate every decision we have ever made in our entire lives. I know that I did when I got out to push the car.
Fortunately, my personality is such that if I am in a situation that would usually greatly upset me or make me extra anxious, but the person I am in the situation with is upset first, I switch immediately to “Hero Mode.” My need to ensure that my companion is OK and remains calm far outweighs any impulse to freak out, myself. So, when Kat almost began to cry and have a panic attack, I suggested that she put the car in reverse and that I would go out and push it. For a moment, it seemed like it would actually work. The car did move back an inch or two. But, unfortunately, it also got the car further lodged into the muddy ditch.
After about a half hour trying various gears and pushing the car, we stood out in the rain, looking over this very sorry situation in which we got ourselves. Kat was now evermore panic-stricken, and we were no closer to getting out of there. That’s when the lightbulb went off in my head.
“Kat, do you have AARP?” I said. I took a moment, realized I was very, very wrong, and said, “No, I meant Triple-A?”
After assuring Kat that her aunt (through whom she leases her car and has insurance) would not find out about this situation if she called Triple-A, we got back in her car and made the call. Within ten minutes, we received a phone call from the guy that was there to assist us. He couldn’t find us, however, because we were a bit of the way down the dirt path, away from the actual road. In order to properly guide him, Kat left to meet him at the entrance and I found myself alone. Allow me to set the scene.
Overgrown plants on either side of me. The windows were foggy at the time that Kat left me. She left the driver’s side door open, and, through the foliage, I noticed a very large body of water. As my mind played tricks on me, I briefly thought to myself, So, this is how it ends.
After being by myself for a few minutes and picturing Satan popping up in front of the car, I called Kat to see what was going on. As soon as she answered, I heard the beep, beep, beep of a large vehicle in reverse. She got out of the truck and back in the car.
“I told him I’d marry him if I wasn’t so gay,” was the first thing she said to me when she got back in. The next was to tell me that he was a surly and wonderful man.
He truly was both of these things. The first words I heard him speak were, “Aw, great. Now I have to get in the mud.” After I apologized with a nervous laugh, he waved me off with a chuckle. “This isn’t the worst I’ve done, I can tell you that.”
Eventually, we wound up on the flatbed of the truck so he could take us out of that godforsaken place. Thankfully, I was still in Hero Mode, so I was momentarily able to shrug off my extreme fear of heights and enjoy what was kind of a cool (albeit completely avoidable) experience. Kat and I both started laughing, realizing that we had made it out of what could have been a very bad situation.
He took us to a small, empty, nearby parking lot to let us off the flatbed. At his request, Kat took a lap around the lot to make sure there wasn’t any damage that would pose an immediate problem. It felt like we were on our way to Victory Lane at Daytona. When he finished telling her everything that she would need to do to make sure the car was one hundred percent, Kat bear-hugged him and said, “You’re such a good dude!”
When we began driving again after saying our farewells, we finally noticed how muddy and gross we were. My sneakers, which are partially velour, had mud caked onto them, and her pants and shoes were a mess. So we went to the nearby Target for new pants and shoes, but not before jumping in puddles to attempt to dislodge the mud. Predictably, that didn’t work and we only really succeeded in making our socks wet.
After going around and picking out what we needed, we both went into the large, “Family” restroom to get changed. She took off her jeans and immediately threw them into the trash bin. As I turned around to look through the bag and grab my new pair of socks and shoes, I heard Kat turn on the sink. The sound of the water was followed immediately by her stressed voice, saying, “Oh, no! Jack, I wet my pants! Can you go into the other bathroom and dry them for me?” I agreed, taking the pants with the belief that it was only a small wet patch.
For what was likely the fourth time that night, I was very wrong. I was in the restroom, by myself, for twenty minutes trying to dry sweatpants that turned out to be soaked. I had a self-aware moment, and began to laugh uncontrollably, just before one of the workers entered. This only made me laugh more, because I knew I must have looked like a crazy person. Then, realizing how insane I looked, I did the completely normal thing to do and explained myself, totally out-of-the-blue.
“I’m not crazy. It’s just been a night and these pants are wet.”
I let her leave first as a courtesy before accepting defeat that the pants couldn’t get any drier than what I had already managed. I returned to the single restroom and handed Kat her now-damp pants. She took them, looked at them for a moment, and then sighed.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
She shook her head and said, “Man, now I really have to pee.”
After a moment of silence, I shrugged and said, “You know what? Go for it. That wouldn’t be the weirdest thing that’s happened tonight.”
As she peed, I put my new socks and shoes on. As I lean up against the wall for support while doing this, Kat suddenly looked at me. She said, with more sincerity than I’ve ever heard before, “Jack? You know something?”
I looked back at her and said, “What is it, Kat?”
“If you weren’t already one of my best friends, you definitely would be after tonight.”
“I know, Kat. I know.”
Jack Mason, 2017