by Tony Ertel
I used to think that once I was married I would have little use for pick-up lines, but it seems that I have actually used them more in the past 3 months than ever before. And while my wife has warned me to be careful, overall, she approves of my usage. I guess I should explain that I’m not speaking of the popular use of the term - cheesy, funny, sleazy, and weird one-liners employed to get a girlfriend or a phone number, but rather of the term's literal use. I’m not referencing, “Hey darling, I noticed you sniffling from across the room and I couldn’t help but think you were trying to pick up my scent. It’s Acqua Di Gio, which is Latin for ‘you look amazing di gio’.” Rather, I am referring to age old lines of benevolence directed to the wearied wayfaring, such as, “Hey man, you need a ride?”
- Wolfgang: It was a HOT day and this chap didn’t look too happy to be footing it out of the shopping mall. Wolfgang wasn’t only wet from sweat. He explained to me that “his woman” had thrown her soda on him just as the movie was beginning in the theater. He was courteous enough to put out the half-smoked cigarette before getting in my car. I wonder now if perhaps he was saving it with the express thought of lighting it up as a victory smoke upon arriving at his destination. On a day like that, when a solitary 3 hour hike turns into a 15 minute free cab ride and brush with the poor man’s Dr. Phil,* a man needs some way to celebrate.
- Larry, Curly, and Mo: These fellas weren’t really stooges. One guy was carrying a gas can while the other two were texting – too busy to bonk each other on the heads. I only ended up driving them a mile, but they sure appreciated it nonetheless.
- Kevin: This was a peculiar case, as me driving him home actually took longer than if he had walked. He lived about 100 feet away, but driving around to access his driveway increased our travel time by nearly 200%. We had just met in a thrift store and our bibliophilic connection prompted him to invite me to see his library. When I accepted his invitation, I never would have guessed that we also shared an affinity for Miller Lite 16 ouncers. My wife noted that this visit seemed a little strange, but as with the other instances, it seemed destined.
- Sheila: Read on...
So now I move to the most recent (and probably most bizarre) situation. I rushed out of the house on a Tuesday afternoon in order to deposit some mail in the UPS drop box before the pick-up deadline. I missed my turn for the drop box and made it back to where I needed to be about 7 minutes later than I had planned. Well, my 7 minutes of rambling was an answer to Sheila’s prayer. As I was waiting for a lull in traffic to pull out and return home, a woman shouted at me through my open passenger side window. As far as I could tell it was a simple “get your attention” sort of yell – basically a “hey you!” The woman picked up her pace and headed toward my car, yelling, “Can I get a ride?” I started to ask where she needed to go, but realizing the inconsequence of my questioning as I had already decided to give her a lift, I invited her to get in the car.
Upon entering, the lady told me to where she needed to go. I had a general idea, but was mostly relying on her step-by-step directions to get there. I’m not sure if she would have opened up as she did, telling so much about herself, but it might have been our spiritual connection that came about so quickly that really made her comfortable. As she was remarking how much of a Godsend I was and how good God is, I simply agreed and shared my conviction that I too believed in God’s goodness.
As she continued on with the “problems in the world today” and how so many people focus on worldly things and neglect spiritual things, I somehow squeezed in a request for her prayers. It seemed logical in the context of the conversation, but perhaps I meant it as much as an “Amen sista!” as a request for immediate intercession. But God IS good and Sheila proceeded to cover my hand (the one placed over the gear shifter) with hers and pray, “Dear Sweet Jesus... bless Tony... guide Tony...” I realized then that I was saving my great “Amen!” for the ending of that prayer, which was actually beautiful and right on point.
Following the “amen” I drew Sheila’s attention back to the directions. She gave me the next steps and quickly reverted to other more important things. She talked about marriage and divorce and cheating husbands and dangerous people and corrupt minds. Sheila even went so far as to tell me to “Never pick anyone else up. Especially not black people. Cincinnati is dangerous.”** In order to be clear I asked, “So don’t pick up anyone but you?” To this she emphatically replied, “Yes, that’s right!”
As I was attempting to wrap my mind around all of the advice that she was giving me, save the advice that I needed the most which was how to get her home, she loudly exclaimed, “Follow that car!” As her arm shot up it was as though I was controlled by that forceful command and that pointing finger. In an instant I complied, accelerated, thought, “wait, what?!” and braked hard as traffic stopped. While at the stoplight, the car sat just in front and to the right of us. While I believe the phrase “freaking out” is extremely overused and too widely interpreted, 99% of anyone asked would agree that this woman’s behavior could easily be described as just that. The freak out went something like this: “Oh my God, oh my God! That’s him. That’s my ex. And he’s with her. I have NEVER caught them together before! Oh my God, I can’t believe it! See if you can pull up next to them. He’s the one that I was telling you about. The one that took my baby from me. I can’t believe it, oh my God!”
Oddly enough, I think it might have been Sheila’s own prayer for me (“Dear Jesus guide him...”) that sparked my rational thinking and kept me off of the 9 o’clock news. “A native Cincinnati woman is the only survivor in a car accident/homicide today as she was hitching a ride from a guy she met at the UPS drop box on Clifton Avenue. The woman’s ex-husband purportedly fired several gunshots at the man. The white male driver swerved into the gunman’s car and... Sheila claims that the gunman must have thought the driver, identified as Tony, was her new boyfriend...”
In a moment of grace, I said, “Sheila, I am not going to follow that car. Now, where do you live?” And again, by God’s grace, Sheila snapped out of her “freak out,” gave me the directions, and admitted that “it’s probably better that I don’t see her anyway. Lord knows I don’t need that.” It was a quick transition – thank God. Only 2 minutes later I was dropping Sheila off and making my way home. I was sure to take a moment to say a prayer of thanksgiving, both for not crashing my car and dying as well as for that little bit of adventure.
You can be pretty sure that some lame new pick-up line won’t get you anywhere, but you never know where one of the classics might get you. “Hey bud, you need a lift?”
*I can hardly be considered a “poor man’s Dr. Phil,” but this guy had the material to be a guest on the show and I listened like a champ.
**Sheila herself was a black woman. Can you be racist against your own race? I think she was calling it as she experienced it.
Tony is currently finishing his MBA. He resides with his lovely wife in Cincinnati, Ohio and is kind enough to contribute his humorous perspective in this regular column, Restrained Mirth.