In a strange city and state, I had to get across town to my hotel. Instead of hoofing it to the metro or hailing a cab, I called for an Uber. There is comfort and perhaps an undeserving sense of trust placed in that which is familiar. Uber worked flawlessly at home, and it would work here in this foreign land of six lane roads and sidewalks full of well dressed professionals.
My countrified sensibilities remained in a state of awe as I waited for my ride. Even the people of the streets, pushing a shopping cart of bags or shaking a cup of change at tourists, looked like dressed down professionals in hand-me-down designer jeans and scuffed brand name tennis shoes. They eyed me suspiciously, recognizing an imposter in their city.
When a car with a U in the back window pulled up, I jumped in without hesitation. A sharp smell of body odor mingled with Mexican food. It shocked my senses but I was so relieved to be rescued from the street, it didn’t matter.
Bad smells can be a warning of trouble to come. Like smoke before a fire, an odor that offends or repels can be a wordless message of danger, especially if accompanied with an uneasy gut feeling. However, as a person conditioned not to be rude or inconvenience others, I closed the door behind me and it locked with a click.
I was alone, locked into the backseat of a stranger’s car with a dying cell phone. The man drove silently into traffic and I considered my options. He was either going to take me back to my hotel and drop me off, as requested, or off to a secluded location to kill me. Those were the only possible two scenarios: death or delivery.
A few miles miles later, the man drove past my hotel, and I grew hysterical.
“Let me out!” I demanded.
I took off my seatbelt and prepared to jump and roll at the next stop light. We were on a busy road, but I didn’t care. I desperately regretted my lack of discretion as it led to my current state of kidnap/abduction. My worst fears were in the process of happening.
The man fumbled with the gps on his phone and blanked out the screen. Now, no one knew where we were and my phone was seconds from dying. I hoped it would send out a final signal with our coordinates that the FBI could recover when retracing my steps.
Then the man pulled a u-turn, speaking for the first time to apologize, and dropped me off right in front of the hotel. And that was it, the end of what I thought was to be my last ride. It ended as quickly and unceremoniously as it began.
Could the little voice in my head have been wrong?
I have since returned to the Midwest and had time to reflect. My intuition was not wrong, it warned me that something was wrong. It helped to raise my adrenaline and put me on high alert. Perhaps, the outcome would have been different if I didn’t notice our missed turn or been ready to duck and roll. Road rash was to be a minor sacrifice for the continuation of my life.
The time to be assertive and brave is when that voice speaks. Put trust in that little voice, trust the feeling in your gut, most of all, trust yourself.
Fire doesn’t always have to follow smoke.