The Man Who Taught Me to Keep My Car Doors Locked

Tracey Folly

He said he only wanted a ride by Hans Vivek on Unsplash

I was twenty years old and working at a local convenience store alone every night until midnight. 

There was a regular cast of characters who visited that convenience store every evening. One fellow was nice enough. He often won food stamps playing poker, and he would come into the store to use them. So we spoke often.

It wasn’t anything serious, and we didn’t have a personal relationship. He was just a friendly and familiar face who occasionally lingered for a tad longer than I wished.

After just one month at the job, which felt more like a year, I quit.

I delayed picking up my last paycheck for as long as I could until finally, I needed the money badly enough that I couldn’t delay any longer.

On the night that I stopped by the store to pick up my final check, I ran into my regular customer, the one who frequently won food stamps in poker games. 

I didn’t think much of it when he followed me into the parking lot. After all, there was only one door in and out. If he was done with his purchases, there would be no reason for him to remain inside the store until I got into my car and drove away.

No, it was perfectly normal for him to leave at the exact same time as I did.

We stood outside under the moon, and the stars, and the streetlight for no more than two seconds before he spoke. “Is that your car?” he asked. He pointed at the only car parked in front of the building.

“Yes,” I replied. I was already making the longest strides my short legs would allow as I walked toward the driver’s side door. By the time I reached the driver’s side door, he was already tugging on the handle of the passenger door.

“Is this locked?” he asked.

I barely looked at him as I fumbled my key into the lock. It was a 1982 Mercury Capri; it still had keys and locks, not the fancy key fob I use to open my Volkswagen Beetle today.

“You’re giving me a ride to Providence,” he said.

My car door finally opened in my hand. “I — I can’t give you a ride,” I said.

“Sure you can. I’ll show you how to get there,” he replied. Never once did he stop tugging on the passenger side door handle. “Is this locked?” he asked again.

“I can’t give you a ride,” I repeated. “I’m not.”

He persisted for another minute or so, whining about how it wasn’t far and wouldn’t take me long. Eventually, he accepted that I wasn’t going to give him a ride. He seemed disappointed but not angry.

Nonetheless, I was glad I would never have to see him again.

He was probably a good guy.

Sometimes good guys need rides. He just went about it the wrong way. Making demands and pulling on my door handle didn’t make me any more likely to give him a ride.

No, I wouldn’t have given him a ride if he had asked more nicely. I didn’t really know him, and his destination would have taken me far out of the way. Plus, it would have necessitated my driving on the highway, and I’ve never learned how. It’s city driving for me or nothing at all.

Getting back to my first point. I didn’t know him. I sold him Slim Jims and cigarettes a couple times per week for a month. That’s not a reason to allow a strange man into my car.

In the end, nothing bad happened. But I’m grateful I’d kept my doors locked, or he might have been sitting in my car before I had a chance to say, “No.”

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Writing about relationships online since 2009.

Massachusetts State

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