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Living Hell Extra! ================== My Christmas Eve Story, Part Dva -------------------------------- So far? By 11:30 p.m., we're leaving the Duke campus. But before any tun- ing can commence, we pass a young woman standing beside a stalled vehicle at the intersection of Erwin and Anderson. "Do you think we should stop?" asks Ms. Compassion-At-The-Ready. Whip around on nearly deserted street, roll down window, and brake to slow halt. "Do you require assistance?" The cold-looking young woman (tem- perature, not temperament) responds "I don't know what happened... it just stopped." That's an approximation* however, as the dis- tressed damsel dialogues with a thick, Russian-sounding accent and the halting speaking style of a non-native English speaker. Within a half-minute's interrogation, we learn (a.) her car just died (b.) while on her way home and (c.) she doesn't have any friends to call (d.) because they've all out of town and (e.) she doesn't have a cell phone, but (f.) some guy already stopped and said he'd call for help for help. Instinctively, I borrow Sweetie's Public Annoy- ance Device (PAD) and, dialing "911," inform Durham Emergency Com- munications of a "disabled vehicle blocking a turn lane." Describe car and predicament of stranded subject; they advise they'll either send a squad car or contact (Duke) campus police. Sweetie's still asking questions, now about the nature of the me- chanical problem. (She's since exited the vehicle and, like her comrade, is tightly clutched in apparent frozen-ness.) I the San- tamobile into the turn lane behind them, flashers on and, as ex- tracted from the trunk, one orange traffic cone placed a few yards forward. (I keep my feathers numbered for *just* such an emergen- cy...) From the *passenger* compartment, Julie extracts my jumbo, four "D" cell, "Mag-Lite" flashlight slash road rage combat device. The strandee pops her hood (wohoo!) and I scan an imported engine, the specifics of which, I jokingly note, are utterly incomprehensi- ble to me. "Yup, looks like an engine!" (They laugh.) Try igni- tion; there's juice, just no turnover. Probably an alternator not charging-as-it-goes and subsequent, immediate-seeming battery death due to headlight use. (Had similar problem some decades ago driv- ing a short-circuited, stick-shifting, air-conditioned-not VW sta- tion wagon from Huntsville, AL to Morehead City, NC. But that's another story...) Sweetie's *still* asking 'n' advice-ing, now about towing and/or transport options. Then, flashing lights as a Duke police office pulls alongside. (He's not a security guard, though. Like most major universities-- and malls... and private companies...-- Duke University has its own deputized police force.) Story is related between shivers (theirs, not mine) and one of us suggests pushing 'n' rolling into a nearby parking lot. Which we (the men) do and which is conveniently *downhill* from said stalled location. I of- fer a ride, as Da Girl both *appears* to reside relatively close and has not a soul to call other than a cab. (Shall we call you a cab? Okay, you're a cab!) The woman, whose name is related and promptly forgotten, consents without a second thought, appearing *considerably* less concerned about her safety than the logistics of getting home and, later, getting her car repaired. Nonetheless, I joke to the cop "we're from Raleigh, in case she turns out to be a mass-murderer. (He laughs, probably also aware that the majority -- nearly all?-- serial killers are male.) Clear room in cluttered back seat and switch off Santa at Sweetie's request. Ms. Moonlight gets shotgun. I hand Julie the flashlight and whisper "club her, if anything happens." And, thus, thus how Yours Truly and his Duke Chapel-attempted-at- tending companion came to spend the first minutes of Christmas, 2001, as accidental companions to a Russian "Postdoc" for not-so- scenic drive through the (southern) heart of the Triangle's ugly stepsister. We laughed, we tried, trying to make conversation be- yond such horribly stereotypical questions as "how long have you been in the States?" "How do you like North Carolina?" "How do you like *Durham*?" And insipidly so on. (We *did* learn about Moscow's lack of greenery! Wasn't able to work in any favorite lines from "Dr. Strangelove," however. Commie bastards.) And, at our journey's uneventful end, somewhere south of Durham off Al- ston Avenue, complete with offer of "tea" if we wanted to come in- side. No thanks, we smiled, that's probably where the bodies are. Plus, she smelled both of a subtle, sweet perfume and a combina- tion of garlic and onions. And I was getting hungry. To Waffle House! Or, in actuality, home. And to all a good night. Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros
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