This is a story that I used to tell my sixth and seventh graders towards the end of the school year in June when Star tests were over and I had nothing left to teach them grade level, math curriculum-wise. As evidenced by this tale of my past, I sought to further their educations in a markedly different way than most normal teachers.
Good morning, everyone. Good morning, Mr. Picetti.
What would you guys say if I said that I was going to tell you a story today? Would you be cool with that? Yay! Woo hoo! Is this going to be on the test? (Seriously, I heard that comment).
All right, settle down. All you have to do is listen and enjoy.
Many years ago, when I was a younger man in my early twenties, I lived in the city of San Francisco. I earned my living at a small company named Continental Glass and although I would eventually make my employment at the store in the City’s Mission District, for two months during my probationary training period, I commuted across the Bay Bridge every day to the Oakland shop. Even though my commute was in the reverse direction (more folks were driving into the City from Oaktown in the morning than the converse), it still, for lack of a better word, sucked.
After weeks of enduring butt-numbing (he he) traffic jams, I began to actively seek out alternative methods of getting myself to work other than driving solo. Buses were out of the question (too many transfers), BART was out, too (not close enough to my ending destination), as was a Star Trek transporter device (come man, it hasn’t even been invented yet). (He, he. I don’t get it; what does he mean? Shut up, dude).
The only slightly viable option was to carpool and even that was tenuous at best considering I didn’t personally know anyone who lived in The City AND worked in Oakland. I was about to abandon all hope for a shared commute and access to the two or more person carpool lane when I happened upon an interesting article in the SF Bay Guardian newspaper which described an innovative rideshare/carpool service. Apparently, folks who wanted a ride to a particular city would gather and line up at a certain location in town and people going to that city would drive by and pick them up and off they would go. I found the address of the Oakland-bound pick-up gathering spot and decided to give it a try the following morning.
When I drove up to the meeting place that next morning, it became abundantly clear to me that I wasn’t the only person who read the article because not only was there a long line of ride seekers,there was an equally lengthy line of ride providers, as well. The smile on my face grew larger as my two-door Buick Regal and I inched towards the front of the line of eager ride-sharers.
My car hadn’t been in park for more than two seconds when my right-hand side door was swung open by my soon-to-be passenger. Dressed in filthy blue jeans and a stained, thread-bare white t-shirt, my new commute buddy appeared to have misplaced his shaving razor a few weeks ago. His face and hands were as dirty as his clothes and his hair was oily looking and uncombed. (Eww). Simply put, he was a police sketch come to life.
He paused for a second as he entered the car. Without a word, he leaned down, grabbed and, with considerable effort, hoisted an enormous green duffel bag up and casually tossed it onto the backseat of my car. The bag landed with a dull thud on the faux-leather seat as the passenger door slammed closed. His first words to me were, “Come on, man, let’s go.”
Without a second thought, I began to drive down the street towards the freeway on-ramp. I stole a sideways glance at my co-pilot and I decided not to judge him until I got to know him. I figured the best way to get to know someone is to speak with them so I asked him his name. A terse and raspy, “It’s none of your business,” was all I received from him. (Wow).
Okay, I thought to myself, maybe he’s not the most social guy in the world. Perhaps I could ask him something about his job. The response to my what do you do for a living query: “It’s none of your business.” (So uncool). I agree, so uncool, but what could I do. If he doesn’t want me to know his business, who am I to force him to talk about it.
By now, I could see the Bay Bridge traffic looming before me so I took a peek into my rearview mirror in order to make the move to the diamond/carpool lane. As my gaze was about to revert back to the front of the car, I thought I spied something in the backseat moving. No way, I thought to myself, nothing’s moving back there. By the time I had convinced myself that all was well and all I had to do was confirm as much by looking in the mirror again, I saw something inside the bag move. (Eww, creepy). Nervously I asked my passenger, you know, that’s a pretty massive bag you’ve got back there. What’s in it? His response was a cold and emotionless, “It’s none of your business.” (Oh my).
I maneuvered my car into the uncrowded carpool lane and for the first time, I began to worry a bit about my immediate future. As I drove along, I considered taking a different tact with this guy. In my most pathetic and shaky sounding voice (which wasn’t an act, btw), I pleaded with my commuting partner to be reasonable and tell me what the heck was in that huge, body-sized duffel bag. As if on cue, the bag began to move and tremble more than it had the first two times. I begged him to tell me what was in it. He turned and faced me and through gritted teeth, “It’s none of your business.” (No way, Mr. P, please stop).
I drove the next few miles on the bridge in absolute, terrified silence. As I took the first possible exit that I could off of the freeway, I made the conscious decision to no longer be scared of this guy. I told him, no, I screamed at him, that since I was driving and therefore responsible for both the passengers and contents in the vehicle if I was to be pulled over by the cops, I demand to know what the hell is in that bag. Honest to goodness, the bag shook and convulsed so much, it fell off the backseat and onto the floor. (Oh my god. Gasp). In a voice that matched the volume and intensity of my last verbal barrage, my passenger said, “It’s none of your business!”
Well, that was all I could take. I slammed on the brakes in the middle of the street and told him to get out of my car. As the car door opened, I gave him a huge shove and he tumbled out onto the pavement. (Yay). I jumped on the accelerator and sped away from him. The end.
(Pause for about thirty seconds of processing time).
What about the bag, Mr. P?
What about the bag, it was still in the backseat.
What was in the bag, Mr. P?
What do you mean, what was in the bag, kids?
WHAT WAS IN THE BAG, MR. P?
It’s none of your business.
They were so mad after I told them that story but I guarantee you that they all tried to tell someone else that story later on. That’s what happened to me. And likely you, too.
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