The Bonnie Story

While Nobody in Particular is not really intended to be about me, I wanted to experiment with pages, and so, in order to have something to put on one, I'm posting a tale from back when I was a teenager, lo these many aeons past.

It's come to be known as "The Bonnie Story" namely because when friends of mine who'd heard it wanted me to tell it to friends who hadn't, they'd say "ask to hear 'the Bonnie Story.'" Anyway, here it is. This could be only temporary, until I'm done monkeying with pages and the like, but for the time being, enjoy.

When I was 18, I spent a summer working at a country club not very far from where my mother worked. In fact, one of her co-workers was moonlighting there, which is how I found out about the job in the first place. In any event, I worked the 19th hole every day until late into the evening. The country club also had a banquet hall, and on Friday and Saturday nights there were often parties there.

So one Friday, I was on my way out, heading home, and as I'm rolling down the driveway I see a woman walking along in front of me. Now this struck me as odd, because there wasn't anything worth going to in that particular direction. There was the highway, and then the river, and that was pretty much it. There were homes to either side of the country club, but the locals would simply cut across the course. Which I guess is simply a long-winded say of saying that it was strange to see someone walking down the driveway. So I pulled up next to her, and looked over.

She was a white woman in her mid-twenties, just a bit plump, with thick brown hair and dressed for a semi-formal evening out; and she was a mess. She'd was crying, her makeup was running and her dabbing at her face with Kleenex wasn't helping matters any. She was trying to walk on a surface not designed for pedestrians while wearing heels and so she struggled to keep her balance, which made her seem even more distressed.

"Oh, no - no, no, no, no, no," I could hear the little voice in my head as if it were coming from the car stereo. "Just keep going. Don't get -"

DING! My Good Samaritan impulse kicked in, and I stopped the car and rolled down the window. "What's the matter?" I asked.

"Can you give me a ride home?"

"Where do you live?"

"Rolling Meadows."

I'd never heard of Rolling Meadows before, let alone had any idea of where it was. But this wasn't surprising. One of the things about Chicagoland is that there are a LOT of suburbs - most of them not very large, geographically speaking. And three or four suburbs away in any direction might as well be that big blank spot on the map where Rand McNally gives up and just writes "Here be Dragons." Even when you drive through them, they all sort of blend into one another and you have no real idea where one ends and the next one (or eventually, Chicago) begins if you don't see the signs.

"Okay." I said.

I opened the door, and let the woman in.

Once she was settled in, we started off. At the end of the driveway, I turned North. More out of habit than anything else.

"Okay," I said to the woman. "Where do I go from here?"

"I don't know," she told me.

"You don't know?" I asked. A little voice in the back of my head whispered, "I told you so."

"Well," the woman said, "My boyfriend drove me down here, and I wasn't really paying all that much attention."

"Oh." I tried to be cool about it, but alarm bells were going off up and down. "Okay."

Now, I've never claimed to be a typical guy. The nice thing about this is that I don't get caught up in having to live up to the stereotypes. This freed me up to do perhaps the only intelligent thing I did that evening - stop at the first gas station and ask for directions. (Sadly, this sudden burst of intellect was short-lived.) The gas station attendant was a gregarious, friendly sort, who treated everyone he spoke to (at least me, anyway) as if they were fast friends. If it struck him as at all strange that a black teen was driving around an older white woman, he didn't let on at all.

"Rolling Meadows?" He said. "Oh, that's not very far away. You just head up Route 25 for 7 or 8 miles, until you find Route 62, and then you turn right, and it's about 2 or 3 more miles."

"This shouldn't take long," I said to myself, after I thanked the attendant and we got back in the car. But this was only because it hadn't occurred to me that if Rolling Meadows was that close, I should have known where it was. Okay, so I couldn't have told you the name of anyplace more than four suburbs away. But given that we were starting from the town that I lived in, someplace only 10 miles away was easily within that radius.

As we left the gas station, I learned two things about my passenger. The first was that her name was Bonnie. And the second was that Bonnie watched WAY too much television. As we headed North on Route 25, we started to talk and Bonnie told me her story. It turned out that the party at the country club was for a friend of her new boyfriend, and she had come down with him. It was at the party that she learned that she didn't like the company her boyfriend kept (a little late, to my reasoning), and so she had demanded that he take her home. Bonnie's boyfriend refused. (Given the time they tended to open up the banquet hall on Fridays, they couldn't have been there more than an hour at most.) So Bonnie told him that if he wouldn't drive her home, she'd walk. Her boyfriend (knowing the distances involved) told her to go right ahead. Which she does, just before I enter the picture. (At this point I found myself wondering whose judgment was worse, Bonnie's, or mine.)

Telling me her story was just the beginning. Bonnie was the chatty sort, and she then segued into a series of stories about various people who had accepted rides with strangers, and had later been found dead in a ditch somewhere. It was clear that she was somewhat suspicious of me at this point, and I hadn't helped matters any with our initial conversation. For those of you who don't spend much time on golf courses, the 19th hole usually serves alcohol. So, in order to be able to work in one, you really need to be old enough to drink. Which I wasn't. Now, I'd told Bonnie that I was only 18. She was dubious. It struck her as strange (and when I was older, it struck me as strange) that a place would jeopardize it's liquor license by hiring someone who wasn't of legal drinking age to serve. And, I'd forgotten my wallet at home that day, so I didn't have my driver's license on me. Convinced that I was lying about my age, she was now openly suspicious. For a while, anyway.

Eventually, she tired of speculating about her potential untimely demise at the hands of a stranger (namely me) and started speculating about MY untimely demise at the hands of a stranger. Namely, her.

"How do you know," she asked, after a new series of stories in which drivers were been murdered by hitch-hikers and their cars stolen. "That I won't try to kill you, and take your car?"

I looked over at her, more than a little irritated. (I've been a cranky old man for a long time.)

"Look, lady," I said, bluntly. "You're not wearing your seat belt. One false move, and I'm bouncing your face off the windshield."

Bonnie reached up to her chest, realizing that the lap belt wasn't there.

"Reach for it," I warned. "And you eat glass."

Having reached an understanding that neither of us would attempt to do in the other - at least not while I was driving, we settled into the trip. I was starting to become a bit desperate. We'd long overrun the 7 or 8 miles that it should have been to route 62, and I was in very unfamiliar territory. On top of it the sun was going down, I knew that I was going to be very late getting home and I was in the car with a crazy person.

Bonnie, in the meantime, busied herself with her makeup. Which struck me as strange. After all, I was driving her home (I presumed) and not to another party. I could see removing her makeup because she'd been crying earlier and it was pretty well wrecked, but re-applying it all didn't make much sense to me. In any event, while she was fixing her face in my passenger's seat, I'd finally found Route 62 (nearly 20 miles North of where we'd been told it was) and we were now heading roughly East, and I was hoping that we about done. But when Bonnie finished her makeup, she turned to me and asked "How do I look?"

If you have sons, you mustn't forget to teach them this simple lesson. When a woman goes fishing for a complement, you had better have one. My own father having neglected this little gem of wisdom, I wasn't aware of this rule. And so I told her the truth.

"You look fine," I said. "Except for the fact that your face is a bit shiny from where you've been sweating."

Bonnie went off on me in my own car. At about this point we were driving past a forest preserve and I saw a driveway coming up on my right, and I found myself wondering if I turned onto it, if Bonnie would bother to open the door or just jump out the window. Anyway, she soon calmed down, and just sat there in a huff for a while.

We'd been driving at least an hour, I think, when she finally saw something she recognized. And at this point it occurred to her that I was actually going to go through with this. And everything that she had been feeling up until that point was suddenly replaced with intense gratitude. Much to my dismay. Because I was driving on a road I'd never seen before in my life. At night. In traffic. At highway speeds. With Bonnie leaning across the console of my truck, holding me by either side of my face and attempting to kiss me. That or get us both killed or horribly maimed in a fiery wreck. I wasn't the least bit certain which. All I knew was that I was desperate for a stick, a can of mace, anything that I could use to subdue this suddenly grateful woman before we both died.

Once she'd manage to plant a suitably thankful kiss on my cheek, despite my sudden panic, she let go, and took over navigating. We stopped at a gas station she knew, and gave me 10 dollars for gasoline. (At least I had more gas in the car when I got home than I had when I left.) Then she guided me to her apartment complex, and I dropped her off.

She asked me if I wanted to come up for a while. As I've gotten older, people's reactions to this part of the story have changed. When I was younger, my friends would ask me if I took her up on what was clearly an offer of alchohol. But once I got into my mid-twenties, my friends started asking if I took her up on what was clearly an offer of sex. (And later still, people perceived is as clearly an offer to share drugs.) Either way, I was having none of it. I wasn't convinced that Bonnie was entirely sane, and I knew that somewhere out there was a boyfriend who had his plan to humiliate his girlfriend ruined by my interference, and I wasn't about to take the chance that he might come by while I was still there. I didn't even get out of the car.

But now I had a problem. I didn't know how to get back to Route 62. In fact, I had no idea of where I was. And without the Sun to guide me, I didn't know which way was South or West. So I drove along for a bit until I found myself behind someone who looked like he had a purpose. And I followed him. By a stroke of luck, he lead me back to Carol Stream, where I stumbled across the McDade's store where my mother liked to shop. Once I'd gotten my license, Mother had pressed me into service as her chauffeur, and so I'd made the trip from home to McDade's and back many times in the past couple of years.

By the time I got home, all I knew was that it was late, and I was bushed. I trudged in through the garage door, to find my parents sitting at the kitchen table, doing bills.

"Where," asked my father, "Have YOU been?"

It was a more or less matter-of-fact question. Normally being the sort to always let them know where I was, my parents didn't expect that I'd just take off somewhere on a whim, and so they assumed there was a good reason for me being some two+ hours late coming home from work. So the question didn't have the accusatory, you-have-some-explaining-to-do tone that one might expect a truant 18-year old to get.

I shrugged my shoulders, took a deep breath, and told them the whole story, front to back.

When I was finished, there was dead silence. My parents looked at me, then they looked at each other. Not knowing what else to do, I just stood there. They looked back at me, then they looked at each other. Again, they looked at me, and then they looked at each other. One of them snickered, and the next thing I knew, they had dissolved into peals of laughter.

I stood there, stunned, for a moment. And then, I was so angry I couldn't see straight.

"You - you think this is funny?!" I demanded, watching my parents nearly suffocate themselves.

Later, my mother assured me that they weren't laughing with me - they had most definitely been laughing AT me. Eventually, I learned to be grateful that my parents didn't take me anywhere nearly as seriously as I took myself. At the time, however, I was not amused, and stormed off to bed, followed by the sound of my parents laughing the hardest I'd ever known them to.