Alex Teach Image
So the guy jumped out of the car while it’s rolling and he broke left while the car continued straight, which unfortunately was downhill on the side of a dark, grassy hill in the TVA recreation area on the north side of the Chickamauga Dam. As best I recall, there’s nothing down that hill but some large trees and the mandatory “scary even in the daylight” cinderblock restrooms, but I doubt even George Michael would be in there at 4 a.m. and that’s the thought I went with. (Unless you’re a “Wham!” fan, back off. I had half a second to think it through.)
Being the more rational (or at least more practical) person between my client and I, I didn’t see a need to get out of my own car just yet. So I veered left and followed my customer at a much slower rate, and I took a second to wonder what his goal was in that little stunt. People bail, stopped or not, in wooded areas, neighborhoods, mall parking lots…heck, anywhere but an open field. Maybe he was new to crime? I had plenty of time to consider this as I was now following a felonious jogger, but rather than continue pondering the “if’s,” I thought I’d just ask him directly.
“WHY DID YOU LEAVE YOUR CAR, SIR?” I said over the P.A. system. He glanced over his left shoulder and actually mouthed something, but I could not hear what it was; I only saw a puff of breath caused by the chill night air. (It wasn’t freezing outside, but the dew on the grass was starting to go from “slippery” to “slippery and icy.”) He had answered me. Interesting.
“I’M SORRY, I DIDN’T CATCH WHAT YOU SAID,” my P.A. blared. “IT JUST SEEMS KIND OF WEIRD THAT YOU JUMPED OUT OF YOUR CAR LIKE THAT.”
Another hasty glance, another unintelligible puff of air.
“I’M JUST NOT HEARING YOU, SORRY. I’M GUESSING THAT WAS NOT YOUR CAR? DID YOU JUST CHANGE YOUR MIND OR SOMETHING? I’M A FORD MAN, MYSELF.”
He hadn’t slowed down or changed course, and I continued to keep him framed in my headlights, his gray T-shirt producing a “U” of sweat just below the collar, and his cargo pants were billowing in the wind.
“LISTEN DUDE, WHERE ARE YOU GOING? I CAN GIVE YOU A RIDE, IT’S COOL,” I said. The open field really let my amplified voice carry, and at this he turned to look back again and I could just see that his left unshaven cheek was crooked up on one side enough to cause his left eye to squint above it, as if he had just said the word “What?” to an absurd question. At that precise moment, he tripped and flew forward towards the ground like a poorly secured surfboard being launched off of the roof of a car that just came to a sudden halt. It was kind of amazing.
He landed without grace, his feet pigeon-toed and his arms doing nothing to break his fall. “OOOHHHH!!!” I cried in mixed awe and sympathy, and gently applied the brake to pop out and bag my prey. I was already congratulating myself on my cleverness when I discovered that I was not, in fact, stopping. “AH, SHIT,” I said to planet Earth. (The P.A. was still in my hand, button depressed.)
The slide went on for hours, days, weeks, it seemed…and the bottom of his feet got larger and larger, until I couldn’t see them anymore over the hood of my extremely noncompliant cruiser in the short, wet grass. “Ah, shit,” I repeated…but this time, unamplified.
The car finally stopped, as cars tend to do, and I jumped out to see if this guy was dead or not. I rounded the front of the car to see him only partially run over and asked if he was OK.
“Please,” he muttered, “please stop talking to me.”
“Weird!” I said. “Everybody says that to me. Let’s get you out of there,” and I grabbed his hands to un-wedge his ass from my Vic’s oil pan.
I cuffed him just as another squad car finally arrived and asked him, “You are not a George Michael fan, I’m guessing?” He canted his head in confusion like a puppy, and asked the approaching cop, “Can you please, please ask him to stop talking to me?”
The other officer smiled. “Everybody says that to him. Let’s get you out of here.”
He began to cry. We got out of there.