The Day That Changed Everything

No, I’m not talking about 9/11.

Think about this: if you distilled your life down to it’s most basic parts, down to quite simple moments in time, could you come up with a single moment that your whole life changed?

I can. It happened this way.

1991. I was living in Phoenix. It was very, very hot that year. Not as hot as the previous year, but still HOT. I recall that one day that I actually fried an egg on the sidewalk.

I was working as a sales associate for a major appliance rental center who I choose not to name. Basically, what sales associate meant was “Repo Man“. It was NOT a fun job, by any stretch of the imagination. However, it was close to my apartment, and it was my very first job out of college, so I figured that I would stick with it for a while.

So, on an extremely plain and regular Tuesday afternoon, I was driving the work truck to a location to go pick up a renter’s VCR. From what I recalled, this particular person hadn’t made a payment on the VCR for three weeks. Three weeks was like a magic number for my boss back then; three weeks late, either they pay or we would pick up our rental merchandise. So off I went.

When I got to person’s house, I knocked on the door. Mr So and So, I said, I’m here to pick up the VCR.

The guy came to the door looking surly. I knew that look and really wanted no part of it. In my friendliest, but most professional voice, I asked him if he was aware that his payments on the VCR were three weeks late.

Yes, he replied, looking me directly in the eye.

I then explained that I’d have to pick up the VCR unless he intended to pay on it. I was starting to feel a bit nervous, even though I had done this exact thing before. I asked him where the VCR was at this time, because I need to pick it up. “Ok,” he responded, “I’ll get it.”

He left the room, and returned with VCR in hand.

I thanked him, and told him to stop by the store if he wanted it back, then turned my back. Then I heard an audible *click*. Uh oh.

When I turned back around, there was a gun to my head.

Let me attempt to describe the feeling conveyed by being in a strange person’s house looking at a gun. First of all, you are quite aware that the encounter can go, uh, poorly. My life most certainly did NOT flash before my eyes, which is a feeling that I now find a touch strange. The experience actually was quite similar to the feeling one gets when they have veered off a two lane highway, heading straight for a semi-dense forest, then finding yourself doing a 720 across the highway doing 65 mph in the middle of the night during a full moon in the middle of Central Texas, nowhere close to a populated town that possibly could send someone to save your butt before the car explodes.

We’re talking pee-scared here.

But, since I’m talking to you now, I can tell you this: I talked this gentleman out of shooting me. And he gave me $50 to pay for his back rent.

This encounter, however, gave me the courage to:

1. Get back into my truck and drive to my place of employment.

2. Drop off the $50, my store keys, and resign.

3. Go home, call my landlord and break my lease.

4. Call a friend in Washington D.C., tell her that I would be there in two weeks, and that I hoped that she had room.

That was the day that changed everything. I left Phoenix and was in Washington by September.

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2 responses to “The Day That Changed Everything

  1. Okay, wow.

    I’m not even going to ask how you talked him out of shooting you AND then talked him into giving you money.

    What I will ask is:

    Did you actually fry an egg on a sidewalk? For reals?

  2. Oddly, by the time that I talked him out of shooting me, I recall talking him out of the money, which I was pretty sure that he had anyway (I suspected that he was a fairly prolific drug dealer) was stunningly easy.

    But even in 117 degree heat, it’s still takes time to fry an egg on the sidewalk. For reals.

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