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.