By Graham von Carlowitz, Editorial Editor
I recently arrived at the ambiguous age of 22 and, although I have had my license for almost four years now, accepting rides from others is engrained in my nature. Since I was 16, swindling rides has been my foremost forte, next to maybe the skill of wearing exotic socks. Although it may come off as boastful, I am good at getting rides, damn good at it. All it took, I learned, was pretending to enjoy the music my fellow ride-givers played.
This was right around the time “The Dark Knight” was popular, and seeing as though everyone else was a wannabe Batman, I took the high road and likened myself to the Two-Faced Harvey Dent. The comparison flopped when you compared his chiseled chin with my, uh, regular chin, but the multiple identity facet was spot on.
In the morning, my ride to school would rap along with Lil Wayne and all his disciples while I hurriedly looked up the lyrics on my phone in secret, nodding my head the entire time. By nights, well, that’s when I had to be really flexible, really two-faced.
The trick to securing a ride home is appearing like a guy who would listen to the potential ride-giver’s playlist. So all I really had to do was dress the part, and thanks to a comfortable variety of hand-me-downs from five brothers, I was endowed with all the necessary supplies.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I pulled out the quirky sweaters that my quirky friend Dan would appreciate. One look at the wool piece fitted for a 12-year-old and the two of us zoomed off in his shitty Pontiac to listen to Twenty-One Pilots.
Music for him was mainly background noise. Thus my conversation skills flexed as Dan and I would delve deeply into the extraterrestrial and existential, which largely consisted of talk that I “so badly wanted to try shrooms or ecstasy.” When offered to do so on the weekends, however, I thought only of my ride pattern and, as far as I knew, Fridays weren’t Dan’s days.
“Sorry man, I got family stuff.”
If I actually had family stuff, they would be the ones giving me rides. But Dan was too distracted by his weekend plans to think of that, and I was too busy considering ride possibilities.
On Mondays and Wednesdays, a jock/sporty look was required for Austin, my football teammate and longtime ride-giver. In his Jeep Liberty, we’d jam out to heavy rock music and occasionally country, but singing along was never required. Somehow, I got through the weeks without much trouble.
The only issue was keeping my plural personalities separate, but I’d been doing my own laundry for months at that point. I could separate lights from darks in my sleep and segregating the fitting attire was no different.
Fast forward four years and I’m still in the ride-getting habit. I wouldn’t say it’s due to laziness, though I must say, not coming up with a more interesting name for “ride-getter” and “ride-giver” is wholly unacceptable. I just don’t feel comfortable straying from what I know, you know?
Last winter, my oldest brother brought me back to my comfort zone — at least for a little.
On our way back from a wrestling meet with my girlfriend (not the wrestler, thank God), my brother Kyle got off at the nearest Starbucks exit.
As he left me in the car, I began to think back on how many times I had to wait for my ride-givers, unsure of how I would occupy myself. Normally their cars were littered with receipts for prescriptions — always interesting to read — or simply littered with leftover fast food crap, my afternoon snack.
To my growling stomach’s dismay, Kyle is a healthy human and sees fast food for what it truly is: a heart attack. Thus I was relegated to the passenger seat and could only look at the lesser-known neighbors of Starbucks.
At first I couldn’t quite comprehend the reviling title: OWL Cleaners? I’m fine with taking your dog to be cleaned at a vet, but this place didn’t seem to be veterinary-certified. Also, owning an owl is illegal. Even a taxidermied hooter. Illegal. With this in mind, I was quick to judge the man walking inside.
What he wore is unimportant and I don’t remember, anyhow. What was memorable about this lad, though, was his ostensible status as a phony. Just then, I was pretending to enjoy whatever nonsense my brother had on the radio while wearing his jacket in exchange for a ride. I’m a phony through and through; spotting my despicable counterparts is like first nature at this point.
The man, entirely unsure of what the hell he was doing at an Owl Cleaning store, gave himself away by completing a double-take — twice — with his apprehensive eyes searching the empty parking lot. Yet, when our eyes met, I was struck with a shock of sympathy. I’ve been there, opening doors under false identities.
But this wary owl-owner gave me hope. Perhaps that was my future-self. Perhaps I could become the kind of person that not only illegally owns an endangered pet, but one who is willing to admit this crime in public for nothing more than a free ride. Perhaps I have a future.