I never thought about my own mortality when I was younger--say, at age 20 when my friend Rosa and I loaded up her canary yellow Dodge Challenger and drove to Canada with nothing but a road map and some money.
This included no hotel reservations.
In Toronto (which, when you drive 90 miles an hour, is only four hours from Cleveland) we couldn't find one single hotel. We drove, drove, drove around in circles and finally found an utterly cool, very old hotel called The Lord Simco. Coincidentally, I'd stayed at the same hotel at age 10 when my sister took me to Canada as a birthday present. Rosa and I probably booked the last available room in the whole city.
The following morning we met a guy on the street, a total stranger who swung open his car door and offered to "show us the sites."
I know, right?
Naturally this was before all the CSI shows. We were young and trusting and naive, and simply amazed by this perfect stranger's unbelievable generosity. It must be a Canadian thing, we decided. So yes, we went with him, and..................
..............he drove us around for a couple of hours, showed us the city, we talked and joked, and thanked him profusely when he dropped us back off where he'd picked us up.
And did not think twice about it.
Then we drove up to Montreal. Neither of us knew a word of French other than oui and non-. Rosa spoke German and Yiddish. I barely passed Spanish with a C- in ninth grade. Again, no available hotel rooms (this was August). But this time there was also no Lord Simco awaiting us.
We drove...and drove...hitting one hotel after another. No luck. Plus we were at a disadvantage because of the language barrier, and the fact that yeah, at our age we had limited funds. Finally we stopped in a parking lot and sat there, at loss. And just as we decided we might as well sleep in the car, we heard a knock on the hood.
Three Indonesian guys, whose spoken English was a tad better than our French, beckoned to us. "You lost? You hungry? You got no place to stay? We take you to dinner! You stay with us, at Y.M.C.A. You American, right? We take good care of you!"
I know, right? So..............
............Rosa and I got out of the car and climbed in with the guys. Yes, we did, I swear to God. They drove us to an Asian restaurant and paid for our dinners and drinks. Afterward, they drove us back to our car and instructed us to follow them to the Y.M.C.A. "Only eight dollar a night!"
So we followed the trio. Yes, we did. The Y.M.C.A. turned out to be an ancient stone building, and creepy as hell: riddled with bugs, no window screens, and a community shower room/bathroom at one end of the very dark, very dingy hall.
The Indonesian guys hovered--they were all a bit lit, as were we--and very flirty. The person at the desk (who thankfully spoke English) informed Rosa and me that it was "against the rules" to share a room. Period. So, like, how did they enfore that? Make room checks with a flashlight they way we do at work?
Well, there was no way in hell we were going to sleep apart in this dungeon. We paid for two rooms and walked (no elevator) up to a third floor room.
The dudes followed us up. They also followed us into the room.
One skinny single bed, a screenless window that bordered a roof (yeah, Pierre the Ripper could pop right in--funny we didn't think of this when we were tooling around Toronto with a perfect stranger) and a single bare lightbulb dangling from a cracked and stained ceiling. This is movie stuff, folks. Rosa and I exchanged looks of horror. Suddenly sleeping in the car didn't seem like such a bad idea.
"OK," we told the Indonesian guys who, by this time, were getting a bit, um, aggressive? "You can go now. Thanks for dinner, blah, blah, blah..."
"No, no! We stay! Keep you company, yes?"
"No. You GO! We're fine. Thanks a lot, uh, thank you, yes...you can go...byeeeeee!"
They proceeded to argue. "No! We have fun!" One counted off: "See? Two girls. Three boys. We have extra boy! Ooh, one of you LUCKY!"
No. Lucky was the fact that the guy in Toronto didn't rape and murder us both and leave us in a ditch behind Casa Loma. Lucky is NOT the fact that we are trapped in a dinky flophouse in a foreign county with 3 horny Indonesians.
"Oh, but we are so tired!" Rosa and I pleaded. "Go guys go to your own room and let us get some sleep and we'll meet you in the morning."
"Yes, for breakfast?"
"You promise? You will meet us? We will have fun tomorrow?"
"We promise, we promise!"
It took a bit more prying (like 30 more minutes) but we finally got them to--reluctantly--leave our room. Needless to say, Rosa and I barely slept, and it wasn't just because the two of us were crammed into a single, smelly, suspiciously stained bed.
At five a.m. we jumped up, dressed, grabbed our stuff, snuck downstairs, checked out, and SCRAMMED!
Then we drove to Quebec City, and ....
What idiots we were.