I attended a party last night and one of the people in the group I was chatting with asked the question, “what is the scariest thing you’ve experienced?” Several people described near-miss car accidents while another talked about a recent skydiving trip.
When the question came to me I decided to share a story of an event from the previous summer. Shortly after the July 4th holiday, I joined several friends on a road trip to New Hampshire for a weekend of camping. One afternoon we came up with the idea to drive to a local watering hole to swim. I piled into the front passenger seat of my friend’s Nissan Altima, while his younger brother hopped into the back seat. Our destination was less than 10 miles from our campsite and as we approached the halfway point my friend, the driver, noticed a young guy hitchhiking just ahead of us. My friend pulled the car over and offered to give the guy a ride. The man graciously accepted and he jumped into the open back seat.
The man, early 20s, clean cut, seemed nice enough. We engaged in the obligatory small talk. Where was he going? How long had he been on the road? He had just finished answering the latter question when my friend noticed flashing lights in the rearview mirror.
“Shit, it’s the cops,” he said.
My friend pulled the car onto the shoulder and we waited patiently for the policeman to approach the car.
“License and registration, please.”
“Can I ask what we’re being pulled over for?” my friend asked.
“I thought I saw open containers in the car.”
The cop stared at my friend’s license for a moment and then shifted his glare first to me then to the back seat.
“Can you all exit the vehicle and join me at the back of the car.” This was not so much a question as it was a polite order.
The four of us assembled at the back of the car and lined up shoulder to shoulder. Our backs faced the ravine.
“Before I search the car is there anything I need to be aware of. If you’re honest, I’ll be lenient.”
The officer stared at my friend first. My friend shook his head. The officer turned his attention to my friend’s brother. He, too, shook his head, as did I when the officer stood in front of me and asked the same question. Then the officer stepped to his right and faced our guest, the hitchhiker.
“And you? Do you have anything you want to bring to my attention before I search the car?”
The stranger looked down briefly and then raised his head and locked eyes with the officer.
“Okay. When you go through my bag in the back seat you will find something.”
My stomach sank. What the fuck?
I turned my head and glared at the young man.
“And I know your first reaction will be to assume it’s Mexican black tar heroin but it’s just regular hashish.”
My knees buckled. Vision blurred. Next thing I know I’m tumbling backward down into the ravine. As my limp body rolled down the gravel embankment all I could think of was how my tiny frame wouldn’t stand a chance in jail. I’d be someone’s bitch by the end of the first day. I’d likely get nicknamed Muffin or Baby Boy. I’m not even that limber anymore. I’m totally screwed.
Mexican black tar heroin? Are you fucking kidding me?
When I came to, I could see the officer and my companions staring down the ravine.
“Oooouch,” I gasped.
It took several minutes for the officer and my friend to release me from the grip of a thorn bush and haul me back onto the shoulder. I think the officer felt as though he put enough fear in me. He confiscated the bag and let us go. I couldn’t believe it. But let me tell you, those few minutes when my body was bouncing down that ravine were likely the most terrifying thus far.
What is your scariest moment?