14 Jun 64%
I was feeling awkward as I addressed the girl sitting across the aisle again, the way I usually felt when trying to talk to girls, but I actually had a reason this time: “Err… Listen, I don’t know how to say this without freaking you out, but I need your help.”
She looked at me sharply and visibly tensed up – I mean what would you expect from a stranger that begins a conversation with asking you not to freak out? You would definitely freak out right away. My only excuse for being such a dumbass is that I was in a state of shock. I nervously sighed, gulped back my fear, than continued talking faster and faster, trying to get my story across before she runs away… Or just tells me to leave her alone.
“Did you see the car accident that happened behind the bus during the last stop? Well, I’m the driver of the car that was rear ended by a semi and crashed into the bushes near the bus stop. I think some bad people are tracking my location and trying to kill me. I am on the run from them. I know it sounds completely crazy and paranoid, tinfoil hat style, but you don’t have to believe me. All I’m asking for is getting me into the subway at the Square One hub. Just the cost of one ticket. I’ll pay you back later today if you give me your contact info. Or you can just get me there and know that you helped someone. If you saw me throwing out my phone into the window you might think I’m a wackjob but you can be sure I’m not just trying to shake a few bucks off you. It was a good phone I just got rid off: fast CPU, Android AI, holo screen, virtual keyboard, glass battery – top of the line. You know I wouldn’t throw it away for no reason. What do you say? Oh, and my name’s Art.”
If there was any hope for me to sound in any way reasonable and believable while saying that, notes of panic in my voice must have killed it for sure. I think I sounded more like a paranoid schizophreniac running away from a mental institution. Come to think of that, it would be a much better strategy to pretend to be an actual paranoid schizophreniac running away from a mental institution – after all, the cost of a subway ticket is a small price to pay to get rid of a mental maniac. I would be guaranteed to get my ride, and the comfort of several vacant seats on all sides. Well, too late.
My carefully cultivated tendency to tell the truth in all circumstances, or at least not to lie unless it’s absolutely unavoidable, had played against me this time. Instinctively, I treat every lie I tell as a step towards the “dark side of the force” (insert your favourite Disney takeover joke here), and telling the truth to yourself and others at least means I’m not going that way. Of course, by itself it isn’t a guarantee that I get to a better place than where I started from – life is a far cry from self-improvement books and motivational speeches, and often as Lewis Carroll has said “it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place”. Still, I thought it was the best bet in life, and usually it paid off. However, as a result I was a terrible liar. A kid in a primary school does a better job of lying about his missing homework eaten by a dog, than I do when I try to sell even a small harmless lie. So I told the truth, albeit not the whole truth as it would sound even crazier.
“Well, I’m Tia and I have to tell you that this is really weird… “ she replied in an unusually rough and throaty voice after an uncomfortably long pause, “You seem like a nice and harmless enough guy to not freak out and kick you in the balls (I didn’t know whether to feel complimented or offended by this questionable characterisation), but I am not in the habit of paying for strangers’ rides, you know… Let me think…”
Ok, that could have been worse. I should consider myself lucky she didn’t just say “no” and switched seats to get as far away from me as the bus accomodations permitted. There was tension in her voice, even a bit of anger I think, but directed inwards, if you know what I mean. It’s like she was trying to be cool and “whatever” but was annoyed with herself for feeling weirded out and uncomfortable.
“OK, you know what?” she said, having apparently settled the internal argument, “I don’t feel right about giving you money, but if you’re going in the same direction I am – you can walk with me through the gates. They are fully automated and made by the lowest bidder, so not very effective. I’ve seen people walk through together. With recent minimum wage increases it’s too expensive to keep an attendant on duty to keep an eye on those things. Apparently it’s too expensive to hire any people now,” she said bitterly; there sure was some personal experience there. She continued, “So all gates are automated, the trains are automated, janitors are automated, even rats in the tunnels are automated – I’m not kidding, you should see those maintenance micro-bots after a month in the tunnels. Ha, even most passengers look like they are automated too. Sure, nobody would mind. So if you want to get through the gate with me, you just have to keep really close, it should work. And if you get caught – it’s your problem and I don’t know you. All right?”
She obviously didn’t have any problems with lying. But I guess that way she just got out of the moral dilemma of either potentially being a victim of a scam of some sort, or feeling guilty for not helping someone in need when she could.
“Thanks!” I said. “If you’re going Downtown I’ll take you up on your offer”.
I guess we get by with a little help from total strangers…