My number one goal today is to find a story. Stories aren’t hard to find when there are groups of people milling around.
I call my dad and finally accept his offer to attend the annual auto show. He agrees to pick me up in a few minutes.
“Thanks for driving, dad.”
“No problem, Abby. What made you change your mind about coming today?”
“I think my mental well of stories is running dry. I hope the auto show will have a few I can use.”
Dad honks the horn as we park in front of my sister’s apartment complex, the final addition to our group. She scowls as she walks toward the pickup.
“You could have called instead of honking.”
She waves her cell phone in the air.
“But then I wouldn’t have pissed off your neighbors.”
Dad honks the horn again for good measure. My sister ignores him popping a stick of gum in her mouth as my dad, brother and I settle in for the short drive to the convention center.
“Geez, nine dollars for parking?”
I punch my brother in the shoulder.
“Quit complaining it’s going to be worth it.”
“Glad I’m not paying.”
Obediently we follow the line of cars into the dark abyss of the parking garage. Dad boots us out of the car so he can squeeze into “the perfect parking spot.”
The light above the elevator beckons. At first, we are the only passengers but the operator keeps the doors open as person after person joins our group. I feel my stomach tighten.
“Oh dear, we're gonna die.”
That’s the first time I see him. He glances at me after my outburst and looks away smiling. The doors open the crowd parts for me to be the first to exit. I survived! I almost skip to the ticket counter.
“Twelve dollars, please.”
I hand the clerk my credit card while my dad and siblings sort out who is paying for whom. We go to the next line and wait for the show to open. I scan the crowd and listen for interesting conversations. Elevator guy is to my left talking with his friend. I nudge my sister.
I should have known she wouldn’t acknowledge my fear of human interaction. I’m an observer by trade and distrustful by nature. I’m here to find a story to write, that is all.
“He might be interested.”
“Perish the thought!”
My sister is always trying to set me up. I think she wishes I would return the favor.
I surrender my ticket and pause for the stamp on my hand alerting all staff that my presence is allowed.
The crowd surges ahead to an exhibit marked The Tumbler Experience. Ooh’s and ah’s erupt from the audience as the vehicles power through the course. I nudge my sister again.
“That looks like fun.”
She nods and helps me corral my dad and brother, and we sign up for a ride.
The line stretches the length of seventeen Tumblers so I listen again for story leads.
“Elevator guy is in line too.”
My sister rolls her eyes and snaps her gum.
“You’re probably going to see him a lot since we’re in a building.”
I pretend to watch the vehicles on the course. I’m irritated my sister isn’t taking my situation more seriously.
“Sorry there’s only room for three at a time.”
The employee smiles as they usher my family into the giant rig and wave me away.
I step back in line.
“You can ride with us.”
I turn to see elevator guy behind me.
“Yeah, you can have the front seat.”
Elevator guy’s friend added.
The next monster truck pulls up, and I climb in the front seat.
“Welcome to the Tumbler experience.”
I smile politely at our driver/salesman and promptly ignore the rest of his pitch as we edge forward in the course.
The first station jostles me side to side. Elevator guy snickers.
The next station leans the vehicle practically on its side. Elevator guy and his friend chuckle.
I grab the door handle as we drive up the steep incline. Elevator guy and his friend laugh freely.
I pry my hand from the handle when we reach the ground again. The car stops and another employee opens the door.
“Did you enjoy your ride, miss?”
I jump to the ground and walk to the exit. My sister smiles as I approach.
“Hold my purse? I need to go to the bathroom.”
I take the purse and lean against a display advertising free rock climbing. I look at my dad and brother.
My brother and dad give me identical looks of disdain.
“Watch my stuff then.”
I sign another waiver and the climbing safety gear is snapped into place.
Elevator guy taps me on the shoulder.
My stomach drops.
I grab the first hold and pull myself up. Milliseconds later elevator guy pushes the button at the top of the wall. A siren announces his climbing prowess. I finish climbing and press my button and look down. My sister is beaming as she takes a picture of me with her phone. Elevator guy gives me a thumbs up.
I nod and rappel to the ground. I snatch my belongings from my brother, and continue my tour of the auto show.
My dad and brother were captivated by the entrails of an electric car while my sister and I make a beeline a convertible Mercedes. I open the driver’s side door.
“Want to get in with me?”
“Don’t mind if I do.”
Was the answer from elevator guy.
“Let’s go to the mountains or the beach.”
I look at the door panel. There is no sign of a door latch.
“I don’t think this is a mountain-type car.”
I run my hand along the door panel in vain for the handle to release me.
“Okay, the beach then. This is a great car, don’t you think?”
“If only the door handles were visible.”
I finally find the latch and open the door hastily.
My sister was nowhere to be seen. I fold my arms and stalk to another car display. Elevator guy's friend approaches and observes.
“This is the coolest car ever.”
“Really, that's nice.”
“Where did you go?”
“You were talking to that guy.”
“Not by choice. I was inviting you to sit in the car with me, not him.”
My sister smiles and then blows a bubble.
We explore the final displays of luxury cars without story to be found among them. I give up and follow my family to the elevator.
I check the other passengers. Elevator guy isn’t here. The elevator doors close and open again after a short ascent. The parking garage welcomes us with exhaust fumes and echoing racket. The coast is still clear. My dad pushes his key remote to locate where we parked. He keeps pressing the button making the truck honk repeatedly. I hurry eager to safe from further chance encounters.
“That was a great show, don’t you think?”
So much for safety.
“Are you doing anything later today?”
Where is this guy getting the impression, I want anything to do with him?
“Sorry I’m busy.”
He follows me to my dad’s truck.
“I think we have a lot in common. Let’s find out.”
My family watches as I squirm.
I see my chance to escape and seize the business card from his outstretched hand. He smiles and walks away.
“That guy has cajones.”
“Whatever dad let’s go, please.”
My dad looks at me, raises his eyebrows and laughs.
“I think you have your story.”