One day last week, I was returning from my continuing job as a temp at the Emerachem company, and I got off I-75 at Sugar Limb Road so that I could stop by the Loudon County Justice Center. My goal was to obtain a burn permit, so that I can turn some dead, lackluster brush that is lying about into ash -- legally.
Several years ago, when Clint Davis lived next door, he was burning some residual brush when a Sheriff's deputy showed up and demanded that he cease and desist. Clint was somewhat perturbed -- but, having not obtained the proper permission from the proper authorities -- he was forced to comply. I do not want to get myself into that kind of situation. This comes from the gift of learning from the mistakes of others that I was completely without in my youth. Now, as a curmudgeonly Old Guy, I pay better attention and apply -- with malice aforethought -- what I have learned.
Thus, I walked blindly into the Justice Center. I first strolled to the bullet-resistant window at the General Sessions Court office, where there was a line of rather young women in front of me who all seemed to be acquainted. One of them would exchange words with the woman behind the glass. They would form a gridiron huddle to make a decision, then the designated representative would announce said decision to the county employee, who would tell them something else. It was like watching Peyton Manning argue with a referee, with his teammates providing cannon fodder. This went on for a few minutes, so I strolled to the other side of the building, and walked into another office, whose name I have forgotten, 'cuz I'm a Guy, and it was unimportant to me.
In the other office, a woman at a desk asked if she could help me. I replied that I hoped she could, and told her of my need for a burn permit. She informed me that I could not get that from anyone there, but that the person with whom she was speaking (sitting there in front of me) worked in the General Sessions Court office, and SHE could provide me with the appropriate phone number of the folks in control of that sort of thing.
So back to the General Sessions office I went, where the young woman wrote two numbers on a Post-It (TM) note and gave it to me. I thanked her for her aid, and headed back outside to my truck, where I SHOULD have gotten in and headed home (foreshadowing, don't you know).
As I inserted my key to unlock my door (yes, Ol' Red is THAT old), I heard a voice that had a distressed intonation attached. I turned, and saw yet another young woman -- across the parking lot -- standing next to a car. She looked straight at me and screamed, "Somebody please help me!"
I looked back into Ol' Red, with his comfortable gray, unraveling vinyl upholstery, sighed heavily, removed my key and began walking toward the girl, the entire time saying to myself, "You're about to get into some shit from which you may not be able to extricate yourself."
As I approached the car in question, the girl inserted herself into the rear seat and disappeared. When I arrived, she was lying face-down, obviously crying. Again, at this point, I could have exited, but my paternal instincts are ugly and strong. My thoughts were along the lines of, "What if this were one of my progeny, and no one stopped to help?" So, I tapped on the glass. She looked, sat up, and opened the door. I asked, "Is there something I can do to help you?"
And she started to talk. Words and sentences tumbled out of her mouth one over another, as if she were completely incapable of stopping, which is a possibility. Some things made a semblance of sense, some, not so much. I'm thinking, "She's high as a kite, and I'm the only person with a semi-clear head within reach." From her long jumble of words, I gathered the following:
She had left her car in the Justice Center parking lot. She got a ride from the person whose car she was currently in to recover said vehicle. Said vehicle was no longer in the Justice Center parking lot. She believed she knew who had it. She had provided sex for said car-thief. She lived in Tellico Village, and she was better than this. She wanted to know if I would take her to find her car.
The answer to that last question -- for those of you who don't really know me well -- was "No." In my head, I saw all of the ugly possibilities: she screams rape; we find her car and the gang of meth freaks around it; she pulls a (gun/knife), which I then have to shove down her throat, then justify said action to the authorities; she rubs all over me and I wreck my truck, then have to explain this to my young bride; etc. She repeatedly announced that she needed someone to help her, so I arrived at what I believed to be a workable solution. I ordered her to look at me; I pointed at the door only forty yards away, and said, "There is the Sheriff's Department. They can help you."
At this point, she started spewing random material again, the gist of which was, no one at the Sheriff's Department could help. She then shut the car door again. I was off the hook. I started back toward my good old, comfortable truck. Then the door opened again, and she said, "Maybe they can help me." So I went back, I positioned her toward the door, and said, "Go there."
She asked, "Will you go with me?"
Holy Jesus on a bicycle, riding backward down an interstate highway! What did I have to do to get away? But I said, "Yes," and she grabbed onto my right arm as if gravity had somehow doubled where she was standing. We walked, and she talked, non-stop.
I got her inside the door, where Sheriff Tim Guider was on his digital phone. The girl was still talking, and now gesticulating wildly. A woman who apparently works for the department came from behind her bullet-resistant glass to see is she could help. I explained as well as I could that I had found the damsel in the parking lot, and she was in some kind of distress. By the time I finished, Sheriff Guider had excused himself from his phone conversation to supervise the proceedings, thank God!
I got the girl into a seat, where she continued to talk, repeating herself vociferously. Sheriff Guider attempted to ask her a couple of questions, from which he received nothing of note or aid. At one point she said something that indicated that I was somehow involved in the trouble. For the record, I don't believe this was purposeful, it was simply more random talk bouncing from the inside of her head onto the walls around us.
The Sheriff turned to me and asked my name, which I provided, clearly and concisely. He then asked how I was involved. I explained that I was not involved; that I had found the young lady in question in his parking lot, clearly under some kind of strain. I was very careful not to imply or suggest any drug use; he's the Sheriff, it's likely he could figure that out without my help. He then turned to the girl, put his hand on her shoulder, and asked, "Young lady, do you know this gentleman?"
She, thank goodness, looked at me and said, "No." Whereupon Sheriff Guider turned to me; I said, "If you need my help, I'll stay and try to help. If you don't need my help, I'd be just as happy to leave." Good ol' Tim expressed his questionable thanks for my aid and said I could go, which was what I had been trying to do for the last fifteen minutes.
Ol' Red was waiting faithfully, with my iPod ready, and my cigar awaiting a re-light. Jackson Browne and I started up and headed for home.
Sometimes meeting new people isn't as productive, or as much fun as it should be.