The following is a true story. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. The name of the guilty may or may not have been changed. But let’s assume it has not been changed, just to make it fun. I decided to write about this after my friendship post last week. I hope you find a life lesson, some humor and what real friends will do to help another friend. Enjoy.
I started working for a national bank who has their headquarters here in Columbus in 1992. Not that I wanted to work there, but my divorce and subsequent firing from my ex-husbands family company left me with no money, no place to live, nothing. I went to a temp placement service who placed me in the Insurance department in the AutoLease department of the Indirect Lending division. I knew nothing about insurance for leases. I knew nothing about leases. Or financing. Or appraisals. Or collections. There are stories from my time there that are downright hilarious. But those will have to wait.
I met some of the best people in my life there. Many, many who are still some of my closest friends. But this story revolves around two of them. Let’s call them Bianca and Tatiana. (I can call them that because they’re my made up names and I like those!) Tatiana and I are still besties today. It’s awesome. Bianca and I still see each other every so often, but not as much. I miss her, but as we all know, life gets in the way sometimes.
Tatiana and I met within days of starting at this bank and hit it off instantly. (Hello? We’re still friends over 20 years later!) Bianca started a few months after us and fell right in with us and it was awesome. Everyone I worked with was beyond amazing in helping me through my divorce. Picking me up when I was down, covering for me if I needed to take an emergency lawyer call and allowing me off on the days I needed to be back downtown at the courthouse yet again.
I was starting to get my life back on track to the point that I had my own apartment again, I was paying my own bills, I had food other than store brand mac n cheese in my cabinets. Everything around me, which wasn’t much, was MINE. That’s a glorious feeling for anyone who has gone through a difficult divorce.
And that’s when things get exciting.
Then Tricia calls. (MAY or may not be her real name) She was the girl I was living with and that had been my friend for years. She begins by telling me that she has a great job opportunity for some sales job, but her car just broke down. She’s desperate for a car and I’m her only shot. Can I please please please PLEASE help her? After all…..she DID help me in my time of need.
Sigh……. Bring on the guilt trip and make me feel bad for even thinking of saying no. Before I know what is happening, I hear myself saying, “What do you need me to do?” Excited yips and laughter and thank you and giddiness screech through my phone. She wants me to go rent a car for her, just for 2 days. **2 days** is all she needs to secure the job and get her own car back.
I took her the Hertz rent-a-car place and we find this cute little red Sunfire. As I was signing the paperwork, and handing over MY credit card, she’s hugging me, thanking me, just soooooo excited she’s going to get this for SURE now. We made arrangements for her to drop off the car at the rental car place in 48 hours. Yep. She promises. And she jumps in the car to go.
And **THAT** would be the last time I saw her for 15 years. She was gone. Poof. With a car rented in my name. WIth my credit card that had no more than $500 credit limit on it. That was to be used only in dire emergencies. MY OWN dire emergencies.
I went back to the Hertz 2 days later. She wasn’t there. I called. No answer. I waited. And waited. No Tricia. No little red Sunfire. And the price starts ticking upward.
So what do friends Bianca and Tatiana do? We start brainstorming. What can we do? Call the police and report it stolen? Yes, we could do that. Then the idea strikes us. Let’s see if we can hunt her down and find her. I knew her mom lived in Delaware (Ohio) and maybe she was hiding out up there. We figured we had nothing to lose and decided to go on a stakeout. We knew the color and model and license plate number from the rental papers. I mean, how many red Sunfires could there be??
We decided to go a few days later on a Saturday. Up and down the few main drags in Delaware and what do we see? A red small car. The three of us spin around, follow the car, but not too closely. We didn’t want to tip our hat. Plus, what if it wasn’t her? What if it was the car but someone else was driving? Our hearts were pounding, palms sweating, but we followed the car.
She pulled into an apartment complex and ran up to an apartment and went it. But what she did before then was just sheer luck. She left the drivers side door open and the keys still in the ignition! Seriously? I guess when it isn’t your car, you don’t really care what happens. With Bianca driving her car so we wouldn’t be spotted, Tatiana and I jumped out of her car, into the Sunfire and we took off. I mean we took OFF. I was driving so fast and Bianca was right behind me. We pulled over after a few miles, laughing hysterically, still shaking from our nerves and I’m pretty sure I was hyperventilating.
We decided to pop the trunk and check it out. We found an empty propane tank and a case of Bud Light. Nice. After we got home to my apartment, the Bud Light went in my fridge, the propane tank got exchanged for a full one and I got to return a slightly late, but undamaged rental car. I still had to pay for the week. It took me months to be able to pay that back.
But the thing that bothered me the most, out of everything that happened, was that Tricia never called me to tell me the car was gone. She didn’t know we took it. She didn’t know if it was stolen, or repossessed, or what happened. But that goes to show how much she thought of our friendship. Not only could she steal a car from me, but she could then have it stolen from her and she thought nothing of me.
I ran into her about 5 years ago at a local store. She said hello to me. And I kept walking.