The last month of my senior year of college, I decided to make money on a weekend trip home. I posted my planned journey on a website two weeks out, and two people messaged me wanting a lift. The one agreed on $10 for me to drop her in Richmond, and the other, who we'll call "Pip," agreed on $20 for me to take him to Virginia Beach. Plus, my dad would probably give me gas money, so I was gonna make out like a bandit. Ka-ching, ka-ching.
Slightly before this trip, I had committed to graduate school in Richmond and created a roommate profile on another site. The weekend before the trip, a potential roommate messaged me asking if I'd be interested in meeting and seeing his place. I said yes and figured I could drop off the first person and I'd just tell Pip he needed to find another ride and he could keep his $20.
"Hi, Pip," I wrote. "I'm really sorry, but I have to stop in Richmond now. I can no longer give you a ride. Best of luck finding another ride."
I gave him a full five days' notice. I don't feel like I backed him into a corner.
On Tuesday, Pip replied to me: "Hi, Cazey," (actually I don't think he used the comma), "I don't have a ride for this weekend, and my parents can't come get me. I'm desperate."
"Hi, Pip," I wrote back. "I have to stop and see an apartment owned by someone I don't know at all. I'd rather not also bring along another total stranger. I'm trying to make a good impression here, you know?"
I considered suggesting he could tag along and sit it out in a coffee shop, but that sounded rude. I wasn't going to write that.
But poor Pip replied with that exact suggestion: "Cazey, I'm desperate. I'll do anything. I have to see my mom; she's making me baklava. What if you dropped me off at a Starbucks while you saw the apartment?"
Me: "That could work. It shouldn't be more than a 30-minute detour, and Google Maps says there's a Starbucks five blocks away. But it's still $20."
Take it or leave it, Pip.
Pip: "My mom is so happy! See you Friday!"
I picked Pip and my other passenger up that Friday. I collected my money and we set sail. The one passenger sat silently in backseat with headphones in. Pip sat shotgun and controlled the radio. He turned out to be a bushy-eared freshman who also wore his khakis too high and referenced his mother's opinion far too often. His affection for Disney was also unreal. Thankfully, he didn't play the Fantasia soundtrack, but he detailed the five Disney cruises he had been on and narrated his hopes and dreams for his upcoming return to Disneyworld as we drove east.
Once I dropped off the first passenger, Pip and I went over the plan. He would sit still at this Starbucks while I met my potential roommate and saw the place. I would be back in under an hour.
Once he was off my hands, I called the potential roommate. I parked my car and walked up to the place. I immediately knew this was the place for me: A row house within walking distance of Starbucks, several bars, and running paths. And inside, I found the apartment to be fully furnished.
Me: "Is this all your furniture? What would I need to bring if I moved in?"
Roommate: "I own everything here. You'd just need to furnish your room and maybe bring a bookcase for the parlor."
Me: "I'll take it."
Roommate: "Maybe we should get to know each other first. Want to walk somewhere and grab dinner? You aren't in a rush, are you?"
Me: "A rush? Not at all."
It's not like I had a hostage waiting in a Starbucks a half-mile away.
Of course I kept checking my phone for the time, but I warned Pip it could be an hour. We walked to a place a mile away. The roommate asked if I wanted sit-down or takeout. For Pip's sake, I opted for takeout.
While the roommate went to the restroom, I tried texting Pip an update. But, naturally, I've left an integral detail out of this story: My phone had been experiencing dodgy service all week. I watched as my text to Pip lifted off, continued up, and did not break the send barrier. When the roommate returned, my phone still read, "Sending..." I put my phone away as to not appear rude.
Roommate: "So how was your drive down here?"
Me: "Great! There wasn't much traffic."
Roommate: "Did you do it alone?"
Me: "Funny that you ask. I had a passenger. I dropped her off before this; she lives in Richmond. So let's get to the meat of it: what are you looking for in a roommate?"
Roommate: "How clean are you? What do you do for fun? Are you in a relationship?"
Me: "My ancestors arrived two centuries ago from Germany and Norway. Don't blame them for WWII, please. Etcetera, etcetera. I'm really type A, so I'm rather clean, but what mess I do have is kept to my bedroom."
Roommate: "How often do you vacuum?"
Me: "Can I have multiple choice options?"
Roommate: "Should roommates be friends or just roommates?"
Roommate: "Do you do drugs?"
Me: "Do you do drugs?"
Roommate: "Would you be opposed to a background check?"
He didn't ask that. But he did ask if I had any questions.
Me: "Are you an introvert or an extrovert?"
Roommate: "I don't know."
Behind him I saw the sun had set. Fork.
Me: "Why don't we walk back?"
I pulled out my phone to see I had five texts from Pip and my own text was still sending. The repeated message was,
"WHERE ARE YOU?"
I checked the time. It had been an hour and 45 minutes since I dropped Pip off.
Roommate: "Is anything wrong?"
Me: "No, not at all. I just have a bunch of messages I need to reply to. Well, it was so nice meeting you! I'll see you on move-in day."
Once the roommate was out of sight, I phoned Pip. "Hi, hi! How's Starbucks? I know it took a tad longer than anticipated, but I'm coming to get you."
Pip: "The Starbucks closed. I'm on the sidewalk outside of it."
Me: "Are you serious? Oh. Okay. You are. I'll be there in two minutes. How long have you been on the sidewalk?"
In the car, Pip - looking more like a ghost than his usual Eagle Scout self - announced how happy he was to see me. "I knew you wouldn't leave me here," he said as if to reassure himself. "I already called my mom and said we'd be an hour and a half later than expected."
Me: "Perfect. Do you need food? I left you there so long."
Pip: "I grabbed a meal at Starbucks."
Me: "Well, thanks for waiting." Not that you had much choice. "And I'm sorry my texts never went through. My phone's been acting weird."
Pip: "No problem! I'm just so happy you didn't leave me here."
The rest of the ride was uneventful. I dropped him off at his home, and his mom - the infamous mother - waved at me from behind the glass door. I waved and backed out of the driveway.
At the stop sign to exit his neighborhood, my phone beeped. I had a new voicemail. From Pip.
Had he left something in my car?
I played the message: "Hi, Cazey. I'm just sitting here in the Starbucks, and I was wondering where you are. You said it wouldn't be over an hour, and it's 8:30 now, and I don't know if you're coming back. The Starbucks is closing soon. I don't know where to go. Please call me back. I've called my mom, and she said she'll come get me if you've left me here. But you still have my stuff in your car. So please call me back. I'll wait outside the Starbucks when it closes on the sidewalk. Please let me know how long it will be, or if I need to call my mother, or if you've left me. Okay, please call me back."