At $2.98 per gallon, counting the 12 gallons I’d just put into my small sedan and the additional five gallons pooled around my ankles, I’d spent a mere $51 on gas. In retrospect I should rejoice that this mishap occurred some seven years ago before gas prices nearly doubled in Chicago. It was Thanksgiving day and my Facebook pen pal turned late night phone comrade had finally become a real live acquaintance. He was a Senegalese international student by way of Paris, by way of Connecticut. He spoke French, a bit of German, the traditional language of Wolof and of course English. If his mirage of linguistic talents wasn’t enough to catch my interest he’d certainly caught my attention with his tall, dark and handsome physique. He was what you’d imagine the prince of Zamunda to really look like, if such a place actually existed, and such a man could realistically make it past the many local suitors he’d have lined up to actually “Come to America”.
Some five hours earlier, I’d picked him up from the airport and taken him to the aquarium, the only open place on Thanksgiving day. We nervously talked about fish for a few hours before eating raw fish at a Japanese sushi spot. I didn’t really need to eat considering I had to make an appearance at my family’s Thanksgiving dinner, but nothing else was open and this was our hangout time after two years of Facebook and phone banter. Dinner was awkward but good.
After dinner, I asked him if he wanted me to drop him off at his hostel, while I stopped by my aunt’s house. Surprisingly, he asked to join me. I was reluctant, knowing the danger of exposing him to the full extent of my aunt’s crass humor, but also happy to spend more time with him. My aunt lived far south, and my tank was on E. The wise, undistracted me would’ve remembered to fill the tank downtown during daylight hours. But the distracted me, mesmerized by Prince Zamunda’s smooth rich chocolate complexion and French accent had forgotten. Now here I was at night, a bourgeois, not so street smart suburban black girl, pulling into a Chicago South side gas station after sundown. Some combination of my fear of getting shot, and the bitter cold lake effect convinced me that it’d be a good idea to set the pump ago and get back into the car to wait. A few minutes of idle small talk and $51 later a cop pulled up blocking my car and waving his arms frantically. I wasn’t sure what to think because it honestly seemed like every time I drove at night with an African man in my car, the cops magically appeared. But these cops were black, and we were on the south side, not down south. Maybe purer motives might be at play. Intercultural Dating
The cop got out slowly. He didn’t approach. “Don’t start the car!” he yelled again and again waving his arms frantically. I got out slowly, wondering how a pool of rain had accumulated when it wasn’t raining. I looked back to see the gas gushing out of the pump and around the sides of my tank entry. “Oh shit!” I quickly grabbed the pump and stopped it. Firefighters showed up. There were a lot of f*cks, damns, stupid b*tch and of course “Oh My Gosh you almost blew up my gas station!”
The firefighters pushed my car out of the pool of gas and poured sand to soak up the gasoline. Prince Zamunda stood next to me as I shivered on the curb. He put an awkward arm around my shoulder.
On the drive to my aunt’s house I had to alternate between the lessor of two evils: the intoxicating smell of my gasoline soaked boots and the breathtaking -15 degree bitter November cold. It definitely was cold enough to endure the poisonous gas smell and embrace the heat. But after about 3 mins. we were positive we’d pass out from the fumes and forced to roll down the window. We continued this battle of ultimate defeat for the rest of our 20 min. commute. Freezing or breathing, freezing or breathing.
My uncle strong armed him at the door. He hates when men are taller than him, especially to the tune of 6’4. My aunt made an African joke. Too soon. My other aunt introduced him to my family as my boyfriend. Definitely too soon. We endured the chaos and shenanigans of dinner, and I was happy for the spotlight to be off of us.
After dinner I dropped him off at his hostel and committed to picking him up at 5:00am to take him to the airport. At the airport, was in fact the last time I saw him. While there were many intentions to reconnect, it never quite aligned. Chicago was fun. We’d met, proven we both existed, shared an awkward comical mishap and that was that.
It’s funny how not funny these stories are in the mix of them happening but how hilarious they are when retold. What hilariously awkward dating disaster stories do you have to share? Remember sharing is caring! Can’t wait to read your stories!