I know, I know...it already sounds bad. This whole story, though, is the result of not listening to my parents when they told me "not to talk to strangers" or "don't give strange men stranded in the Safeway parking lot at 9:00 p.m. rides to Wal-mart". Lesson learned, guys.

The whole thing started earlier this year, when my best friend and I decided to ride to Safeway in Fort Collins in her '67 Ford Galaxie for a quick grocery run. It was 9:00, but we were hungry, and the Safeway was usually...well, safe.

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My best friend's Ford Galaxie

When we were done shopping, we left the store and crossed the parking lot towards our car, walking past a young guy standing beside an old Dodge pickup truck that obviously needed a jump. At the time, I was dating someone, so I leaned over to my friend and said, "Wouldn't this be a great way for you to meet someone new?" Again-- I know how stupid I sound now, half a year later. 

Before we could talk to him, he talked to us, and asked us if we would give his car a jump. We said sure. My friend moved her car and they tried to jump-start it, to no avail. We tried multiple times until finally-- again, doing the dumbest thing I could do in that situation-- I asked him, "Do you need a ride to an auto parts store?"

My mixture of Texas manners and the stereotype all women are supposed to adhere to-- always being polite-- really screwed us over in this situation, because of course, he said yes. While he put his jumper cables away, I climbed into the passenger seat of my friend's car, turned to her, and told her, "I've made a terrible mistake."

The moment he climbed into the backseat of the car, both my friend and I got terrible vibes. There was a strange man in the backseat of our car, someone who could make any move and pull out any weapon at this moment. The ride to the auto parts store down the street was tense, and when we finally reached the storefront, we realized it was closed.

"Just take me to the Wal-Mart," he said, and so my friend nodded and began driving in that direction. To break the tension, I asked what his name was and where he was from, and he gave us the weirdest name we'd ever heard, telling us he was named after an outlaw [name omitted for obvious reasons]. Strike one for weirdness. Then, he told us he had come to Fort Collins to stay with family for a short time before returning to Wisconsin, where he'd left under suspicious circumstances.

"My girlfriend set our bed on fire," he said, "So I had to call the cops and I ended up getting evicted." Strike two, dude. I pulled up my then-boyfriend's number on my phone, ready to call him if anything were to happen (considering the way that relationship ended, I probably should have just pulled up 911. Lesson learned again).

At this point, we were insanely uncomfortable. When my friend finally pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot and the guy got out, she asked, "Are you good from here?" Uncertain, he looked towards the Wal-Mart and nodded. As he headed inside, we fired up the car and booked it out of that parking lot, going straight home in a relieved panic.

Every time we tell this story, we know how stupid we sound. However, I tell it more as a cautionary tale: PLEASE, if you are a woman and it is late at night in Fort Collins, do not let a strange man into your car, even if you feel safe with a friend.

To this day, my friend says that we didn't get murdered because "we weren't enough of a challenge for the killer", which we laugh at, and yet still-- I've learned a lot from this experience. It's good to be polite, but these days we've really got to watch ourselves and who we're trusting late at night. You never, never know what could happen.

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