140 Character Hitchhike
My husband and I left work early on a Friday to drive four and a half hours north on Interstate 85 through rural North Carolina. We were headed to an event that had been on our calendars, and our friends’ calendars, for months. Our bags were in the trunk. We had drinks in our cup holders. And at a steady 75 mph, we were off. I sent out a tweet letting our friends know we were on the way.
I was pretty new to twitter, didn’t have many followers and didn’t follow many people. My husband didn’t use it or know anything about it. But the people we were meeting up with were all using twitter to tweet about the evening’s event, so I did the same.
About an hour and a half into the trip, smoke was billowing out from under the hood of our car. Black smoke. And a lot of it. Then the steering wheel started shaking. Hard. I slowed down, pulled over onto the shoulder and stopped.
When the smoke cleared, we were in what I’d call the middle of nowhere, meaning—I couldn’t see anything but a sea of trees in every direction. 18-wheelers were flying past us and each time, the car would rock.
Neither of us knows anything about cars besides where to insert the gas nozzle, so we looked at each other and at the same time and asked: what are we going to do?
“Where’s the manual?” my husband asked.
“Where’s the MANUAL?” I replied.
I knew if I asked the question I had after where’s the manual like what the fuck are you going to do with the manual? it would start an argument and ruin our Friday. We were already on the side of the road in a car that couldn’t get us to our destination, so keeping my mouth shut was the right move. Kind of.
I reached into the glove box and handed him our dog-eared manual. (Dog-eared from being shoved and squeezed for 10 years, not because we’d ever used it.) My husband popped the hood and got out of the car. I leaned my seat back and grabbed my phone to send out a tweet. He wasn’t on twitter, so he’d never see it.
Broke down on I-85 heading to Richmond at Exit 111. Smoke coming out of hood and husband asked for the manual.
Instantly I started receiving messages from my friends. Are you ok? Are you still coming? Keep us updated! What’s he doing with the manual??
Then I got an @ reply from someone I didn’t know or had ever spoken with. It said: Roommate and I are headed to Richmond from Charlotte. We are at Exit 93 and can pick you guys up if you want.
I looked closer at his mini-profile picture and read his twitter bio. He didn’t look like a murderer. I scanned his recent tweets and noticed he knows some of the same people I sort of know. Hmm. I thought about it. We really wanted to get to this event and hang with our friends. Our bags were packed. It was Friday. Besides our lives, what did we have to lose?
My husband got back in the car and said he didn’t know what was wrong with the car (go figure) and that he’d call AAA to come get us.
“We can still go to Richmond and make the event,” I said.
I explained the tweet with the offer to pick us up. He looked confused.
“Wait, how do you know this guy?” he asked.
I went into a three-minute mini-lesson on what twitter is, how we know—but don’t really know—each other. And I held up my phone to show him the profile photo of the guy.
“See, he looks young. He sorta knows people I know,” I said.
My husband smirked and shook his head. “I’m calling AAA.”
While he was on the phone, I sent a tweet back:
Are you serious? Sure! We’d love a ride. Calling AAA now to tow our car back. Will my husband and I both fit?
We went back and forth with a few tweets. Meanwhile, our friends in Richmond who were following along were sending me tweets, too. Who are you getting in the car with? You don’t know them? Keep tweeting so we know you’re alive! Tweet pictures of their faces in case something happens.
When my husband was off the phone, I told him that the guy I was talking to over twitter and his roommate were on their way. We were going to Richmond. If they showed up and we didn’t feel comfortable, we’d just go back with the AAA driver. Either way, we were getting in a vehicle to go somewhere.
He acknowledged what I said, but it wasn’t sinking in.
About 20 minutes later AAA pulled up, hooked up our car and just when they were about to hand us the paperwork, a two-door car pulled up as promised. It was the guy from twitter! He looked just like his mini-photo, but life sized. Totally normal.
I shook his hand and his roommate’s, looked at my husband for his nod of approval, and he told the AAA driver we’d pass on the ride. We loaded our bags into their trunk, climbed in the back, and we were off.
The next three hours were some of the most fun three hours of my life. (My husband would say the same if it weren’t for his knees being shoved under his chin so he could fit.) We all had so much in common. So much to talk about. And they even offered us a ride home at the end of the weekend.
The following Monday, my husband joined twitter, I deleted my tweet about him asking for the manual, and we made weekend plans with our new friends.