Okay, here's a dog story for you. You're not going to feel like it's a dog story at first, but have faith. The dog will pop up when you least expect it (just like he did to us).
Yesterday, I had to travel about an hour to a nearby city for a conference for my job. Two employees from other offices and I decided to carpool. Let's call them Gretchen and Betsy. Gretchen and Betsy agreed to meet me at my office, the central point, to drive together.
After a harrowing car ride during which I discovered a few things about Betsy's lack of talent concerning driving while talking on a cell phone, coupled with her determination to practice as often as possible, we arrived to learn that the start of the conference had been delayed by almost two hours. Luckily, we had parked across the street in the mall parking garage.
Well, you know, malls have bookstores. Me and Gretchen are both writers, and we hit the children's section and happily settled in for a while. Betsy wandered the bookstore to browse for a good mystery, because, apparently, not every late-twenties-early-thirties employee of our company finds the need to frequent the children's section at the bookstore.
Fast forward half an hour. I had shown Gretchen every book on the shelf with my publisher's logo on the spine. She had shown me every book on the shelf that "kinda gives me an idea ..." and was furiously scribbling on the pad of paper that basically stays glued to her at all times.
Eventually, we realized that we hadn't seen Betsy in quite some time.
A quick search of the bookstore revealed that she was, in fact, gone, and of course, that was when the phone rang and we were informed that we were needed across the street in ten minutes. Faaaabulous.
Gretchen is a mom, and therefore, her "worst-case scenario" skills are finely honed. She began to worry that Betsy had been abducted and possibly murdered in the 10 or 12 minutes since we'd last laid eyes on her. She wrung her hands and walked in circles. She was near tears. I thought it was more likely that the Starbucks or Taco Bell had called Betsy's name, so I finally talked Gretchen into walking with me to the food court to see. And sure enough, there she was with a giant plate of Chinese food.
We'll call that entire portion of the story "Misplaced Coworker Incident #1."
Now let's move on to "Misplaced Coworker Incident #2."
The conference, having started two hours late, ended only an hour late, so that was good. Still, we had a long road ahead of us and it was just after six in the evening. Betsy had "just a quick question" she wanted to run past our boss, but Gretchen and I, having skipped lunch in favor of the bookstore and a misplaced coworker search, had been knocking back bottled water like a college kid knocks back Miller, and we had to pee. Bad.
"We'll meet you outside the front entrance downstairs," I said to Betsy. I promise I said it. I remember saying it. You know how sometimes when you say something, it kind of gets stuck in your head for a while? Or maybe that's just me. Anyway, I promise this sentence echoed in my head for quite some time after, so I know I said it.
Gretchen and I waited outside. And waited outside. And waited outside. There was a huge event going on in the conference center -- a ticketed event -- so we couldn't get back inside to check on Betsy. After 45 minutes, I finally snuck past a security guard and took the back stairway up to the second floor to our meeting room -- luckily, I spent a lot of time in this conference center when I was a Young Democrat in college, so I knew the back hallways from the days when I needed to sneak past pompous jerks from other campuses who who wanted to shake my hand and tell me their views on gay marriage when I was too tired and frazzled to defend myself.
Calmer this time, I found that my sneaking skills were even more efficient. But when I reached the conference room, I found it dark.
I hurried back outside to let Gretchen know that Betsy had slipped out another entrance, or flown, or Apperated out of the conference center. We hurried back across the street to the parking garage and found that she had started talking to a coworker and walked out the upstairs service entrance with her without a second thought to where we were supposed to meet.
That, in all its glory, was “Misplaced Coworker Incident #2.”
We reached the city that my office is located in at 8:05 p.m. Keep in mind, of course, that all three of us had at least an hour to commute home from there.
Then prepare yourself for “Misplaced Coworker Incident #3,” my personal favorite.
This is where the dog comes in.
So, we were gabbing all the way home, of course, and two exits away from my office, Betsy, who was driving, was just preparing to tell us a great story about a time she got money in the mail when she didn’t expect it.
Her word choice, unfortunately, begged disaster.
“Let me tell you about the best thing that ever happened to me,” Betsy said, and then the semi truck in front of us swerved into our lane.
Betsy managed to swing the car onto the left shoulder and slam on the brakes, screaming the whole time. Because she was too shaky then to continue driving on the interstate, I urged her to get off at the next exit and take the back way.
We were almost to the office on the back roads when we spied a little scrap of white running into the road in front of us. We slammed on our brakes as a little dog – Boston Terrier body with a Jack Russell face – happily danced in the road for a minute before running off into a parking lot.
Betsy, still shaky from her earlier driving experience, was not up to stopping for a dog. Gretchen and I immediately began to worry that the dog was going to get hit if he kept waltzing with the passing cars.
Luckily, we were less than half a mile from my office. Betsy dropped us off and went on her merry way while Gretchen and I hopped in my car and drove back up to the stoplight to try to rescue the little dog.
About this dog. He did NOT want to be rescued. Gretchen hopped out of the car, leaving her purse and keys in my car, and tried to coax him to her. But the dog didn’t want to be coaxed. He darted into the road and began trotting – right in the center of the lane – toward my office.
“I’ll come right back for you!” I hollered to Gretchen, and I followed the dog down the road at the rapid clip of point five miles per hour, preventing any other traffic from flying around a turn and taking out the little white scrap of orneriness.
By the time the dog had gone almost the whole half mile to my office, occasionally pausing to smile over his shoulder at me, I had quite the impressive string of angry traffic behind me. Some saints in a Hummer drove up the wrong way in the oncoming lane to try to block the dog in from the front, but any time any of us hopped out of our cars to try to get him, he smiled huge at us like he was happy we wanted to play, and then he darted out of reach.
At this point, we will begin to refer to the dog by what I would have named him if I could have caught him, which is “Sheriff” because he was so good at directing traffic and he had so many of us pulled over.
After a few minutes -- and many, many honks and hollers from the traffic tied up behind me -- Sheriff darted up over the hill and out of sight. Goodbye, Sheriff. I wish you the best.
I found a place to turn around, checked the local business parking lots for signs of the spunky little pooch, and then drove back up to the stop light as quickly as possible to pick up Gretchen.
Can you guess? I mean, do I need to tell you?
Yeah. She was gone.
I checked Wendy’s in case she’d gone for a Frosty. I checked the hotel lobby in case she was sneaking a free coffee. There was a steakhouse nearby and I thought maybe she needed a cold drink – God knows I did. But she wasn’t there, either. Eventually, after stressing out in the parking lot for a while, wondering – Oh my god, she was so worried about getting abducted and murdered, maybe she knows something I don’t – I finally drove back to my office, where she’d left her car, to see whether she’d found a way back.
There she stood, next to her car, in tears. She had hitched a ride back and passed me on the road.
I gave her her keys. Said good-bye. And sent her on her way, then went on my own. I got home at ten-thirty from a conference that ended at six.
Here's everything I learned at the conference (but don't tell my boss if he asks):
-Usually, the person you're looking for hasn't been abducted and murdered, even if you start thinking that might be a viable option for dealing with their behavior once you find them
-Sometimes poor, innocent little doggies who need rescued are neither poor nor innocent, and they don't want no stinkin' rescue
-The emotional cost of carpooling far outweighs the financial cost of going alone. Next time we have a conference, I will drive myself.