4am

Life Gets Weird at 4am

You see some freaky stuff if you drive to work before the sun comes up. I spent about 15 years of my life leaving home at 4am, so I’ve seen volumes. I’ve encountered so much weirdness that I’ve even written about it before (read that HERE), but it wasn’t until recently that I tried to catalogue it all. I was sharing notes with a friend who also keeps strange hours when it occurred to me that I should write this stuff down. After all, what’s the point of living through weird shit if you don’t share it?

The worst was driving to work during a storm, because I was often the first on the scene of bad car wrecks. I remember passing an SUV on 635 once, that had flipped and was resting upside down in the middle lane. Some poor person had to be freaking out inside, but I drove right on by. My co-workers gave me HELL about not stopping, but it’s a massive highway and cars were passing on all sides. I did call 911, which feels like a hollow gesture now. I also caught flack for driving by another wrecked car, sitting empty in an intersection. It looked like it had been t-boned, but all 4 doors were hanging open, as if there had been a mass exodus. There were no people or other cars in sight, so I called 911 again and drove on to work, where I was called a chicken-shit by my colleagues.

Sure it was a chicken-shit move, but probably not as bad as my reaction to a woman who ran to my car, begging for help one morning. I was right outside of downtown Dallas, where you NEVER see people at 4am. I was zoning out at a red-light when she appeared out of nowhere, pounding on my window. It was weird enough to see someone standing there, but especially this woman, who looked like she’d just left a PTA meeting. T-shirt, mom-jeans and a pony-tail, she essentially looked like me, except for that crazed look on her face.

“HELP! My car broke down and and I’m lost! I don’t have any money! Please HELP ME!”

Sure, I could’ve pulled her into my car and taken her to the office, but something was off. There was no broken down car in sight but there was a gas station nearby, where she could’ve called for help. Furthermore, the look of terror in her eyes went beyond broken-down-car, so I did what any chicken-shit would do. I cracked the window and slipped her a $20. I hope she’s OK. Guess I’ll never know, just like I’ll never know about the cyclist I saw sprawled out in the road, next to her mangled bike. The man who’d presumably hit her was sitting next to her on the ground, holding her hand. I assume he was also on his way to work because he was wearing a suit, with his dented BMW parked nearby. I was going to pull over and offer help that time, but an ambulance drove up right behind me, so I left. I tried for days afterwards to find out what had happened to her but never got solid information. I hope she is also OK.

I didn’t ONLY see awful stuff on my 4am drives. I saw wild animals consistently, like a coyote the size of a buck and a Momma racoon who passed in front of my car while leading all 10 of her babies home. There was one morning that a barrel-shaped Barred Owl followed me for 2 blocks, flying just a few feet above my hood. I also remember screaming out, “NO F**KING WAY,” one day, when I pulled out of the garage and into piles of unexpected snow. It was thick and dry, with absolutely no other tire tracks for miles. I couldn’t tell where the road ended and the sidewalks started, and it felt like I was driving through a massive powdered sugar do-nut. That was awesome, but it’s not my favorite 4am memory.

That one came one morning, while I was once again zoning out at a red-light. Something blasted through the cross-walk in front of me so fast that at first, I didn’t understand what I was seeing. Once it got to the other side of the street, it slowed just long enough for me to recognize a man riding a unicycle. This wasn’t an ordinary unicycle, though. No, it was one of those tall unicycles that you’d see at the circus and he was struggling to keep it under control. That didn’t stop him though. The unicyclist got to the other side of the road and just kept rolling at high-speed, arms flailing all the while. I looked back to the corner he had come from and realized there was a car next to me, where a woman was staring at me with her mouth hanging open. She appeared to be laughing so hard that she was gasping for breath, which was exactly what I was doing. The only thing that makes that particular moment better is knowing that, somewhere out there, someone is telling the exact same story. And that unicyclist? Well, I hope he’s OK, too.

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