Kindness of strangers in unexpected moments

Part of what I do for income includes driving my car all over town and interacting with strangers. I know what you’re thinking, “Oh, he drives for Uber!” Thankfully, no. Drunk strangers will not be vomiting in my car. I really enjoy delivering smiles for Amazon Prime Now. But it’s not always happy times, I’ll tell ya! Traffic can be a bear and a few weeks ago, the weather was quite the menace. Here’s a snippet from my dash cam the night I was delivering in Nashville’s heaviest snow of the year so far.

Even worse than the snow, though, was the ice. Some main roads, and most secondary roads, were layered in it. On top of that, I had 10 deliveries! I felt like David going up against Goliath, with a Nissan Versa as my slingshot.

I left the Amazon warehouse with just an ounce of courage. I slowly crept my way to the first customer and missed the mark with my first stone. Here I am in a bit of a predicament.

I was halfway up the hill and started sliding down. I was able to back into a random driveway and with some help, drive in reverse, through front yards, narrowly missing two cars but getting back onto a flat road without incident.

Nine more deliveries to go.

Already my neck was sore. My shoulders were tight. A few of the next stops were in flat areas of east Nashville, so that was a relief, but Goliath still seemed larger than life.

Towards the end of the route, Goliath snorted as I approached the steepest hill yet. The house I was delivering to was at the top, about 5 houses in from where I decided to park the car. My slingshot wouldn’t win this battle. In fact, I felt pretty defeated at this point; half the deliveries were late and even after this one, I had a few more to go. To walk the delivery to the customer would take at least 3 trips from my car up the hill to the house, but as undesirable as that sounded, it’s all that could be done. So I started up the hill, a few packages under my arms.

As I handed off the first round of items, the most unexpected thing happened. The father of the crew that lived there began bundling up with heavy clothes and boots. My eyes widened. My heart beat faster. My shoulders loosened. He was coming back with me so we could slay this giant together!

We split the items between us and started back up the hill. We both were carrying almost more than we could manage by ourselves. And then another heroic moment happened: his son met us on the way and after giving him some packages, the three of us marched up the hill, up the driveway, up the slippery steps, and to the front door.

As it turns out, it was people that overtook Goliath this cold, snowy night. What does the Bible say? A cord of 3 strands is not easily broken. I’m so thankful for those guys that night. Their act of kindness won’t be in newspapers, it won’t pop up on anyone’s Facebook feed (except maybe for mine!), they won’t be ABC’s persons of the week. But for a stressed out delivery driver, this father certainly made an impression and lived out the Golden Rule. Plus he modeled for his son (and his daughter and wife who were watching from the window) one way to be a good man.

He reminded me a lot of my dad.

And that, my friends, is how Goliath fell that night.

-Out of the Wilderness


On the verge of history – Versa has 199,999 miles!

She is Nissan. She is Versa. She is Black Pearl.

Reaching 200,000 miles is rite of passage for cars today. It’s not every day that a car crosses over this hallowed ground. Well, I take that back. It probably happens every day somewhere in the world, but it’s still something to celebrate. This beaut has been with me through many ups and downs, figuratively and literally, and in the next day or two, we’ll cross the threshold of 200,000 miles, hand in hand–err, hand on wheel.

From a cracked windshield to the cruise control that hasn’t worked in years, the broken door handle to the many, many dash cam videos, the roof rack carrying kayaks to a downtown snow accident, carrying me to dates and back home after breakups, what a ride it’s been!

I named her Black Pearl and perhaps that makes me Jack Sparrow. Till we sink or reach another shore, she’s my ship and I love her. Here’s hoping for another 200,000!



The Fiesta test drive, and advice on car searching

Hello and thanks for reading about this journey to find my next car! My Nissan Versa is swiftly nearing 200,000 miles so (I haven’t told her this yet) there will come a time when she’ll need to be retired, sent off to the Nissan nursing home where she can play shuffle board and eat supper at 5.

A few weeks ago I test drove a newer Versa at a local Nissan dealership, where I learned some pro tactics of a car salesman. I left without succumbing to the pressure to buy, and then a few days ago I did a test drive with a Ford Fiesta.


image via

Am I the only one that thinks of this 80s game show when I hear the word Fiesta?

If only I could win a Fiesta, my car search would be over! Where are you when I need you most, Alex Trebek? But back in real life, I met the car salesman and told him what I was looking for. He was a nice guy with a style that went heavy on “be your friend” plus a dose of “I’m new here but…” We took a 2017 hatchback off the lot and I liked this car much more than the Versa from the last test drive. Part of the reason is that it was a manual transmission (which is also available in the Versa). I forgot how much fun those are to drive. Very responsive, great interior style and accessories, and I was sitting higher up than I would guess for a compact car.

So the hatchback stick-shift Fiesta is currently sitting at #1 on my list but I’d also still like to test drive a few other cars, including a Fiat, and maybe a Mini.

I’ll wrap this up with a piece of advice I’ve learned the hard way. If you’re out there car shopping like I am, do NOT give out your phone number unless you’re ready for 10 calls a day. I made the mistake of submitting my info to a few dealerships online and now my phone lights up throughout the day. I guess I could answer but now I’m just annoyed when I get a call from a number I don’t recognize.

Most of all, though, have fun looking! For the majority of us, it’s not often we’ll be in the market for a car, so let’s make the most of it this time around.

Having a fiesta in Nashville,
-Out of the Wilderness


Encounter with a car salesman

Today I brought in my Nissan Versa because of an air bag recall. Evidently when the airbags deploy, shards of metal can cause serious injury or death. Yeah, I’m gonna need you to fix that, kthanx.

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The replacement process took about 2 hours so to kill time I strolled over to the “sales” side of the Nissan dealership. I was very clear and upfront with the salesman that I would not be making a purchase today, but I wanted to take a look around the lot.

He showed me an assortment of offerings available in, or close to, my price range. The truth is I’ve loved my car. It has 195,000+ miles on it without a major breakdown (although I think I’ve had breakdowns in the car, but that’s a whole other story!). Is the windshield cracked? Sure. Does it have an eagle on the back bumper? You betcha. What’s that spot of rust? Oh, it’s a spot of rust. When’s the last time cruise control has been operational? Since Obama was in office… the first time.

So here’s what I can gather about the tactics of a salesman:

  1. I’m your friend. In other words, make the buyer your buddy by finding some common ground. Today he casually mentioned that he benches 315 lbs and I can’t for the life of me remember how we got there. But then it hit me, I was wearing a Planet Fitness shirt. You know, the free ones they give you when you join? I think he must’ve seen that and taken a chance that being healthy/working out is one of my interests, so he stealthily brought it up.
  2. Good cop/ bad cop. A few times when I asked what the price was on a certain car, he’d say something like, “Oh, I just show you the cars you want to see, it’s my boss’s job to get the price to where you want it. But this one is great!” *proceeds to show me a particular car*
  3. The perfect time to buy. I was told more than once that based on the time of day, the day of the month, and the month of the year that this was a great time to buy. They’re willing to take a hit on the car they sell me because they can make up the difference on cars the sell later today, later this month, etc.
  4. Lean, baby, lean. The body language. When the salesman’s manager came over to talk, I was seated in front of the sales desk. He postured himself at the corner of the desk and proceeded to lean in towards me as he talked up a steal of a deal. I’m guessing it’s some sort of body language intimidation tactic. But he was nice and didn’t come across as pushy or insincere. Seemed likable. Wait… dang it, he got me!

I was shown a Hyundai Sonata, a Nissan Altima, and another Versa. All these were newer models than my 2008. I really liked the Versa the best. It’s 7 years newer than mine but still had a familiar interior.

It was funny chatting with the salesman and his boss. In moments of down time my mind wandered to the grand picture of people’s personalities and how we’re wired differently. If I were a salesman I’d chat about whichever car and then kind of leave the ball in the shopper’s court, maybe even advise them to wait, to sleep on it, etc. But today I was pitched, and pitched, and then pitched some more about trading in my car with it’s broken handle and unpainted fender– oh yeah, it’s got a broken handle and an unpainted fender– for a blowout of a deal.

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I was also using the opportunity to practice saying no. Sometimes I have a hard time with this. So I’d pepper in statements like, “Well, I’m not buying a car today,” or “I’m just browsing.” They seemed to acknowledge my position but continued with the pitching.

All the pitching!

Once my car was repaired and ready to hit the road again, I actually left it on the lot. Who has two thumbs and bought a car today? This guy! No, just kidding. I didn’t buy anything. Much to the disappointment of the salesman and his leaning boss.

-Out of the Wilderness

I’ve loved you all over the world…

I first laid eyes on her in 2007. Great curves, light, and sporty. My Nissan Versa is nearing it’s 10th anniversary as my main squeeze when it comes to getting me from A to B, and I gotta say, what a ride it’s been! With her CVT and her auxiliary input and all 4 of her cylinders, she’s made zipping around the southeast something to write home about.

And although I’ve never literally written home about her, I did jot down some landmarks in the first year of our relationship. They honeymoon phase, if you will. Here ya go…

mile 10 got the keys.

mile 110 drove to Percy Priest Lake for wakeboarding and cliff jumping.

mile 340 bought the first tank of gas.

mile 655 returned home from a Nashville Sounds baseball game.

mile 684 sneezed in the car for the first time.

mile 747 returned home from a couple garage sales.

mile 1,623 trip to Cincinnati, OH to visit family.

mile 2,300 drove to corn maze in Whitehouse, TN.

mile 3,717 rock hits windshield, crack begins to spread.

mile 4,265 fighting to stay awake on 231 returning to Nashville from Tallahassee, FL.

mile 5,263 first oil change, location: Action Nissan in Nashville, TN.

That’s just a glimpse, but I’ve had a lot of good memories thanks to my car. She’s nearing 180,000 miles today. That’s probably 93 in car years! I know I won’t have her around for a whole lot longer so for now, this post is for you Black Pearl!

-Out of the Wilderness

Being black in America

On that one characteristic alone, being black in America, I can’t relate. I’ll never be able to because I’m white in America. But! with what has been broadcast across the country lately between law enforcement and communities of black people I can finally say that I understand, even if it is only slightly. The specific aspect I’d like to address is that of a black person on any typical day feeling singled out, “profiled”, and/or targeted for no good reason. To explain how this happened, I need to include my Nissan Versa.

It’s a beaut, Clark. A beaut.

I’ve had this Versa for about 10 years and she’s a real beaut. However, she’s taken a licking or two over the years, and most recently got into a scurfuffle with a Chrysler. Here’s the damaging footage (impact is 29 seconds in):

What you can’t see in the footage is that the Chrysler basically dismembered the front left side of the Versa. My bumper is detached but barely hanging on, the cracked headlight now points a few feet in front of the bumper, etc. It’s the headlight that taught me today’s lesson.

img_20170111_210044313Because it’s cracked, moisture got in and the bulb went out. So in the evenings, I’ve been driving around with one headlight. Not a problem, right? That’s what I thought, too, but then bam! Hello, class c misdemeanor! I’ve been stopped by the police 3 times this week. F your i, I wouldn’t drive at night, except that some days it’s required for a job I have. So as the sun sets I’m driving around nervous, eyes darting here and there, heart beating faster, strategically positioning myself in traffic, always wondering where a police car is and how I can get past them without being a bother. Then I think to myself, “So this is how it feels to be Odell Beckham after he scores a touchdown, no wait, this is how it sometimes feels to be black.”

In my case, the police are doing their job and I thank them for it. But sometimes (at least the stories reported in the news), the police are singling folks out without cause, not what their job is.

The nerves, heartbeat quickening, doubt, feeling targeted, now I know a little of what that’s like and quite frankly, if it were about my skin color and not just driving with one headlight at night, I’d never want to leave home. It’s not fun, it’s not fair, and if it doesn’t change, that’ll be a gigantic mistake.

If you’re curious about how it feels, disconnect one of your headlights and drive around a few nights with a single beam. It’s a rush!

-Out of the Wilderness

Throwing Rocks at Chuck Norris

I was driving from Tennessee to north Florida by way of Interstate 65 with my oldest niece in the back seat. I was behind my brother-in-law and his van loaded with a few other nieces and my sister. It was an old-fashioned caravan, y’all! Like the good ol’ days when they used wagons and horses and wooden wheels. Horse-drawn_garbage_wagon,_Seattle,_1915.gifTheir problems were issues like life-threatening sicknesses but mine? Mine was big time. A piece of earth with violent intentions blazing through the atmosphere with the launch power of a Scud missile and a radar locked on MY FACE! However, the small rock was intercepted mid-air by a Patriot missile… also known as my windshield. The resulting damage was a crack that slowly began to spread across the glass. Unfortunately, insurance didn’t cover this type of damage in the state of Alabama and now that I think about it, don’t even get me started on all the reasons I don’t like that state anyway! The only good things to come out of Alabama are Jameis Winston  and my Versa every time we pass through! I could’ve forked over the cash to have new glass installed but as odd as it may sound, I’m proud of my windshield so I won’t replace it.  For so long I’ve taken for granted that I have a giant piece of very strong glass in front of me, protecting me as I drive a metal entrapment down the road at blazingly fast yet limit obeying speeds. Plus, this life-protecting glass has the word shield in it and right now I can’t think of a more manly word. Shield. It’s like Chuck Norris is laying across my dashboard. Chuck_Norris -Out of the Wilderness