By David Moon
Every year when the weather turns a bit warmer, I think of that hot night in 1975. I had a summer job in the Purchasing Department of the American National Bank on North Main Street in Jacksonville, Florida. One of my co-workers there was a former high school basketball teammate, James. We were friends. Not pals. At least not until that bank job.
There was another guy who was both a friend and a pal. Bob is his name. We had known each other since elementary school in Jacksonville. I guess he and I hit it off early on because he was born in Burgaw, North Carolina. Burgaw is now the last bathroom stop off Interstate 40 before hitting Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach from the west. Bob and his family were Burgawians. I was born in North Carolina. It was a natural friendship. But Bob didn’t work at American National.
After work one Friday night at the bank, James and I decided to go out. To Jacksonville Beach. Bob joined us. We were on a mission of sorts. As crude as it may sound to some folks, our stated mission was simple – pick up chicks. The mission itself was far more difficult. Go figure, right?
So we drove my 1971 metallic green Pinto to the beach that night. We somehow came up with a standard line to use while cruising around the hot and breezy and sandy beach area. For some reason, we decided we should each use the line, “Hey, Babe! How’s about joining us at Joe’s for a beer?” Joe’s was a pretty neat old beer joint right on the beach – at the southern end, just north of Ponte Vedra. It wasn’t unusual to hear some really good Southern Rock at Joe’s on a Friday night. I kind of wish we had made it there to hear a Lynyard Skynyrd cover band that night.
So we had a bit of a contest. You know, to see who would be the first to pick up a chick. I guess that’s why we standardized the request. You know – to keep it fair. James was first. He stuck his head out the front passenger seat window and yelled at a rather attractive young woman, “Hey, Babe! How’s about joining us at Joe’s for a beer?” She seemed to smile politely and wave her hand. But the ultimate answer was expected, and James didn’t win the contest.
Then it was Bob’s turn. He was at a decided disadvantage. He was in the back seat of a ’71 Pinto. The back windows didn’t even roll down. He had to crane his neck and body out of James’ front window. But Bob handled that very well. He was very thin and flexible. We were on the northern end of the Jax Beaches area when he spotted his victim. He stuck his upper body, long neck and right arm out of the front window and said, “Hey, Babe! How’s about joining us at Joe’s for a beer?” His girl waved back as well, but she apparently had limited use of four of her five fingers on that hand. Poor Bob just slinked and slithered back into his hole in the back seat of the ’71 Pinto.
“Beautiful,” I thought. “I have this contest in the bag! I’m with a couple of real losers here!”
So after Bob struck out, we turned around and headed back toward the heart of Jax Beach. As we drove down towards the Howard Johnson’s high rise hotel, just across the street from the old Strickland’s Seafood restaurant, I spotted her. She was on the corner of the Ho Jo’s property, looking every bit as into a good time as we were. “She’s mine!” I thought. Of course, I had a bit of a power advantage over the other two slobs in the car. I was the DRIVER of a really hot, rusty and metallic green Ford Pinto. James and Bob were just my passengers. So, it was understandable when my babe fell for my line.
“Hey, Babe! How’s about joining us at Joe’s for a beer?”
The shapely and attractive woman walked ever so seductively to my side of the car.
“Oh yeah,” I said. “Here we go, guys.”
When she reached my window, she looked at me with the sexiest eyes I had ever seen. Suddenly I lost all interest in the contest. To heck with my buddies. To heck with Joe’s even. I was going to be with a sexy and wonderful woman that night. As our eyes locked into my vision of a blissful evening, hers seemed to begin to water a bit. A tear or two streamed down her left cheek. Then the tears became an all out weep.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I was really that concerned or if I just wanted her to see that the man she chose for the night had a heart. Nevertheless, I asked. And she answered.
“My boyfriend is AWOL from the Navy. He’s at his wife’s trailer in Mayport. The Shore Patrol is looking for him. Can you take me to his wife’s house to warn him?”
Suddenly, I was confused. Did I win the contest, or did I lose? Actually, it didn’t matter. The woman needed help. So I opened my door. She climbed into the back seat with Bob. Suddenly, I was confused again. Did I win the contest, or did Bob? At any rate, we drove toward the Mayport trailer home of her boyfriend’s wife. Somewhere between the Howard Johnson’s and Mayport and at some point during her frightening tale, we asked the woman’s name.
“Get-High,” was her answer. “Get-High Hendricks.” She giggled after she told us. I just kind of quivered a bit, holding the Pinto tires to the rough asphalt and oyster shell North Florida pavement as best I could.
I had always kind of felt I was an unlucky sort of guy. It was that night that I kind of knew my love life would be just as unlucky as any other non-sexual part of my existence. So we drove Get-High to the Mayport trailer. James, Bob and I waited patiently in the Pinto while we heard yelling and other rowdy nonsense coming from that metal house. Well, maybe we weren’t all that patient. I seem to recall a rather spirited debate as to whether or not we should leave Get-High and her sailor and get the hell home. Before we could decide, however, Get-High walked out of her sailor’s place, slammed the door, and walked briskly back toward the Pinto. Again – was I winning or losing here?
Get-High was much more relaxed as we drove the 20-minutes back to the Ho Jo. And I was feeling pretty good about things. Maybe I wasn’t so unlucky in the love life area after all. I rescued Get-High. She will love me forever for my bravery. Or at least, hopefully, for that one Friday night. As we approached the hotel property, just down and across the street from the seafood restaurant, Get-High yelled, “Wait! Stop!” I looked to my left. I saw maybe a dozen armed Shore Patrol officers, surrounding the Howard Johnson’s parking lot. My youthful intense desire for a sexual hookup that night kind of diminished a bit. The entire hot night sort of cooked down into a three or four word reaction.
“Get-High, get out!”
I can’t say whether or not James and Bob remember Get-High. But I do. I always will. My guess is so will her boyfriend’s wife. But I can say this. Yeh. I have no luck in these matters. No good luck, anyway.
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