HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: From the Department of Good Friends. From the Dept. of Hilarious Writers. From the Dept of That's Why It's Always Good to Come To Jungle Red on Friday.
From the Dept. of “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up”
For this to be the Most Bizarre Story Ever Destined To Go Into A Book, I first have to establish that this used to be me:
Yes, I really was that innocent and ethereal once. Go ahead and laugh.
A few years ago, I sang in an a cappella Early Music Chorale. We traveled to various churches and other venues singing works by Monteverdi, Bach, and various anonymous composers long since turned to dust. One of our favorite performances was nicknamed “The Sex and Shepherds” concert. The program consisted of all madrigals, and yepper, that’s what those darling pastoral lyrics were REALLY about.
They even made my nun doll clutch her pearls.
One February night, we were scheduled to rehearse at a church I’d never been to. One of the baritones gave us directions. This was long before the days of cell phones with GPS. I live in Buffalo. It snows. A lot. You may have heard about it. I wrap myself up and hit the road. When I reach the exit in the directions, a little voice in my head whispered, “Don’t take the first exit; take the second one.”
Never ignore the little voice, people.
I did that night, and took the exit listed in the directions. I should have reached the church in five minutes. Fifteen minutes later, as the snow starts coming down harder and I leave civilization for the industrial area, I realize I’m quite lost. Streetlights are few and far between. It’s pitch black out. I’m wishing several unpleasant curses on the baritone who wrote the directions.
But, lo! In the distance I see a small building with a parking lot and a few lights. Oh frabjous day! It has to be a 7-11 or other convenience store. I can get directions!
I drive into the parking lot.
It’s a strip club.
I hesitate only a moment. I’m over 21. I only want directions. I’m sure the bouncer will be able to help.
To help you visualize the impact I was about to make on the unsuspecting employees of the strip club, this is what I was wearing:
I walk to the door. No bouncer. I walk inside. The bar stage is empty. (Yes, I looked. Wouldn’t you have looked?) To my left is a cubbyhole with a window, and a middle-aged man is playing the CDs I hear broadcasting in the bar.
I knocked on the wall. He looked up at this Vision in snow, raincoat, and Doctor Who scarf. “Nonplussed” would describe his expression until I delivered this bombshell:
“Excuse me. I’m looking for Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church.”
Then “stunned” would describe it better. It took him a second to reply: “Lady, you are in the wrong place.”
He then gave me directions to the nearest convenience store and I booked it out of there. The counter clerk at the convenience store said I was the second person that night asking for the same directions. I finally got to rehearsal half an hour late and told the story at break. The baritone who caused all the trouble laughed the loudest.
My favorite scene to imagine is the deejay at the strip club going home in the wee hours and waking up his significant other: “Honey, you’ll never believe what happened at work tonight.” I kinds of wish I had told the poor man I was a former nun. It would have made his story so much better.
This story must and will go into a Giulia Driscoll mystery. I only have to make her forget a car charger and have her cell phone die.
So, writers and readers, try and top this! What is your most surreal “You can’t make this stuff up” adventure?
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: ((Speechless.))
Baker of brownies and tormenter of characters, Alice Loweecey recently celebrated her thirtieth year outside the convent. She grew up watching Hammer horror films and Scooby-Doo mysteries, which explains a whole lot. When she's not creating trouble for her sleuth Giulia Driscoll or inspiring nightmares as her alter-ego Kate Morgan, she can be found growing her own vegetables (in summer) and cooking with them (the rest of the year).