by Davy Rothbart

One night this past winter, I was racing along I-94 toward the Detroit airport when my van made a sound like a cannon-shot and broke down just a couple of miles from the terminal. I abandoned it on the shoulder and hitched a ride the rest of the way from a tow-truck driver who happened to be passing by. But I missed my flight anyway, and the next flight to Austin, Texas, wasn’t till the next morning.

I had to find a way back to my van. It was just a five-minute drive, but maybe a ninety-minute walk in the stinging cold. Cabbies scoffed at me and said, sorry, they were waiting for a “real” fare. AAA road service told me I had to meet their tow truck at the vehicle, they couldn’t scoop me up on the way. The airport cops shrugged and munched croissants.

Finally, a bit frantic, I started asking for a ride from random people waiting for their bags at baggage claim. To my disadvantage, I hadn’t shaved in a few days, I was wearing lime green pants with a long tear I’d repaired with staples, and my own luggage consisted only of an old backpack and a gym bag. Everyone edged cautiously away from me, as though I were one of those hustlers with complicated appeals for help you’ll come across in shady neighborhoods outside of baseball stadiums or floating around Greyhound stations late at night. I might as well have been asking folks to help me smuggle tarantulas.

At last, a middle-aged businessman standing with a couple of buddies took pity and offered to drop me off at my van. His pals raised their eyebrows, flashed worried looks, and said, “See ya at the office tomorrow,” but in a tone that meant If you get robbed and killed, we’ll pay for your kid’s bar mitzvah.

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Davy Rothbart makes Found magazine, contributes to public radio’s This American Life, and wrote a book of stories called The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas. His work has also appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, and High Times. If you’ve found something cool, please send it to him at his folks’ house—details at

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