It followed me from Topeka, part 2

Or: Remember the Rental Car Lady!


Since I had no family or friends in the Puget Sound area, there was no one to give me a ride home from the airport. Instead, I had to get a ride on one of those airport shuttle vans that will drop you off at your home address.

I wish they’d had this YouTube video back then:

So, does that top arrow mean go forward, or go up a level?
[Courtesy Shuttle Express and YouTube]

If memory serves, at SeaTac you have to take an elevator or stairs to get from the main level to the shuttle van level. Anyway, I went the wrong way and got on the wrong level. I wandered around briefly before figuring that out. Another mistake. Slumping shoulders.

I walked back over to the elevator area. There are four elevators, and you wait for whichever one arrives first. I pressed the up button on the wall between two of them. Another man stood near me. One of the elevator doors opened. It was empty. I took one step forward, then hesitated. It was going in the wrong direction, so I took a step back. The man got on.

Just then woman walked into the area. She was wearing the uniform of a rental car company — I forget which one, maybe Avis. Ahe was headed for the the elevator door as it began closing, but it took me a couple seconds to realize what was going on; I was tired and worn out — and not just physically from the travel, but psychologically even more so. The man already on board didn’t see her.

The elevator doors closed, and she missed it. We looked at each other. Socially, my defense mechanisms down, I was now sort of fatalistic about my interactions with others and I wasn’t going to be hiding or playing it cool like I typically would’ve. I interacted with her. Typically I’d pretend to not even have seen her, ignoring the situation and hoping she wouldn’t get mad at me. Well, none of that happened this time. I wasn’t going to pretend that I hadn’t seen her nor understood the situation. No excuses this time, just being laid bare. I said oops, explained how out of sorts I was, and apologized for not catching the elevator door for her.

I’d goofed and been seen to goof — usually a dreadful experience. But not this time. I didn’t have the energy to conceal how I was, I suppose. This was the final release of the dam. And I felt something softer come over me, a mood that was more accepting of my shitty week, not trying to fight it or run away from it.

She must’ve been able to tell I was tired or something. She was cool with it and even sympathetic. I could feel it. Then I let her know I was looking for the shuttle van area. She was helpful and told me. And I thanked her

All of this might seem trivial to you. It wasn’t to me. I let my uptight, worry-wart defenses down, and it was all right. The thing is, however, that it had taken four days of unrelenting stress for me to reach this point!


In sum:

  • I went to Topeka for “train-the-trainer” training on my own in order to avoid socializing with my coworkers.
  • It backfired and I wound up forced into social interaction with strangers, having to face my underdeveloped social skills.
  • I tried too hard to learn the new database system and couldn’t; I was supposed to return to my plant and teach others how to use it.
  • I (a virgin, never had a gf) had to be in close proximity to attractive women and couldn’t avoid it as usual, reminding me how alone I was.
  • Travelling, I was forced into new tasks for which I had to impotently depend on others.
  • I’d lost my careful crafted avoidant little world and it freaked me out.



For several months after my return home, I kept wanting to recreate that mood of letting-go, of letting things be as they were, of letting myself be as I was and not hiding or avoiding. I even came up with a little motto to remind me of it: Remember the Rental Car Lady!


Tune in next time….:  One night, few weeks after returning from my trip, I found myself on my hands and knees bawling like a child and couldn’t stop.


It followed me from Topeka

~ 1 ~

If your happiness depends on hiding from certain people and situations, what happens when you can’t hide? There comes a point where you just have to let things happen as they will. You just have to accept your situation and stop trying to fight it. That’s what happened. . . .

I handed my ticket to the clerk and said, “I had reservations to depart tomorrow, but I’m leaving early. I don’t know how to fly Stand-By because I’ve never done it before. What do I need to do?”

He didn’t laugh at me. He didn’t frown at me. He didn’t bite my head off. He simply explained how I could do it. Very helpful.

So, that was the first instance, on that day, that long Thursday, in which I gave up the pretense of knowing what I was doing like the typical normal person does. I was tired and worn out and some of my defense mechanisms were already down.

This was sort a of a good thing, though I’m not sure I realized it at the time.

I wasn’t tense anymore, just a bit depressed – but I was on my way home.

This being a United flight, it got routed through Denver, not straight on to SeaTac. There were no meals to be served on either of my flights, when I arrived in Denver I overpaid for a ham sandwich and coleslaw and a cookie at an airport deli, to keep from starving. Thing about airports – I used to get excited there, but now, on this trip, it was just another tipping point into feeling defeated and depressed.

How come?

It seems paradoxical, but avoidants are “lonely loners.”

As mentioned previously, I had arranged my life so as to minimize social exposure because it was so painful and confusing. (Again, refer to AVPD). Well, a big part of this strategy of hiding from the world was the effort I put into avoiding even seeing or hearing and affectionate couples attractive girls. I just couldn’t bear it and it would depress me. So I tried to practice what-you-don’t-see-can’t-hurt-you, by avoiding it as much as possible. The roots of this habit go back to high school, but hit its stride in my twenties. It degenerated into an aversion. I remained a virgin and never had a relationship. I buried how much this hurt. For the most part it succeeded.

At the airports and on the planes, I had to see and hear other people. No way to get around it. Normal, happy people talking and laughing and hugging each other – good, warm human activity, but it forced me to face how alone I really was in the world. This was one time I couldn’t hide from it. And all the attractive women! Sexy, desirable… and unapproachable, because I was feeling overwhelmed by all of this and had nowhere to run.

I’d gotten away from the “strangers” in my class, but here I was in another situation where my defense mechanisms were breaking down.

On the flight from Denver to SeaTac they showed “About A Boy” on the cabin video screens. I watched it, and I do mean watched because I wasn’t about to pay for a pair of headphones, so I couldn’t hear any of the dialog. Great, just what I wanted to see, a romantic comedy. Bloody Hugh Grant.

Still of Hugh Grant, Toni Collette and Nicholas Hoult in About a Boy

I don’t know what they’re saying.
(c) 2002 – Universal Studios; Courtesy IMDB

~ 2 ~

Next up, the Red-Haired Girl and the Intense Stare Girl.

The Red-Haired Girl was there at K.C.I. when I first noticed her. She was there on my flight to Denver. She was there at the same gate at Denver and there in line ahead of me to board the connecting flight to SeaTac. Could not avoid seeing or hearing her. And she was on her cell phone unceasingly. It never left her side – the side of her head that is.

She was one of the kinds of girls I like: Short red hair, and fair skin with hardly any freckles. Green eyes behind nerdy glasses. Nice figure, the kind that looks good in denim, which is what she was wearing.

I wanted her. That’s a bad thing – desire – when you’re like me. Normally, I would’ve been able suppress this, but in my present state I didn’t have the will. I was feeling sapped. So I just let it be there, since I couldn’t make it go away.

The plane landed at SeaTac after dark. United’s terminal is located in a newer building that is physically separated from the main terminal. There is an underground tunnel that connects the two, and you have to ride a tram or subway of sorts to get to and from the United terminal. The tram arrived and the doors wooshed open and we all got off. To get to the escalators that lead to the main terminal floor, I began crossing an open, tile-floored area.

A woman was walking towards me, heading for the tram in order to board it. She was short, dark-haired and dark-eyed, and wore a trench coat. She was pretty cute. She was looking right at me.

She was the Intense Stare Girl.

I mean it. She was looking directly at me. As we walked towards each other, she kept her eyes fixed on mine. As we got closer the angle at which we faced was getting more oblique, yet she just shifted her eyes to keep them on me. And she had an intense look on her face, which is hard to describe. It was aggressive, burning, passionate, and almost hostile. Frankly, to this day I’m not sure if her strong reaction to me was positive or negative, lust or rage. No one had ever looked at me like that. It was disconcerting, but it also turned me on (!)

After she passed, I stopped. I turned around and watched her back as she walked away. I had an urge to go catch up with her before she boarded the tram. Something optimistic in me suggested that she was attracted to me. But what to say to her? I guess I could’ve said something bland and beta, such as “Excuse me, can I help you with something? I noticed you looking at me, is everything okay?”

I hesitated, and the opportunity passed.

I ascended to the main concourse to wait for my luggage. I stood in place at the bag carousel. On the other side of it, who was there but Red-Haired girl! She was speaking on her phone. I was still a little churned up from the Intense Stare Girl event and had an urge to approach Red-Haired Girl. But I thought I’d be interrupting her conversation, and besides, why would she be interested in me? Blah, blah. Any guys reading this who have had approach-anxiety freeze them in their tracks know the experience.

So, I never saw Red-Haired Girl or Intense Stare Girl again.

And yes, these experiences, too, added to the overall worn-out sense of giving up and defeated acquiesence I’d been feeling since the day before, back in Topeka.

~ Notes ~
To get caught up on the events leading up to the scenario I just described, please go read the previous post – hey, better yet, go back to the very beginning of this blog and start reading everything. Everything! Do it now! Actually, it’s not much to read, because this blog is still new.