"Hi! I am Ali." He said in a heavy Arabic accent.
He continued to fidget with some wires on his keychain, and a cell phone in his shirt pocket.
"Do you pick up slugs often?" Unsolicited questions are proscribed, but in this case I was thirsting for more info before starting off on a journey with a total stranger who seemed quite agitated about something.
"No, this is my first time. I go to med school at the Armed Forces Medical College, and was taking a shortcut back through Anacostia when someone hit me. I hopped out to see if he was OK, but he drove off. I tried to get his plate number, but there was no tag. I called the police, but after waiting an hour, they never came so I called them again, and they said I could file a report over the phone or come in, but they didn't think I should wait in that area any more."
Now I knew why he was so nervous. Driving through Anacostia in the daytime is plenty scary. Especially if you are obviously foreign, and in a nice new SUV. Ali, a first year med student, had had a rough day. I'd have been a bit jumpy, too. Another slug came up, and to head off any fright on his part, I introduced Ali and said that this was his first time picking up slugs. We showed Ali a shortcut to Tacket's, and the rest of the ride was uneventful.
Today I had to drive in, so it was my turn to pick up slugs. The light rain made things a bit slick but not too bad. As we approached the exit for the Pentagon, traffic slowed, as usual. 90% of the HOV traffic gets off at the Pentagon. However, the small white car in front of us seemed to be taken by surprise. A Ford Colt or similar tin can, it should have been able to stop fast, but the driver slammed on the brakes and put it into a skid, right into the side barricade. I was leaning on the brakes pretty well at this point too, not wanting to get in the middle of anything, when I heard a squeal from behind me and noticed smoke arising from the wheels of the small white tin can behind me. Well, I did a quick check, let off the brakes, pulled a quick swerve and coasted around the wreck in front, thankful that I'd avoided getting rear-ended, and avoided rear-ending someone.
I pulled over to see if anyone had gotten hurt and pick up the hapless slugs from the wrecked car. But they weren't slugs. That much was obvious when I walked back. Though shaken, they seemed more nervous than scared. This was confirmed as they waved me and the other two from my car (who had now joined me) away. We hopped back in the truck and continued on to the ramp. The few words the driver had said to me were in broken English, and he was talking to the passengers in Spanish. I figured that they could use some help, so I called the State Police on the cell phone, but as I hung up with them the same car, headlight and fender now mangled and parts dangling from the side, whizzed by us on the left shoulder of the road.
I guess they were late for workâ¦