January 03, 2007

The Tulsa Incident

By Sean A. Donahue © 2006

I was on my way to my World Series of Poker, the Amateur Poker League National Championships back in April when I had reached the wall. The moment we all hit when driving long distances by yourself. The portion when your legs are cramping, you need to take a piss but you won't and can't until you reach some meaningful milestone.

My milestone was the rest area outside Tulsa, Oklahoma.

I had driven from Lubbock since 11 A.M. that day and at about 6 P.M. I had reached the wall. It was beyond dreary with nothing but rain from Amarillo all the way to the Tulsa rest stop. It poured and poured and I felt just waterlogged though I had been in a car for over 500 miles. I wanted to drain the lizard, get an overpriced snack from the vending machine that probably wouldn't take my dollar and get back to the road so I could make it to St. Louis by 1 A.M.

I approached the rest area and I know, why stop in a rest area, why not pull over to some store, some McDonalds on the way. Well, I had been on the turnpike in the middle of God's truly forsaken land, Oklahoma, and I really didn't want to wait in line and get away from driving, for once I stopped my adrenaline kick would have been gone and I would have probably spot welded to any soft surface that my head connected to. I wanted to get and go, a quick strike almost like a two-minute drill down the sidelines.

The next rest area wasn't going to be for about 70 miles so I pulled in and got pumped, "Get in, get done, get out, and get going!" I kept saying to myself.
But when I approached the men's room, which was surrounded by a puddle, with the rain continuing to pour down beside me, I heard voices.

"Somebody's coming." I heard someone say with an Arabic accent.

Now since 9-11 we've all been super overprotective against anyone that isn't a WASP so I thought maybe somebody was trying to do some pills, hit a line or two, and didn't want to do it out in the middle of Noah's Ark.

I walked in and saw what I'd heard: two men of Arabic decent, one going into the shitter while the other washed his hands.

Another boy came in right behind me, who couldn't have been more than 12 and while I surveyed the situation, took the only working pisser in the place (the other two had plastic over them). While I waited I anxiously heard the patter of Arabic going between the two men.

The twelve-year old left in a hurry and I took my piss, being careful to watch my back. Turban 1 wasn't doing a thing, just waiting and looking around which made me extremely nervous. I finished the deed, washed my hands and walked outside to look at the candy machine. I wanted to get the hell out of there.

All my fears...

All my bad thoughts...

All the things that the government wanted me to watch out for...

Those "Terrorists."

I had to alert the authorities, I had to let them know that something shady was going on here, something wasn't right. I slowly started back toward my car, careful not to make any noise as I passed the men's room.

Why is it that when we are so nervous about those who are different than we are, we end up being the same?

I passed the restroom and on the way back to the car I smelt the sweet scent of Marijuana.

And then it hit me.

The two "terrorists" turned out to be a couple of stoners trying to get a hit in the restroom of the Tulsa rest stop without anyone knowing. Their wives were yelling at them to come to the car as they ran past my car to their families.

I got to St. Louis, spot welded to my pillow and finished 6th in the nation in the tournament.

But I stopped back at the same rest area on the way back and smiled.

Instead of fear, I felt nothing but laughter as I remembered how my fears preyed on my subconscious and my brain got the best of me in the "Tulsa Incident."

Sean A. Donahue is a freelance writer, radio personality and poker player. He is the author of Instant Tragedy which looks at his life and those who he has touched and been touched by. He is divorced with two children and lives in Lubbock, Texas.

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