Its a good thing this ride came during daylight hours as it was scary enough. Even though the sun set towards the end of the ride, 15 minutes later and I don’t know what would have happened.
East Colfax ranks up there with the craziest streets in America. Colfax is pretty much in the middle of the Denver metro area. It can take 1-2 hours to reach the north and south ends of the metro area depending on traffic. Colfax is the only road that will take you from the eastern edge all the way to the western edge. The mix of businesses and people are very diverse. There are plenty of homeless, millennials attending the concert venues and hot restaurants and bars that cater to their age group.
The ride pickup was 6-10 blocks from where I went to high school and even in those years, east Colfax was an odd mix of cultures and not very safe in some areas. (Recently the high schooler’s were protesting the Ferguson events and a guy driver a car ran into them badly hurting a Denver cop.) The GPS took me to a location and I stopped. Looking around, the retail stores on my side of the road were vacant and no one was around which was kinda odd for this part of town. I waiting a few minutes and still no one. Just as I was dialing the rider, the driver side back door opened. The sudden noise scared me enough but it only got worse.
A very large man was getting into my car. I quickly verified his name (James) and he confirmed he was my rider. As we were covering the basics, the other two doors on the right side of the car opened and two more guys entered. All three were over 6′ and close to 300 lbs. They all smelled strongly of alcohol and pot. All three had cell phones loudly playing rap music. But this description of riders isn’t abnormal and wasn’t the scary part.
They did not enter an address into the app so I asked where we were going. James mentioned a hotel by name at an intersection about 15 minutes away. I knew the intersection and knew there were multiple hotels along one of those roads but not one by the name he said. I tried to validate with him was it the location he knew or the name of the hotel because the name of the hotel would be at a different location.
His response was very loud and confrontational. I didn’t know if it was normal behavior or the drugs and alcohol but as I started listening to the other two riders talking, I realized saying as little as possible was the best solution right now. I heard one sentence and really starting worrying. Coming from the rider in the back right seat I heard “he shot him”.
Ok. Now it was decision time. There’s no way I’m going to get these large 3 guys out of my car. What do I do? Cancel the ride and ask them to get out? Not going to happen. My first thought is to find the closest police station and drive right to it. I’m straining my brain trying to remember where the cop shops are in this neighborhood and how to get to one of them on my way to the hotel without raising suspension. Then I realized how long it had been since I was in high school and expected all the cop shops to have moved. So what do I do?
I started driving hoping to pull up next to a cop car.
The 3 guys we all talking loudly pretty much yelling at each other. The conversation was about somebody they knew that had shot someone. Their emotions were pretty wild. They were using their arms and elbows pushing each other. If I had been driving a smaller car (I drive a Lexus RX350 SUV), I don’t know how we would have all fit in the car and with all the jostling going on it would have been an even worse scene.
By now I wasn’t paying any attention to the conversation, just looking for a Denver Police officer. Thinking ahead I knew I would like to calm these guys down a bit. If I calmed them down a bit two things would be better; 1) If I found a police officer or 2) If I get to the intersection and its the wrong place – things would be smoother. Using some of the problem resolution skills from my day job, I thought of an approach that may work.
“Hey guys – you are riding in a Lexus with a great sound system. Why don’t we plug one of your phones into aux port. Your music will sound awesome!” Without any discussion, one of the guys handed me his phone. I was surprised they didn’t argue about whose phone or what tune. At least the aggressive behavior stopped.
We reached the intersection without seeing any Denver police. I had the name of the hotel right, they were wrong but nothing was said about it. They got out of the car and I drove away.
In hindsight maybe I should have stayed there and called the police. But I really didn’t listen to their conversation, I was thinking of how to get them out of the car safely and that’s what I accomplished.