We were headed back to the cruise ship, after a long day of walking around the island of St. Thomas. We just finished touring and shopping when we found ourselves standing in a parking lot being approached by a stranger.
Just like the way car salesmen comes running towards you at a dealership, this man made a beeline towards us. He was talking pretty fast and started asking us some questions;
“You’re a great looking couple, you must be on your honeymoon.”
“Where do you come from?”
“Really? I have a cousin in Nebraska.”
“Say, do you two want a quick, free tour of the island? I can take you to see the pirate, Blackbeard’s castle.”
“At the end of the tour, I will give you a free gift.”
Before we could think or realize what happened, we were both in the back seat of his car, speeding through the streets of the island. In a much later discussion, I explained to my wife that I thought she wanted to go on this tour. She believed that I wanted to go on the tour as well.
She also believed that I was carrying around a pocket knife, which I left at home. How is it possible, that two grown adults ended up in the back seat of a stranger’s car, in another country?
As the car swiftly snaked through the curved streets, we headed up toward the top of a mountain. The entire time, the guy driving us was talking and talking about random things we drove by. It seemed as if he were in a hurry because everything he pointed out to us, we just drove past without stopping.
We glanced out the back window of the car and saw our cruise ship getting smaller as we drifted further away. A sinking feeling in my gut came over me, as my wife was looking less confident than when we both got into the vehicle. I cracked a fake smile to reassure her everything was going to be fine, while trying to convince myself that I hadn’t made the stupidest mistake of my life.
She had on the same fake smile, as she thought to herself;
We’ve been kidnapped.
We are going to be murdered and we’ll never be seen or heard from again.
There was a “Blackbeard’s castle, but as the driver announced it, we whizzed right past it, just like all the other attractions. Eventually, after what seemed like at least two or three hours, (in reality, it was probably about fifteen to twenty minutes) we stopped outside a resort. He told us to come in to claim our free gift.
The Set Up
I took one last glance at our ship, way off in the distance and wondered if we were going to make it back in time, before it left port for the next scheduled island.
We walked through a foyer and into an interior courtyard where we found a table and a few chairs. He told us to sit down and he would get our gift for us. As we looked around, it seemed like this resort was under some sort of construction.
The driver didn’t come back right away, but instead, a man and and a woman came over to sit with us. They began pulling out all sorts of paperwork and brochures that they spread out onto the table.
And then it began…
The Sales Pitch
They wanted us to sign up for a timeshare. I didn’t know what a timeshare was but all I knew is that we had no money and could not afford what they were asking us to pay. Both of them were very adamant about signing this paperwork, insisting it was a great deal and that we could visit places like this all over the world annually.
They offered us free airline tickets for listening to their pitch and a free bottle of rum for singing up. I told them we didn’t drink and so we didn’t need a bottle of rum.
Talking to these two was like talking to a broken record. They told us that we should take it and give it to someone. I insisted that we didn’t want it. The tone began to change and the two seemed to be getting a little frustrated with me. They kept asking, “Why don’t you want to sign up for this? It’s the deal of a lifetime?”
My reply was, “We are broke, I had to put this whole Honeymoon on our VISA.”
They replied, “You can put your deposit on the VISA.”
I shot back, “There is no more room on the VISA.”
I tried to explain that the only reason we got into the car with the driver was to see Blackbeard’s castle. We had no idea that we were going to be kidnapped. They didn’t listen and the barrage continued. It felt like we were prisoners being interrogated for something we didn’t do.
After a few more minutes, I stood up and told them. “Look, we don’t want this and we are going to miss our boat if you don’t take us back right now.” The man was muttering something under his breath as the woman got up and left.
Thank goodness she left to summon the driver, who showed up in the courtyard with a very unhappy look on his face. Maybe he was supposed to get a commission if we purchased a time share, because he didn’t say a word to us as we got back into his car.
For the entire ride back to the parking lot, where he originally picked us up, there was nothing but silence.
We both were in a daze as we thought to ourselves;
What just happened?
At some point, I checked on redeeming the airline tickets, which we did keep. There were so many block-out dates that the planets would all have to align for us to use them. The only free date might have been February twenty-ninth, but only if there was a full moon.
Just like your mother told you when you were a child, the moral of this story is, don’t take rides from strangers.