Now, we're all familiar with the expression about waking up on the wrong side of the bed. This is sort of like that, but a bit more extreme. It was approximately 9:00am in the morning and I was on the wrong side of a giant river, lost in the rural lands of a foreign country. Just over an hour ago, I had awoken in the Georgian city of Kutaisi, and after two cups of coffee, I decided I would go on a run. The previous day, I planned a loop around the outskirts of the city that I thought would take me approximately 40 minutes, but due to my masochistic sense of direction, something went wrong. It was now roughly an hour since I left and there was no sign of my starting point. There wasn't even any sign of the city for that matter. I was just going along a rural quiet road, surrounded by trees, hills, and an occasional cow grazing on the side.
I'm not sure really how this happens, but nearly every time I'm faced with a fork in the road, I always choose the wrong way. Even when I come back and change my choice, I still ultimately end up with the wrong one. And, to my dismay, there had been many forks already in this run, so now the thought of finding my way back within the next week seemed slim to none. It was time to resort to plan B: completely rely on the kindness of strangers and hope for the best. There was just one problem, there were no strangers. I hadn't even seen a car in the past half hour, let alone a person. No one to hitch a ride with, no one to ask for directions, and no one to sustain me if things got desperate and I had to resort to cannibalism.
Speaking of sustenance, my stomach began to angrily roar with a force loud enough to scare small children. It was now well over two hours since I woke up, with more than half of that time spent running, and the only thing to enter it so far today was a cup of coffee. (Actually more like 2-3 cups). Needless to say, the organ was ready to mutiny and overthrow the brain. However, it was at this moment I noticed something on the side of the road. Standing right there was a large green bush covered in small bright-red berries. I stopped and stared for a moment, contemplating my situation. On one hand, berries can be tasty and provide the necessary nutrients my body currently needed. On the other hand, I had no way of identifying if they were poisonous or not. Do I go for it and take the risk? I mean, this may be the only food source I'll get all morning.
Just as I was about to step closer, I noticed something. Just down the road, there was an old wooden house with a small market stand attached to it. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I know, houses normally contain people and markets normally contain food. The berries would have to wait, I needed to go check this out. As I got closer, I was able to see two figures sitting on the steps leading to the front door. I called out and they looked up. One was a younger man who looked about my age and the other, who I assumed to be his father, seemed a few decades older. Since the odds of them knowing English were slim to none, I tried in Russian.
"Can you help me? Where is the city Kutaisi? I was running and got lost." (I will put up the words in Russian later today to add to the authenticity)
The older man smiled and chuckled a little, "Kutaisi is that way. Pretty far, about 12 or 13 kilometers."
'Damn,' I thought to myself, I've been going in the wrong direction the whole time. Might take me an hour to get back, and I could still get lost trying. Meanwhile my hunger was growing by the second. I looked back to the berries which were now oh so tempting. I began taking steps back in that direction, ready to go primal and deal with any potential poison later. But then the man spoke again.
"Come here and sit down. My friend has a car and he will be here soon."
Was I about to get a ride back to the city? For once, I was about to get fully bailed out of one of my blunders. Somebody better go check to see if hell had frozen over, I thought as I happily walked over to the steps. But then, to my surprise, the older man took out three beers.
"Join us for drinks until my friend gets here!" He excitedly said.
I paused. On one hand, this guy was doing me a huge favor by offering me a ride via his friend back to town. On the other, I hadn't eaten anything yet all day and just spent the last hour exercising. Ultimately, there was only choice. I took one of the beers. If this day is gonna be a wash, at least I'll be back in my bed soon. The presumed son then took out a large jar of peanuts to go along with the beer and offered some to me. Now there was a solid source of calories to complement the liquid one and breakfast was complete. Quickly I thanked him, as I ravenously grabbed a handful as if I were a gluttonous dog being offered a treat.
We began talking. The younger man remained mostly silent, but the older man began asking me any question he could think of, taking only brief pauses to drink his beer. He asked me who I was, where I was from, and how I possibly ended up alone on this remote, rural, road alone at 9:00am. I tried to follow and respond accordingly, by with the alcohol now entering my empty stomach, my cognitive thought process was slowing rapidly. I tried to offset it with excessive peanuts, but unfortunately they didn't do much.
Finally, about 20-30 minutes later, an old tan car pulled up to the house we were sitting in front of and out stepped a man of about 50 wearing a hat. He shook hands with the younger man first, then the older, and finally me. This was to be my driver. Relieved, I stood up, preparing to get in the car and head back to Kutaisi, but instead, this man had other plans.
"Not yet," he calmly said as he took a beer from the younger man, "One beer first. Then we will go."
Normally, I would be a bit apprehensive to get into a car with a potentially inebriated stranger, but by now the alcohol was moving from my stomach to my head, making me too tired to be concerned. We all continued talking for a bit, and by 'we' I mean they talked while I stood there and used all my energy to fight off the dizzy spells. All the while, not a single other car passed by, further emphasizing just how far removed we were from society. Eventually though, the guys decided that they'd spoken and drank their fill and now it was time to go. The father and son asked if I wanted another beer for the ride home, but I declined. My driver, on the other hand, accepted.
Now, you're probably wondering if he drove recklessly, coming inches within crashing, or if he was a drinking and driving pro, able to keep it all together quite well. Unfortunately, I am unable to answer this question because within five seconds of getting in the car, I dozed off. About 20 minutes later though, the driver shook me awake right outside my hostel. We were still alive and I saw no visible pieces missing from the car, so I guess all's well ends well.