How I ended up at the Police Station at 2am on my FIRST weekend in College

Scan 2015-8-13 15.03.45 (1)Left to Right: Georgia from Nevada, Marissa, Annie, Me

Let this story be useful as a “What not to do” your first weekend away at college. Especially if your school is in a bigger city than the one you grew up in…

On one hand, it’s great that smart phones and Facebook didn’t exist back in 2002. On the other hand, they would have been seriously useful. It’s great that there’s not photographic proof* of the happenings of this night, but in all honesty, it would have added greatly to this blog fodder. I can paint the picture for you though! I’ll actually be painting the picture for a lot of people, as I’ve never even told my parents this story. It’s now safe to tell it, 13  years later and 2000+ miles away. ; ) Here’s the story of how I ended up at the McKeesport Police Station at 2am my first weekend in college.

So it’s my first weekend at Point Park University in downtown Pittsburgh, PA. I had just turned 18 years old a week or so before and was PUMPED about being “on my own.” I arrived on a Friday to move into the dorms and that very night at dinner met Annie and Erin, two girls who were roommates on another floor. The three of us hit it off immediately and so were together for all the freshman activities that weekend. Our first Saturday night, Annie said she was hanging out with a friend of hers so Erin and I went in search of something to do. Erin had a friend at the University of Pittsburgh who knew of a party so we dressed in our best jeans and tanks tops and strode out into the city to catch the bus to “Pitt.” Pitt was only 2.5 miles away, but the bus would get us there in 20 minutes so we wouldn’t have to walk.

Important Note: I had never ridden a city bus in my life. I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky where I rode the school bus and then drove my old hand-me-down car once I got my license. I’d taken the subway in NYC twice before, but no buses. Erin was in the same boat but had a little bus experience in the city since she was from a town only an hour or so away. She’d done it before, but not often. There was no point to have a car at our school, since it was smack in the middle of downtown and we only had two buildings to walk between. Everybody said we’d use the bus to get everywhere we needed to go anyway. Ok. Back to the story:

Erin knew where the bus stop was, a few blocks away from our school, and her friend had told her which stop to get off at. As far as we were concerned, we had ALL the information we needed for the night. We were set. So off we went.

We made it to the stop and Erin’s friend was waiting for us. She took us to her campus, showed us her dorm room (which we were totally jealous of because it had air conditioning), we talked to other new freshman, and then went to the party. This is where you’d expect me to say we went to a raging party, got busted by the cops and went to jail for underage drinking. You’d be wrong. The party was actually pretty mellow; just people hanging out, drinking and smoking. We went to another friend’s place to hang but around midnight, Erin and I decided to escape the cigarette smoke and catch the bus back to our school. Her friend asked us if we wanted her to walk us back to the bus stop, but we declined her offer. We knew where it was and were pros now, so off we went!

We went back to the exact same spot we got off the bus and sat and waited. After midnight the buses went from running more often to running about every half hour. We must have just missed one because it seemed as though we were waiting forever. Several taxis and sketchy dudes stopped by every few minutes to ask us if we needed a ride. Nobody was dangerous, but we were getting uncomfortable and were ready for the bus to show up. About 30 or 40 minutes later, it finally did and we hopped on, eager to get back to our dorms.

The bus ride to Pitt had only taken us about 15 minutes, so when were still riding this bus 20 minutes later, with no familiar buildings around, we started to get confused. Erin was saying, “Why are we down by the waterfront?” This landmark was significantly farther away… We asked the other passengers for the number of the bus, thinking we’d gotten on the wrong one, but they all confirmed we were on the number we’d meant to get on. Erin was noting that maybe we were taking the long way around the city and would eventually end up back in downtown. About an hour later, when all the other passengers had gotten off at their stops,  the bus was pulling up to the depot, right next to all other buses that were empty and done with their service for the night.

The driver announced, “Last stop. Everybody off.” “Everybody” meaning the only two bewildered girls in the back. The driver looked creepy enough to set off my scary movie memory and while were walking up to the front to exit the bus it totally felt like that scene from Scream (1, 2 or 3, I can’t remember) where Sidney was in the car with the murderer, they crashed and then in order to get out, she had to crawl over the killer, who was either dead or playing dead. (She doesn’t know if he’s going to wake up or not as she crawls over his body to escape the car through his window. I can’t remember why they were in the same car in the first place, now that I think about it…) Luckily, the bus driver didn’t kill us and we walked off the bus into a dark bus depot, with him, I’m sure of it, shaking his head at us.

We had absolutely no clue where we were and the streets of this area were desolate. We’re talking zombie apocalypse desolate. We had no choice but to just start walking. We headed up the street toward the lights of a 24 hour gas station. There was a billboard that was lit up on the side of the road posting a business in McKeesport, Pennsylvania and Erin shouts, “We’re in McKeesport?!”. What? “Where the hell is McKeesport?” I asked her. Turns out it was nowhere close to school and not the best part of town to be in. Ok great. Just checking.

Here’s a little view of how far we’d ridden the bus out of town:

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 4.28.40 PM

Other important note: I’d gotten a cell phone during my senior year of high school. This was before nationwide coverage though, so when I left for college, I shut mine down since I wouldn’t be able to afford the long distance phone plan. Everybody had landlines in their dorm rooms and AOL Instant Messenger, so it didn’t seem like that big of a deal. Until now.

Luckily, Erin had her cell with her. Unluckily, its battery was close to dying. We walked into the gas station and asked the only man working the address so we could call a cab. After an awkward couple of minutes trying to understand each other, we just had him point it out to us in the phone book. There was a pay phone on the corner so we used the phone book to call as many cab companies as we could on Erin’s phone. After 4 different companies told us they wouldn’t drive that far to get us, we started getting freaked out. Erin’s phone was dying, all our friends back at school (the ones we’d known for less than 24 hours) didn’t have cars to come get us, and we couldn’t call our parents because they would just freak out and not really be able to help us anyway. We got cash out of the ATM to get change to use the payphone. We just kept calling friends to see if they had friends that had a car. Erin finally got a hold of one guy that she knew of who had a car. He was SO nice to leave the party he was at to check Google Maps to see how far away we were. It was only about 16 miles away, but the roads were so windy that it was going to take him about 45 minutes to get to us. By this time it wass close to 1 or 1:30am. Bless his soul for even agreeing to drive to us at this hour. We sat down on the corner and waited.

And waited. We were talking about how this very night would make a great story one day, but how it wasn’t so great at that moment. In the meantime, some super sketchy people cruising by and coming up to us. In all fairness it was late at night, we were in a dark part of  town with no other homes or businesses around, and we were standing on a street corner for quite some time. It made sense that people would think we were selling drugs or ourselves. After the first few cracked out people came up to us though, we started getting really freaked out and antsy for her friend to show up. We didn’t want to wait back up at the convenience store and risk her friend not finding us (as this was also pre-everybody-having-a-GPS), so we stayed in the lot. We walked to the back of it, near another corner to hide from the street lights and be hopefully, unnoticeable by anyone walking the streets.

A few minutes into our stint at this corner, a cop in a big police van drove up, stopped, and rolled down the passenger window. “Ladies. This is not the part of town you want to be hanging out in. What in the world are you doing out here?” We explained the situation just like two freaked-out college girls would: simultaneous, screechy voices speaking way-too-fast-to-understand sentences. He told us to get in the car and to call our friend to tell him to pick us up at the police station instead.  Again, my scary-movie-senses came back into play. There’s always a bad cop. One who would pretend to be there to rescue us, only to be the killer himself. Thank goodness Erin was with me or I might not have agreed to go with him. He ended up to be obviously a good cop and we all bantered back and forth until we got to the station.

He couldn’t drive us back to Pittsburgh himself since he was on duty and we were in ANOTHER CITY so we rode back with him and he let us use the phone at the station to update Erin’s friend who was on his way. We sat on the station steps outside, in the dark, grateful to feel a little safer, and resumed our waiting. A little while later, the cop who picked us up came over to tell us to move back into the building as they were about to transport a dangerous inmate. We moved inside the building to the stairs that led up to the 2nd floor. About 4 other cops showed up to transfer this one prisoner to another jail. As he slowly clanked up the stairwell beside us, shackled at the hands and feet, he got close to us and gave us both the world’s creepiest slow-turn and killer-glare we’d ever seen. We stared back at him wide-eyed and watched as they loaded him into a van and drove off. We kept picturing that prisoner taking every one of those cops out, just like in the movies and coming back to kill us because we’d seen his face. All the sudden we heard fast footsteps and about jumped out of our skin as Erin’s friend came through the open front doors to find us.

We laughed it off and were so relieved to see him. We began the 45 minute drive back to school, arriving some time around 3:30 or 4am. The next morning at breakfast I walked sleepily into the cafeteria, where Erin, Annie, and a couple other friends were already listening to the story. They looked at me and I just shook my head, grabbed my tray, and went to the line to get some cereal.

And that was my first night out at college.


So if you’re about to head off to college, here are a couple tips to set you up right.

1) If you have to take public transportation, know how to differentiate between INBOUND and OUTBOUND lines. There are apps for everything nowadays so get them! Get the maps, the schedules, the reminders, etc.

2) Ask for help if you need it… BEFORE you get on the bus/train/subway. Not when it’s 2am and you’ve wound up in a different city.

*Shockingly, I have no photos of Erin and I together as she switched schools to attend a different program a few weeks into our semester. We’ve gotten to hang a couple times since then and we’ll always have this story. It’s a fun one to tell, especially together. Miss you, Erin!

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  1. Annie says

    Flashback to the past! I was so worried about you crazy cats!

  2. This was extremely amusing.

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