Jim Ott's Blog

This blog is a collection of columns I've written for Bay Area News Group newspapers serving the East San Francisco Bay region.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lessons on the Lam

This column was published in the Tri-Valley Herald and Valley Times in March 2009.

When David Lair was 16, he felt angry and misunderstood. So he ran away from home.

“I started from my house one evening in San Ramon on a bike with a flat tire,” said Lair, who is now 21 and smiled as he reminisced about the almost amusing mishaps of his three-day adventure.


Lair rode toward Pleasanton, though he didn't really know what direction he was riding. When he arrived in Dublin after 10 p.m, Lair spotted a bus and decided this would make for an easier getaway, so he rode hard to try to catch it.

“It drove off and didn’t think twice about stopping for me,” he said.

When another bus finally came along, Lair hitched a ride to Livermore, but only because the driver took pity on the boy since the bus was going out of service.

Soon a tired and hungry Lair was sitting at the corner of Jack London and Kitty Hawk in Livermore. He called his ex-girlfriend to come get him. As he waited, two friendly fellows about 19 years old came along.

They robbed him at knifepoint.

“I pulled out the $8 and odd cents I had, and proved I had nothing more by emptying my pockets,” he said.

The robbers walked away with Lair’s money and his cell phone to deter a call to the police.

Soon Lair’s ex-girlfriend (we’ll call her Betsy) picked up the boy in her dad’s Mercedes, which she took without her dad’s knowledge. “She was technically my ex-girlfriend at that moment, but she would become my girlfriend in a few days,” Lair said.

When the two got to Betsy’s house, she snuck him into her room where they looked at pictures and talked about old times. In the morning, as Lair hid in the attic, his mother called to ask if the family had seen her son.

“Betsy covered for me,” he said, “and her sister also helped my escape.”

Betsy’s sister told Lair about a garage in Livermore that housed an old car with a dead engine where he could sleep for a few days until he determined the next leg of his journey.

"My knowledge of Livermore was almost non-existent,” Lair said, “so I ended up walking for three hours in the blazing sun before I reached my destination.”

Lair slept successfully that night in the car, but woke up starving and still without money. In lieu of food, he accepted a cigarette from a friend of Betsy’s sister who knew Lair was in the garage.
An infrequent smoker, the 16-year-old Lair passed out after a few puffs and cut the top of his head as he fell to the ground.

“I must have tried to get up because on the way down for the second time, I cut open my eyebrow,” he said.

Eventually, Lair was given $20 for food, which he purchased at a gas station where he met a man of Asian decent who spoke in broken English. The man noted Lair’s condition, shared a story about being beaten up once, and offered the boy a bandaid.

Lair’s adventure then took him to a school where he blended in with students and hung out with a friend. He also made a call and managed to get back together with Betsy.

After three days, Lair had enough. He called home. “My mother picked me up within 30 minutes,” he said.

Today, Lair is content with his life and is nothing like the confused and aimless boy he was back then. “It seems we all go through rebellious periods in our adolescent life,” he said. “That experience taught me several lessons and helped shape the person I am today.”

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1 comment:

she said...

this is a great story.. a great life story, many rebellions share in common.. many parents/siblings/romantic partners of rebellions share in common

always nice to read when it has a happy ending

a mom of 8 grown children recently told me half-joking, that "aliens inhabit humans from about age 12 to 22

but then, your children come back, and you are so proud and grateful to know them again at around age 23"

my poor parents had to wait an extra decade, God bless 'em

"to willful teenagers and the parents that let them live to tell their stories"

great read as always ren man!

love, ~s.