Monday, May 16, 2011

Riding in Cabs with Hookers

I began dating a guy in early December of 2001 when I was still living at home.  I drove a beautiful, white Camaro and since I was a spoiled brat and my daddy had paid for it, it came with a restriction—do not drive it to Dallas.  On my very first “real date” with the new guy, (living in Waxahachie, a real date was when you actually left Waxahachie) I opted to break the rule and volunteer to take my pretty car to Dallas.

It was December 21st, and we went to see my favorite local band at a club in Deep Ellum.  I parked behind the club where I typically did when I visited this particular club.  Sure, there were signs posted that said “No Parking – Violators will be Towed,” but I wasn’t worried about it.  I had gotten away with it several times before, and besides, the parking lot was practically full—what were they going to do, tow away all of us?

Just after 1 a.m. when the concert was over, we went out to where my car was parked and surprise!  ALL of the cars were gone.  The fuzz had had every last one of us towed while we were all inside enjoying the show.  After several minutes of me squatting in the parking lot, hunched over and hyperventilating, I composed myself and went into problem-solving mode.  There was a telephone number on the tow-away sign so I called it and found out where my car had been sent.  Apparently it was at a lovely impound on Ledbetter, just a few miles south on 45, lovely.

I called for a cab and a while later a Jamaican fellow picked us up.  He was pleasant enough, but he had an unsavory, scantily-clad woman in the front seat with him.  I found it interesting that he would pick us up while he already had a passenger/customer, and also that she was sitting in the front seat with him, quite close in fact—but what did I know?  I was 19 and had never ridden in a taxi before.

He took us to the address I had for the impound yard and let us out—luckily we had enough cash to pay for the cab ride.  He and his traveling companion didn’t wait to make sure we made it in alright before speeding off down the road.  We made our way to the gate that was chained up and noticed a sign saying that the impound had recently moved half a mile down the road.  It was after 1:30 a.m. and I believe it was around 34 degrees outside by that time; also, since we didn’t anticipate spending an extended period of time outdoors that evening, we were only wearing light jackets.

We walked down Ledbetter through an industrial area that was not well-lit and was pretty much terrifying.  We would see a guy here and there walking by themselves, and we just knew they were either going to or coming from a drug deal.  We finally made it to the new location of the impound yard and things were looking up.  During our walk I had figured out that I would simply have them swipe my credit card to pay the charges and we would soon be on our way home!  My parents would never even have to know that I snuck the car out of town or especially that it had been towed.  When we approached the minimally-toothed woman at the impound office, she told us it would be just over $250 to get the car.  I agreeably handed over my Visa card, and she smirked as she said that they were only accepting cash and money orders right now.  Since they had just moved, they were not currently accepting credit cards as the machine hadn’t yet been “set up.”

After several minutes of me squatting in the parking lot, hunched over and hyperventilating, I composed myself and went into problem-solving mode.  We would call another cab, have them take us to a gas station or a place with an ATM, and I would get cash to pay for the car.  My parents would never have to know.  I called the same cab company since the number was still in my phone—and what do you know, the same Jamaican cab driver and his sweet lady pulled up about half an hour later.  It was during this ride that I had figured out that it was the driver who was the woman’s customer.  We were riding in a cab with a hooker.

The driver took us to a gas station that clearly belonged in this area of town.  Unless you had a vile of hand sanitizer with you, it would not be advised to touch anything here—you would surely contract a form of hepatitis.  As my date and I approached the ATM I thought, “No problem.  I’ll use my debit card and overdraw (when you’re a teenager, you never have more than a couple hundred bucks in your checking account), and then replace it the next day when I get paid.”  My parents would never have to know.  As it turned out, this particular ATM would not let me withdraw more than what was in my checking account—around $75.  This was not nearly enough to get my car out of the impound, and when I attempted to access cash with my credit card at the ATM, it asked for a PIN number—which of course I had never thought to set up.  I finally asked my date if he would loan me the cash until the next day, but as luck had it, he had no money either.  We were quite the duo—defeated with hardly any money in perhaps the shittiest area of Dallas.  Stranded.

Our cab driver had waited outside of the gas station for us, like he and the hooker had anything better to do at 2 a.m.  They took us back to the [correct] impound yard this time, and the new game plan was to offer the impound lady what cash I had and plead with her to let me write a check or offer to help her set up the credit card machine—whatever it would take.  We arrived back at the impound yard around 2:30 a.m., and there was no haggling with her.  She wouldn’t even let us sit in the warm office with her since it was past 10 p.m., so we sat outside on a bench in the freezing cold.

It was 3:15 a.m. when I finally admitted that it was time to call the parental units to bail us out.  My father answered the phone, and I proceeded to sob through our very brief conversation where I explained the situation, the amount I needed, how sorry I was, and the only thing my dad said was, “Your mother and I will be there when we can,” and hung up.

We sat on the freezing bench outside of the impound yard well over an hour.  When they finally pulled up, my mom got out and paid the impound lady the amount that was due.  My dad didn’t get out of the car.  Since I had only been dating this guy a few weeks, my parents hadn’t met him yet.  This was not the ideal circumstance in which to introduce them, and it probably helped that my father wasn’t speaking to me.  I was told by my dad through my mom that I was to drop my date off at his house and then immediately come home myself.  I had never felt so comforted by the warmth of my bed at 5:30 a.m.  When I was able, I reimbursed my parents for the impound charge and then served a surprisingly lenient six months of grounding...

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Time I Slapped a Stranger's Baby

Our best friends were here a year ago, visiting from Sweden.  It was early summer, but even in early summer in Dallas, it is ridiculously hot and we were looking for ways to entertain our guests in a comfortable setting—indoors with air conditioning.  One day they were here, we opted to visit NorthPark—Dallas’ premier shopping center of the elite, the privileged, local [and visiting] celebrities…and then us.  We went to enjoy lunch, do a little shopping and take in an afternoon movie.  A cold movie theater is about the only thing that can soothe me during the summer months—I’m perpetually irritable from June until October, but I swear that has nothing to do with what happened.

Following lunch, our guests wanted to stop by the Apple store to see the iPads.  You see, in Sweden they have pickled fish, vodka and self-assembly furniture, so an iPad was a particularly exciting piece of technology for them to witness.  As we made our way to the Apple store, I was telling a story, as friends do when they are catching up after not seeing each other in nearly three years.  In honor of my Italian ancestors, I use excessive hand gestures and arm flailing to stress points and for dramatic effect during my stories.

Paying no attention to my surroundings I continued with my story, unaware of the stroller that was approaching.  Before I could process what was happening, it was already done—I had just back-handed a toddler in the face.  Since we passed going opposite directions, we were already several feet apart before both parties caught on to what had just occurred.

My immediate response, naturally, was shock followed by denial and then horror.  Did…I…just…no way.  The parents gave me a disgusting look, as they very well should have—I had just slapped their baby!  It was my fault regardless of the fact that they were the ones walking against the natural flow of mall traffic and even though they clearly were not paying attention to where they were going either.  It was my fault because it was the back of my hand that collided with their child’s flawless cheek.

As soon as I realized what happened I believe I blurted out something along the lines of “Ohmigod,” and then it happened—my friends and I were overcome with laugher.  It is hard to sound sincere with an apology while laughing as hysterically as my friends and I were laughing.  With as crowded as the mall was and how much distance there was now between us, both parties went their separate ways without any conflict, thankfully.  It was an honest accident and although laughing uncontrollably most likely wasn’t the most appropriate response to the situation, it was just the way it went.  I believe what made it the worst is that of course it had to be me who slapped someone’s child—the person who gets taunted for not liking children [which is not true!] and my circle of friends’ years of teasing had finally come to fruition.

This was the ongoing joke for the remainder of their trip, and I still catch flack about it from time to time, as recent as last week actually.  “I know it will be hard to resist, but don’t smack that baby!”  “Don’t roll a stroller in Julie’s direction!”  I waited to share this story until I was pretty sure the statute of limitations on assault had passed, in case the parents of that damaged child had somehow been tracking me the past year, just waiting for a confession…