*OK so I’m realizing as I’m writing this post that it might sound like something really, REALLY scary or bad is going to happen to me, so I thought I’d clear it up from the beginning that NO it wasn’t that bad, and I’m totally fine! Read on, the ending is interesting, at least I think so…*
So I have a mental list of blog-content backlog in my head right now, but something seriously creepy just happened to me like 20 minutes ago that I feel the need to share immediately.
So tonight I stayed at this cafe in Santa Monica that’s open 24-hours til like almost 2am, right, and even though I’m not that familiar with the area I’ve gotten the vibe the past few times I’ve been around there that it’s somewhere you want to be careful walking around by yourself late at night. And the parking situation around the cafe kind of sucks, so even though I tried to park as close to it as I could when I got there earlier in the evening, I still had to park maybe 3 blocks away, on a street off the main road.
Anyway, I’ve lived in enough cities/strange countries to know that I need to be aware as I’m walking around in sketchy areas (or even not-so-seemingly sketchy areas) at night. So as I’m leaving the cafe, I pack up my laptop in my backpack, check for my phone, take out my pepper spray (which by the way, I always wonder if I were ever to be in a situation where I had to use it, would it even work… I can’t even remember when I got it, so it must be pretty old. Do these things expire???). Brace myself with uber-aware mode, and venture outside. (I know I’m making this sound a lot more scary than it really was, but I’m just trying to describe what goes through my head when it’s late at night and I have no choice but to go walking outside by myself in a possibly sketchy area!).
Anyway, I get outside and start walking towards my car, which is a block away from the main road. Now on the main road, there are bars, drunk people, they’re all being noisy–I could obviously walk on that street, and there would be a lot more people around me, which could be helpful, but… I decide to take the road that my car is actually parked on. It’s more deserted, but whatever, I’m careful. As I walk, I pass some people that are possibly homeless, they’re sort of yelling at each other, whatever. I keep walking and there’s some men walking and talking to each other on the other side of the street, and a middle-aged lady smoking and pushing a cart some feet behind them. This is just what I see. I continue to walk calmly, but firmly to my car, which for some reason seems a lot further than where I parked it. In my mind I start thinking, was my car towed, did I park it in a spot I wasn’t supposed to?? Do you ever have thoughts like that?
Also, a lot of times when I’m walking around late at night by myself, even if I feel relatively safe, I think about this play I once read called Marisol, who’s this 20-something Puerto Rican woman living in New York who has a guardian angel. In one of the guardian angel’s monologues, he (she? can’t remember the gender) is all, “Marisol, I’ve saved you from like FIVE HUNDRED sexual assaults, 30 possible rapes, dadadadada, all those times that you’re walking around late at night by yourself. Be grateful, yo!” In these few blocks walking to my car, it was one of those times that I thought about that part in the play. Yeah. It reminds me to be even more uber-aware-vigilant.
ANYway. I finally get to my car (yay!). I unlock the door and throw my backpack in, shut the door, and lock it. I LOCK it. And people, if there’s one lesson you take away from my rambly, rambly story, it is that YOU SHOULD TOO. I don’t care if you’re a woman, man, both, neither, whatever… lock your car doors after you get in.
Why? (I’m almost done I promise.)
So I’m driving. I feel safe, and lucky to be safe. Not that I was freaked out to begin with, but you know, just grateful… I count my blessings to have never had something terrifying and violent happen to me while I was outside by myself. Anyway, I’m driving, and the Santa Monica/Venice streets are pretty deserted at night. I pass a cyclist on my way. Maybe one more homeless-looking person. Then I get to a traffic light at a major intersection, and stop because it’s a red light for me. This time of night, there’s not a lot of traffic going perpendicular from me, but whatever, I wait my turn of course.
At this intersection, there’s like a grocery store on one side, a strip mall on the other. Like the other times I’ve passed through this intersection, I notice a donut shop at the strip mall called “Glady’s Donuts.” Like all the other times, reading the sign for the place makes me chuckle out loud, because although I can’t be 100% sure I’m pretty sure someone got the apostrophe placing wrong there. Just sayin’. Anyway, this is what’s going through my mind as I wait at the red light. I think I also happen to notice a homeless-looking dude on the sidewalk on the left side of the street (same side as the grocery store) and a girl on the corner of the right side. Whatev, right??
Only here’s the thing.
The girl starts crossing the street, right? Like, she starts on the same side of Glady’s Donuts, and she begins crossing the street to the same side that the homeless dude is on. And these are wide streets, not like the narrow SF streets, they’re like the big-L.A. suburban kind. Just to give you an idea. I’m honestly not paying much attention, at this point her movements are just kind of background to thinking about the hilariousness of Glady’s Donuts. But I do notice that the girl isn’t walking in the crosswalk anymore. She’s actually kind of walking towards my car. And you know, people do that, especially if there’s no traffic around, they’ll walk off the crosswalk to like cut corners or whatever, save some time walking in two directions. As she nears, for a split second I think, hmm, I wonder if she’s gonna try to tap on my window or something. I quickly assess her, she doesn’t look particularly homeless or sketchy (I’m sorry if I’m equating homeless people as sketchy right now, but really, you just kind of have to be vigilant in such situations, you know?). Pretty well-kempt, dressed unassumingly. I don’t even think she’s looking in my direction. So, after that split second, I change my mind–nah, she’s just walking around and behind my car, to get to the other side of the street.
Only then do I realize that she does walk up to my car. Right up to the passenger seat of the front. And now she is looking at me. It’s all happening so fast, I just stare back and am wondering what’s going on.
The girl smiles.
The light going the other way turns yellow. I instinctively (god my instincts are slow) reach for the switch that locks my doors, just as this girl pulls the handle to my car. WHAAAAT??? I feel so many strange reactions at this moment. Scared, confused, targeted. There is seriously no one else around and someone is trying to open my car from the outside while I am in it. I think to myself several things: one, she’s a bold hitchhiker. Two, she’s gotta be high. Three, oh thank GOD I locked my door! Four, the light for me is already green, but this person is still holding onto the handle of my car!! One more thought, could I possibly hurt her if I just speed off right now? No stupid, of course she’ll move away if your car starts moving. Tentatively, not jerkingly, I accelerate. She backs away.
I make it through the light.
From here I pass no more people on the street on my way home. I make it back. I’m safe.
But something is under my skin now.
In part, it was just super, duper creepy. Unsettling. However, what it makes me think is… well, I’m not so sure what it makes me think exactly, but it has to do with some strange gender-bending/class-bending stuff. Like the weird relationships between (gendered? heteronormative? classist? human?) fears, assumptions… is “profiling” the word I’m looking for? And what happens when those things get flipped on their heads.
Something to think about.
Like I said though, at least one real moral of the story is…
LOCK YOUR CAR DOORS AFTER YOU GET INTO YOUR CAR.
Ok, I can finally go to sleep now (hopefully). Just wanted to get that story out. Would be interested to hear your thoughts on it, though.