28 July, 2006

Persistent Pedestrian

...I've learned to fake it and/Just smile along/Down on the street/Those men are all the same...

I had planned on getting some work done in the waiting area.

Waiting area. You know, when you go to Midas, or Goodyear, or someplace of repute, there are chairs of a more or less comfortable nature, some elderly magazines in several genres, possibly half a pot of very nasty coffee, and occasionally even a television set.

This place has a scant twelve inches between my knees and the front desk, cascading piles of Christian propaganda, and the odor of incontinent badger.

I am not in a place of repute.

Upon inquiry, I am told that there's a few fast food places 'just up there a bit' with a careless arm wave. Well, I can walk. I'm lucky to be able to walk. I'm glad of the opportunity to walk. Happy, see? Despite the blazing sun and 96* thermometer reading. [goddamn it, where the fuck is the 'degree' symbol on my keyboard?] I set off, proceeding in the direction of traffic. Someone in a truck honks. I'm partial to truckers. I wave. No point in being offended. A dirty old man (grimy, elderly, perhaps I should say) in a pickup offers me a ride. I'm not sure where I'm going, so I decline. Politely. More honking. More waving, now a little perfunctory. A Latino in an SUV with schmaltzy wheels offers me a ride. To where, I wonder, and decline. Politely. With a smile that no one who doesn't know would recognize as patently fake.

The first shopping center has a pawnbroker, a clothing retailer, a nail salon, a barber shop and a noodle house, closed. The parking lot smells of vomit and bleach. Lingering here is not an option. I press on.

A couple of other offers.... honestly, can't a person WALK around here? No, thank you. No, THANK you. NO THANK YOU!

It turns out that 'just up there a bit' is a little over a mile.

But here I am. The distant grocery won't offer comfortable seating, and the Target further past that does not guarantee an onsite Starbucks. JoAnn Fabrics will be little more than a fishing expedition. There must be something. On my way, I am seduced by Shoes! Sale! signs. Either of those words is hard to resist, but in combination....well. I escape with no purchases, but some merchandise accompanies me anyway. "Miss! You dropped something." I turn to look. I'm now outside the grocery, at least a block from the Shoes! Sale! sign. On the ground, clearly just recently in my possession, is a plastic hanger holding a lacy beige low-rise thong. It's not mine. It's my style, and my size, but not mine. I didn't pay for it. Apparently, an item from one of the displays reached out and clung to my bag.

I debate. I mean, it is my size. Plus, the price tag is $1.99, so it's not a BIG thing... the debate is not ethical. It's physical. If I were right outside the shop, of course I'd pop right back in. But it's hot, and I'm tired, and I don't feel like.....I walk back. I smuggle the hitchhiking panties back to their proper spot.

Back past the grocery. To the JoAnn fabrics. Past the hair salon. I'd give a lot for a Panerra, or an Einstein Bros., or even a Denny's. I'm almost ready to admit defeat, cross six lanes of traffic and go to the seedy-looking Starting Gate tavern. But there's only one bar in the world where I'm actually comfortable all by myself, and this one ain't it, baby.

But wait, there, at the outside edge of the shopping center is a Pier One! Aaahhh. Air conditioning, the scent of incense and bamboo, and furniture. And look, in the outside corner of the Pier One is a chair that actually looks comfortable! Unnoticed by salespeople, I slink in. I spend a happy, productive two hours snuggled in a papasan chair, feet up on the matching ottoman. Before I leave, the saleswoman who discovered me mentions a drinking fountain where I can refill my water bottle. I avail myself of the scrupulously clean toilet while I'm there.

The walk back will not be so bad, I think. I'll be walking against traffic, which will deter would-be ride-givers.

I am quite, quite wrong.

I can tell the women drivers, even though I can't see their faces. They are the ones not honking. A man pulls over, but when I fail to approach his vehicle, he moves on. Excuse me? Admittedly, I'm on foot in a place where everyone else is in a car, often a sign that something has gone seriously wrong, but nothing is wrong; I'm just WALKING. With my FEET. Like the cavemen did before the horseless carriage was invented.

"Where you going, chica?"

"Need a ride, sweetheart?'

No, thank you. No, THANK you. NO THANK YOU.

I consider my apparel. Perhaps if I were wearing a ratty Metallica tee shirt and threadbare jeans, I could walk unaccosted. But I wouldn't leave the house in a ratty Metallica tee shirt and threadbare jeans. In fact, I don't own any clothing even approaching ratty or threadbare. Or baggy, as it happens. Still, despite my tank top, short skirt and kitten heels, I'm not working, people. This bag on my shoulder is holding my computer, not a case of condoms.

You know, if a grandfatherly type were to offer me a ride, I might accept. But none of you guys are old enough to be my grandfather.

In fact, each of you is exactly the right age to be my rapist.

No, thank you.

(Candy; Iggy Pop)


Paul said...


You know, it would never occur to me to honk at a woman I saw walking down a street. Nor would it occur to me to lean out a window and offer a woman I didn't know a ride- unless she were in obvious trouble, of course. If I made eye contact I would give a pleasant smile and maybe wave, but that's about it. I wouldn't want her to think I was a creepy potential rapist. Besides, the cute girl in the tank top with the large purse could in fact be dangerous to me- how do I know she hasn't got a .45 in that bag along with the wallet of the last guy she robbed?

You apparently inhabit a more colorful chunk of the world than I do, m'dear.

Inanna said...

OY! They thought ye be a woikin' girl, Cybele, mah dear.

Jon Busey-Hunt said...


On the mac, it is shift-option-8. °°°°°°°°°°

Cybele said...

Paul, you are obviously much more polite than the 'gentlemen' I encountered in Laurel.

Nan, Yep, maybe I should have been woiking- I'd have picked up twenty bucks or so.

Jon, bless your heart! for discovering and answering the thing that was most important to me! It's been 100° (hey, it worked!) here in Baltimore, and going higher tomorrow. Yoikes!!!

Steve said...

Thanks for the invite. Hey it's nice in here!

Nothing humorous to say (performance anxiety), But very nice writing etc. I shall return!

Cybele said...

Welcome, Steve. Thanks for showing up!

Anonymous said...

What on earth were you doing in Laurel hon? and in THAT area?

Poor thing - I'm just glad you made it out alive.

...and if it ain't Laurel it sure sounds like it !

Cybele said...

Oh, it was Laurel all right. In fact, I walked right past the apartment where my ex-partner used to live.

Professor Pan said...

A pedestrian in the 'burbs is, by assumption of most 'burbanites, a ne'er-do-well, miscreant, or lacking sufficient cash to own a vehicle. No one walks, unless it's to the SUV to drive to the gym to walk in-place on a proper stairmaster.

Hence my avoidance of the wastelands at all cost.