This post is part of a series inspired by prompts from the book 642 Things to Write About by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. If you want to play along, write your own post (on your blog or other online forum) and post a link in the comments. I’ll add “shout-outs” at the end of my post and on the Keep Swimmin’ Facebook page to anyone who shares a link.
The prompt: #404: Put yourself or your character in a place where you feel vulnerable and uneasy.
It is a land where I don’t know where to park, don’t know where to walk, don’t know what to look at, don’t know what that…smell…is. And I am not a fan of not knowing these things. Especially the smell thing. Seriously, what IS that vaguely rotten, vaguely of-organic-origin smell that comes out of nowhere from time to time? Ick.
Nothing bad has ever actually happened to me in a city. But that doesn’t stop me from feeling like surely THIS is the time that the bad thing is going to happen. I will turn down the wrong alley, smile at the wrong person, step off the wrong curb and KABLAM – the city will GET me. Eek.
My GPS led me directly to my destination and due to a freakish lack of traffic, I was actually a full hour early for my appointment. I was worried there would be no parking (there’s never any parking), but there was a lot right across the street.
There was a nice man in the booth at the lot, and I told him I’d be there for about two hours, heading to a meeting across the street. Then, because I felt strangely accountable to this total stranger, I said I was an hour early so I was going to go walk around a bit. Because I figured since I said I was going to a meeting right across the street when I wandered off the other way he might worry. I wouldn’t want that. When I offered him my credit card, he appeared a bit befuddled so I gave him cash and my key, and wandered off to find a place to sit down, have a cold drink, and kill an hour.
I wandered this way and that, down a few streets that looked a little shady (but then they all look shady to me, since they aren’t filled with suburbanites, SUVs, and big box stores.) I found a little cafe in a park-ish area that seemed fairly benign, purchased a big bottle of water and sat at a cute little table under an umbrella.
First I figured I’d people watch. But then the people didn’t look like they were so much up for being watched. And since I worry about the whole “looking at the wrong person” thing I busied myself rifling around in my bag. Sorted out a few old receipts, gum wrappers, expired coupons. Carefully set aside the ticket for my car, don’t want to lose that.
Then I looked a little closer…hmmmm…9:58 AM…that’s weird. I arrived at the lot right around 2:00 PM. Ummm…Silver M-Benz??
Oh crap. This is not a ticket for my car.
What if the guy who was befuddled by the credit card machine was befuddled because he doesn’t actually work there?? What if he randomly wandered in there, pretending to work there to collect the cash.
And…OMG…I just gave him not only cash, but my keys. And my CAR!! The parking man STOLE MY CAR!!
Have I mentioned that being in the city freaks me out a little bit?
So now it was about 2:30, my meeting is at 3, and my car has been stolen. I will have no way to get home. I will be stranded in the city FOREVER. I will die in the city.
The only thing I can think to do is to go back to the lot and confirm my carless, dying-in-the-city fate.
So I walk, with significantly less pep in my step, back to the lot. Past the shady areas, where I will live out my years. Past the people who are now my neighbors.
And on the way, I pass the parking guy. He doesn’t LOOK like a criminal, but what do I know. I am clueless-in-the-big-city girl who will hand keys and money to anyone who looks vaguely official.
And he looks up, gives me a big smile, and says, “Is it time for your meeting?” And I look past him tentatively, and see my car, exactly where I left it.
And so I, of course said, “Yep!” and smiled right back at him. Because I was so happy that I was going to get to go home, and this time, like every other time, the bad thing did not happen. Whew.
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