I needed toothpaste; I neglected to pick some up on my way home from work the night before. All I needed was toothpaste. So I peeled myself out of bed, threw on some yoga pants and headed out.
After only thirty minutes in Target I walked to the checkout line with toothpaste, pizza and my first pair of Spanx, in hand.
Cashier: “Register One! Register One! I can take you at Register One!”
I slink over to register one with no makeup, no coffee in my system and having not yet brushed my teeth.
The cashier starts ringing me up, toothpaste first, then…
Cashier: “Spanx! Girl, what do YOU need Spanx for?! With your little ole waist! HA! HA! HA!”
Me: “Yeah, um, I just thought they’d help my core. You know, when you suck it in it, uh, tightens your abs… and stuff.” I said very quietly and under my breath, not sure why I felt the need to explain my purchase to her.
Casher: “Red Baron Pizza?! This is on special! Two for one! Do you want to get another one?!”
Me: “Um, do I have to go get it?”
Cashier: “Uh, YA YOU WANNA GET IT! HA! HA! HA!”
Me: “No, I mean do I need to go and –“
The cashier then pulls out a walkie-talkie in full police mode…
Cashier: “DEMETRI. DEMETRI. WHAT’S YOUR STATUS?”
Demetri: “HOUSE GOODS. CLEAR.”
Cashier: “I NEED ONE RED BARON THIN CRUST PEPPERONI PIZZA ON SALE, TWO FOR ONE. REPEAT, TWO FOR ONE.”
I wanted to melt into the scuffed tile floor and disappear for eternity. I avoided eye contact with the two patrons in line behind me.
Me: “If it’s a lot of trouble, I don’t need two pizzas.”
Cashier: “Girl! Two for one!”
Oh dear God…. She didn’t even bother putting the Spanx in a bag yet. So there I was, standing in line at Target with un-brushed teeth, no caffeine in my system and a pair of Spanx sprawled out for the world to see, all while waiting for my SECOND Red Baron thin crust pepperoni pizza to arrive.
Demetri arrives with my pizza and the worst is over, I assume…
Cashier: “Did you want to apply for a Target card today and save 10 percent?!”
Me: “No thanks.”
Cashier: “Are you sure!? YOU SAVE TEN PERCENT!”
Me: “I’m good.”
Cashier: “You would practically pay nothing today!”
Me: “Look! I had a target card in 2008 and maxed it out! It took me a year and a half to pay off! I DO NOT WANT ANOTHER TARGET CARD.”
Cashier: “Ok. Have a great day.”
Sometimes two for one just isn’t worth it.
In your early twenties women put up with a lot of shit from men, Correction: boys. However, the older you get the less stuff you’re willing to deal with. This is why I’m a big proponent of waiting till you’re older to get into serious relationships. People grow, they change and sometimes they grow in different directions. But hey, some beat the odds. I’m not saying all relationships that begin in those vital years, early twenties, when you’re figuring out who you are, will end in flames. However, I am saying statistically you’re screwed. Here’s an idea…be happy being alone. Embrace that shit. Love it; swim in the freedom that is single-dom. Because when you do get married, and possibly have children, you will never be alone again. You will never have the whole bed to yourself or be able to take a shit without having to yell through the bathroom door that ‘mommy is busy!’ or ‘the cereal is behind the peanut butter in the pantry if you’d just look!’
This came to surface the other day. There’s a Starbucks around the corner from my house that I frequent. I went in to catch a latte before work and write a little while waiting for the bus.
I come in and lean on the counter…
Me: “Can I get a caramel flan latte please?”
Starbucks guy: “Would you like an extra shot of espresso?”
Starbucks guy: “Looks like you could use it.”
I look up at him like, ‘are you saying I look tired because this concealer has caffeine in it for puffiness’.
Starbucks guy: “Oh, not because you look bad or anything, just because you leaned on the counter like you’re tired.”
Me: “Oh, yeah I’m headed to work, going to be a long night.”
I pull out my wallet to pay…
Starbucks guy: “Oh, you’re from Texas? Where at? I’m from San Antonio.”
Me: “I’m from Galveston.”
Starbucks guy: “Ah man, we used to go there all the time growing up. I love the beach and the weather was always so nice with the breeze off the Gulf.”
It was really nice to meet someone who appreciated the richness of my hometown. Not everyone has heard of it, but those who have usually connect Galveston with the hurricane that wiped-out our entire city or the New York Times article entitled, “For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in Hard Fall”. So it was nice to hear he had good memories there, because so do I. He also became instantly more attractive.
Me: “Yeah, I know. I should be there. Sick of the weather here.”
Starbucks guy: “How long since you’ve been back?”
Me: “Oh, not long, I just moved here.”
Starbucks guy: “Oh really? How – “
An older, mentally challenged man behind me interrupted our conversation.
Man in line: “I I I, coffee. JUST a coffee. Black. Sugar. BLACK!”
I moved to a table, set my stuff down, grabbed my coffee and settled in to do some writing. I wasn’t there long, maybe fifteen minutes. When I saw the bus coming, I gathered my things and started to walk out, but not before looking back, and found he was watching me leave.
It’s a hard feeling to explain. A connection with a stranger that was unanticipated. It wasn’t a setup, we weren’t drinking at a bar, no one swiped right or left on Tinder, it was a natural connection between two people. Gave me a little bit of a high, or maybe a hint of hope that all in the dating world has not been lost. Dating, now, is so unnatural and impersonal. With the click of a button we can learn a persons life story before ever meeting them. With the swipe of a screen we can choose who’s attractive and who doesn’t meet our standards. There’s no mystery anymore.
This is the world we’re living in:
#1) “I have a friend you should go out with.”
#2) “OK, but not before I’ve checked their LinkedIn to make sure they have a decent job, seen at least twenty photos on Facebook, and exchanged two days worth of text messages.”
I choose to not know anything about the person nowadays, because honestly, I don’t care. At this age, I don’t. True, in my early twenties, I wanted to know as much about that person as possible before we ever met. But you know what that does? It creates a preconceived notion of who someone is; it also sets expectations way too high. So in essence, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment before we ever set foot out the door.
Back to Starbucks and my possible Craigslist misconnection ad. For the rest of the night I kept thinking about that brief encounter. I kept reflecting back on the short stare we held. Not because I wanted to date this guy, but because I’d like to have that feeling again. I had forgotten it even existed.
The next day I woke up and went to Starbucks, as usual. I didn’t even think about running into that guy again. When I got there I ordered my regular.
Clerk: “That will be $4.88.”
Before I placed my cash on the counter the Starbucks guy from yesterday turned around. Then I remembered our encounter.
Starbucks guy: “Texas, right?”
Starbucks: “A girl came in here earlier and I thought it was you, but she had no idea what Galveston was.”
Me: “Oh, yeah. I come in here too often.”
Starbucks guy: “You don’t come in here enough.”
I grabbed my coffee and settled in to do some writing. I started wondering if he’d come over. I started to wonder if I should go talk to him. After over an hour of writing at Starbucks, it was time to pack up and leave. So I did.
He never came over. I thought, maybe I should have given him my number. I thought, maybe he was just shy. But then I started to realize something…. I didn’t want to give someone my number; I wanted to be asked. I also realized I wasn’t interested in someone who was too shy to come over and say “hello.” I realized I’m too old for this shit. I spent too many years playing games and I’m tired. I’d rather eat a good meal with a friend or see The Wolf on Wall Street alone with my Milk Duds, than check my phone a hundred times to see if a guy has called.
You won’t find me on Tinder, Match.com, Eharmony, or Plenty of Fish. I’ll be at the Starbucks on Sheridan and North Broadway writing and sipping a caramel flan latte… alone and in complete bliss.
Me: “Oh shit…I left my keys inside the apartment.”
Leaving keys in your house in Chicago is much different from leaving them in your house in Texas. In Texas, I could call a friend, who has a spare, or break-in through the window because I actually have experience in that. However, in Chicago, there is no friend or first floor window. There is a mid- rise, two locked doors and three deadbolts.
After realizing my mistake, I calmly called The Super, Emir. Emir is from Russia or the Middle East, I have no clue, but he’s in his late 20’s, has a thick accent and looks like a daddy long legs.
Me: “Hi Emir, this is Ashley from unit 678. I left my keys in the apartment. How do we handle this?”
Emir: “You lock your keys, ah?”
Me: “No, I left them inside. I was running late to work. How do I get back in?”
Emir: “Well, it’s forty dollar charge after hours 8 to 5.”
Me: “Really, Emir?”
Emir: “It’s a the tenants responsibility to – “
Me: “I’m usually very responsible. Ok, ok, so how will I get in?”
Emir: “When you get off of the work?”
Me: “I will do my best to be there before 10:00 p.m.”
Emir: “Eh, I see you then.”
Great…Now, Emir is a great Super and I’m pretty sure if I had to take him I could, but I don’t like the idea of any strange foreign man in my apartment at 10 p.m.
I get off work early and race home.
Me: “Hi Emir, I’m outside the building.”
Emir comes slinking out through the first door, then the second.
In the elevator Emir pulls out a few sets of gold keys.
Emir: “You lock the door knob lock.”
Me: “Yeah, I was in a rush so I just locked the bottom lock. Should be pretty easy to get in. Just one key to worry about.”
Emir: “You see these gold keys? I don’t have the silver. Your bottom lock silver?”
Oh God, I’m going to have to sleep on Emir’s couch.
Me: “What are you saying, Emir?”
Emir: “Maybe it’s in safe, but I have no silver.”
We walk towards my apartment door.
Emir: “See I have gold to all deadbolts.”
Me: “Well, shit, Emir. What are we going to do?”
Emir: “I just do THis.”
Emir takes out his wallet and pulls out a credit card.
Emir: “I do this a few times.”
With a Mastercard and a push, Emir opens my large, 1930’s solid wooden door that weighs more than him.
Me: “Well…. That was easy.”
We both walk in my apartment, which I was not expecting, but hey, Emir has unclogged my toilet before, I’m sure he feels at home here now.
Me: “OK, let me get my checkbook.”
I get checkbook from desk and walk back to Emir.
Me: “Who do I make it out to?”
Me: “Ok, what’s your last name?”
Me: “How do you spell that?”
Emir: “Delemovic. It’s Bosnian.”
Me: “Oh, OK.”
Emir: “Where are you from?”
Emir: “No, where is your family from?”
Me: “Galveston, Texas.”
Emir: “No, no what’s your blood?”
My first thought was, B negative.
Me: “OH, umm it’s Italian. I’m Italian.”
Emir: “Ah, yes. You are dark features.”
Me: “OK, well thanks a million Emir.”
Emir: “You let me make a copy of that silver key sometime for safe keeping, OK?”
Ok, is Emir hitting on me in a “I’m gonna break-in while you’re sleeping way” or does he genuinely need a copy of this key?
Me: “You bet.”
Emir: “Have a good night.”
Me: “You too.”
1)Always, ALWAYS lock every lock you have, they are there for a reason. That reason is the world is a scary and unpredictable place.
2)Make a friend. I need to make a friend in Chicago to keep an extra set of keys for me.
3) If a foreigner asks what your blood is, there’s a good possibility he’s a vampire.
I frequent IHOP for many reasons. It reminds me of home. It’s right down the street. They always give me a booth and for some reason I’m able to write and be creative there. Also, they have endless pancakes. Pancakes are my favorite of the food groups. I love breakfast and I love dessert, pancakes bring those two together.
I went in the other day, as usual, and got the same waitress I accidentally stiffed the week before. I didn’t mean to not tip her the previous week, I genuinely forgot. But by the time I realized what I had done, I was home. So, this is how it went…
Waitress walks up to the table and before she can even take my drink order I blurt out,
Me: “Is your name Allison?”
Without even looking at me or hesitating she simply replied with a limp,
Allison: “Yes.” And continued to set the ketchup and hot sauce down as if complete strangers walk into her job everyday and know her name.
Then, I verbally threw up all over the table.
Me: “I forgot to tip you. The other week. I forgot. I’m really sorry it was an honest mistake. I went to the register to pay and then forgot to come back and place cash on the table.”
Allison: “It happens. Can I get you something to drink?”
That’s it? ‘It happens?’ I’m not sure what I was expecting, maybe “Oh don’t worry about it, and people come through here all the time.” Or “Oh my gosh, really?” Something. Allison seemed almost sedated.
After she took my order I began to mentally brain-fuck myself.
In my head, ‘Why did I say anything? Now I have to double tip. Do I have to double tip? What if I don’t double tip and she serves me again? Oh God, what if Allison has six kids at home depending on this tip money. Maybe her mother is wheelchair bound and Allison is her only source of income. But I’m poor too. I’m a starving artist! She seems so tired, she probably works three jobs and sends her tip money back home to a foreign country to help her family gain freedom. But I’m so broke. Can I afford to double tip her? Is it rude if I don’t?!”
I could barely enjoy my whole wheat banana pancakes, let alone write anything. And then it hit me, two little words, Endless. Pancakes.
I tipped double. Haven’t seen Allison since. Maybe my tip finally helped her reach family in Central America.
Awhile back I went to an N.A. meeting, just to go, I wasn’t itching or anything. I had found one near my house and went from time to time.
Sitting in that room, years clean, listening to all those poor bastard’s sob stories. I felt so far away from them. I couldn’t relate. I was so far away. They were addicts. When it came my turn to speak I preached about “wanting to get sober” and “being stronger than the drug… being stronger than you are today…” I talked about God and having faith, how He will bring you where you are supposed to be. We all have choices and I choose to be clean.
When I left class that night I remember thinking how I should be the one teaching N.A. I was an example. I was a success story. I was clean. I was so far away from those people. I was so different. I was stronger. We were years and lives away from one another.
That was a Monday.
The whole week I was on some sort of high. I felt so good about myself. I didn’t need N.A. I was different from those people.
I relapsed that Friday. At a party, I had one too many drinks. I should have never been at that party, with those people. I knew better. They were from my past. They were users. I think somewhere deep inside of me I wanted to test myself. I wanted to use again. I wanted to see if I would. I guess it was self-sabotage in a way.
I was up for two days. When the drugs ran out and I finally went home I felt ashamed. I wanted to cut myself. I wanted to cry. I hated myself. It was rock bottom all over again.
Monday night came and I went to N.A. again. I didn’t share the fact that I had relapsed, but I didn’t need to. They knew. I wasn’t smiling like before. I wasn’t talkative or willing to converse or participate. I sat there and listened. This time I actually heard “these people”. Before, I was listening, but I wasn’t hearing them. There was one guy that frustrated the shit out of me. He was a heroin user. Every Monday he would come to class and every Monday he had relapsed. It used to piss me off so much. I didn’t understand why he couldn’t stop. He had a wonderful family, a loving partner; he was handsome and creative. Why was he such a fuck up? But that Monday I cried when he spoke. It was the first time I had ever cried at a meeting. Maybe it was the lack of sleep or I was still coming down from the drugs, but I heard him. And I finally understood him. And I cried for him. I cried for me. I cried because I knew he and I were not so different. That these people and this life was not so far away.
I haven’t used since, but I know now I’m not cured, that there’s no such thing when it comes to addiction. Every day I have to choose not to use. Every day I have to remember that Hell is just a line away and death isn’t much farther.
I’ve successfully avoided slipping and falling on snow and ice since moving to Chicago. However, that record ended last night.
While getting out of a cab when returning home, one foot started to slide, and then the other; I held onto the door, which I also slowly slid down. With my huge coat, backpack, purse, gloves, hat, scarf and anything else you can image having to wear in below zero temperatures, I landed directly on my back. Picture the movie A Christmas Story when Ralphie’s little brother, Randy, falls in the snow and can’t get up. That was me.
“Oh, I got it, I got it.” I said to the cab driver as if he cared. He basically drove off while I was still lying in the street.
What time is it? Last night was my first night out in Chicago. Good times. Thank god I don’t have a day job.
I casually check my phone, as normal, its 11:26 a.m. Lying in bed, I scroll through text messages, check emails, oh, there’s a voicemail.
Voicemail: In a sweet southern accent “Hi, Ashley? This is Gail from Dr. Smith’s office in North Houston. We received a called from a gentleman in Chicago saying he has your wallet? Please give me a call back.”
What? She must be mistaken. Wait, what? My wallet is in my purse.
Check purse, not there. Check coat pockets, not there. Check backpack, not there. SHIT! I barely leave the house, how could I have lost my wallet?
I call Gail back.
Me: Hi Gail?
Me: Hi, this is Ashley Byrd. I received a message from you?
Gail: Oh hey, yeah, a man called claiming he has your wallet in Chicago!? HA! HA! HA!
Me: Oh, yeah, I live in Chicago now. I told your office.
Gail: Oh. You do? That’s great! You know, my husband and I went there in the summer of ‘73.
Me: No, I didn’t know that. Gail, did he give you his name or number?
Gail: Oh, yes, he said is name was Dormo.
Me: Dormo? I must have left it in a cab last night…? Dormo? Sounds like a cabbies name.
Gail: That’s what it sounded like, Door-MO. It was hard to understand him. He had one of those foreign accents. Sounded maybe Spanish, but not Spanish enough to be Spanish. Maybe like a Hispanic country with a Spanish-like sound.
Me: OK, number Gail, number.
Gail: Oh, yeah. 555-734-0987. Do-mo. So I guess you have one of Dr. Smith’s scripts in your wallet? Because the guy called here, yeah know.
Me: Yeah, I know.
Gail: So you live in Chicago? How ‘bout that weather, huh? HA! HA! HA!
Me: Got to go Gail, THANKS.
Must get wallet, NOW. What the hell! How did this happen? I’m a responsible adult!
I call Dormo.
Stranger in a thick Russian accent: hEllo, 326 Lakeview. Tis is Vadim
Me: Hi, um is a gentleman named Door-mo there?
Me: OK, yes, Domo, Do-mo, DO-mO. Is he there?
Russian: Domo is out on an uh errand. You uh call back, OK?
Me: No, hey! My wallet! I think your “establishment” has my wallet.
Me: YES, wallet. Can you check?
Russian: Uh, excuse meh.
He meant hold. Now I’m sweating bullets, not only because I’m freaking out but because I’m pretty hung over.
Russian: Youruh name?
Me: Ashley Byrd, there should be a Texas divers license in the wallet.
Russian: Eh, yes. You can come get.
Me: You have it?! Thank you! What’s the address?
Russian: 326 Lakeview
Me: I will be there shortly!
I Google Map 326 Lakeview. It’s exactly a two-minute walk from my house. What? It’s less than half a mile from my apartment complex. Wow, I had no idea there was a cab company that close.
I don’t even brush my hair or teeth. I immediately leave the house, slightly hungover, no makeup and pajamas on. My only objective is to get that wallet, not meet a man. Besides, once I pick my wallet up I’ll never have to see those people again.
I arrive at 326 Lakeview in less than a minute.
It looks like an old hotel or maybe an apartment complex not in use? This is not a cab company. Then I remember falling out of the cab in front of my apartment building. Someone must have found my wallet on the street where I fell.
Walking in, there are several men standing around construction being done in the lobby.
Me: Um, hi. My name is Ashley; I called about a wallet I was told is here?
Russian: Ah, yes.
He gets on the phone, speaks in some secret code, or maybe it’s just Russian, I DON’T KNOW, WHERE’S MY WALLET.
Russian: Eh, excuse me.
The Russian walks to the back. I stand there in my pajamas with pillow lines on my face while a group of Russians argue over tile, I think. He comes back, there’s an old woman looking from behind the door at me.
Russian: What eh color is dis wallet.
He gives me a weird look.
Me: It’s blue. No, green. Blue-ish green-ish. Look, my license, you know, photo id, is in there.
He looks at the woman, then at me, he nods at her and she hands it to him through the cracked door.
What the hell is going on? Jesus, I’ll be glad to get out of this place and never come back!
When he hands me my wallet I look through it quickly, making sure everything is there. Indeed, my id, credit cards and St. Jude prayer card are untouched. However, twenty dollars and a fist full of change for laundry are gone. But I don’t say anything, the most important stuff is there and I need to get the hell out of this place. I quickly leave, walking out the door as I say goodbye and thank you.
YES! I have my wallet! The nightmare is over!!!
Since I’m already out in the cold, might as well catch a Starbucks.
I’m now calm, cool, and collected. With a caramel flan latte in hand, I wobble back into my apartment. Before I can even sit-down, the phone rings.
Caller, in a thick Arab accent: May I speak to a Ms. Byrd.
Me: This is she.
Caller: Hello a Ms. Byrd. This is Mohammad from Capitol One. We have received a call that someone has recovered your credit card.
Me: WHAT?! I JUST HAD IT!
I race over to my wallet. My Capitol One card isn’t there.
Caller: Hello a Ms. Byrd. I have gentleman on phone has your Capitol One card. I will place you both on call.
Caller: Hello a Sir. Hello a Ms. Byrd. This is Mohammad with Capitol One-
I’m taking this conversation over.
Me: Sir. Sir. You have my card?!
Third party caller: I du.
Me: Was it at Starbucks?!
Third party caller: Eh, no.
Me: Please give me the address to where you are and I will be there right away!
Third party caller: You eh, need to come back to where your wallet was.
Me: WHAT?! DOMO?
Me: YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME?!
It seems while quickly checking my wallet I dropped my credit card.
Capitol One guy: Hi a Ms. Byrd. We can cancel your card.
Me: NO! I am going to get my card RIGHT NOW! Every one hold tight!
I throw down the latte; swing my 10-pound coat back over my shoulders and race to the hotel apartment organized crime place I was at earlier. The Russian is waiting at the door for me.
Russian: Bad day eh?
Hands me my credit card.
Me: Yeah. Thanks.
I’ve gotta get a day job.
I needed a change: from my job, from my daily routine, from my life. Following weeks and months of self-loathing, it was time to make a move.
After visiting Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, I decided Chicago was the place for me. More specifically, a school called The Second City.
So I sold everything I owned, fit my life into a suitcase and bought a one-way ticket to Chicago.
Prior to leaving Texas, I checked my flight status every day. With a short layover in Charlotte, North Carolina, I was due to arrive in Chicago on January 6th.
FRIDAY January 3, 2014
Flight 2096 Houston to Charlotte – ON TIME
Flight 1897 Charlotte to Chicago – ON TIME
SATURDAY January 4, 2014
Flight 2096 Houston to Charlotte – ON TIME
Flight 1897 Charlotte to Chicago – ON TIME
SUNDAY January 5, 2014
Flight 2096 Houston to Charlotte – ON TIME
Flight 1897 Charlotte to Chicago – ON TIME
MONDAY January 6, 2014 – DEPARTURE DAY
Flight 2096 Houston to Charlotte – ON TIME
Flight 1897 Charlotte to Chicago – ON TIME
Flight 2096 Houston to Charlotte – ON TIME
Flight 1897 Charlotte to Chicago – ON TIME
I arrived at Houston Intercontinental Airport at 8:00 a.m. with a one-way ticket to the rest of my life.
8:00 a.m. – Bag Check
Airport Clerk: “Good morning.”
Me: “Hi, good morning.”
Airport Clerk: “Traveling to Chicago, one bag, correct?”
Me: “Yes, ma’am.”
In a whisper I say, “Do you think I’m going to make it?” It was a loaded question.
Airport Clerk: “To Chicago?” checks screen “Well, flights are still coming and going from there, the airport is open. I think you’ll be fine.”
Her words didn’t comfort me much and she could tell.
Airport Clerk: “You’ll make it, honey. “
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA, 1:20 p.m.
Getting off my fight from Houston landing in Charlotte, I walked into a sea of people. I pushed my way to the board everyone seemed to be staring at in disbelief:
1:00 p.m. – Flight 2782 Charlotte to Chicago – CANCELLED
1:55 p.m. – Flight 1924 Charlotte to Chicago – CANCELLED
2:20 p.m. – Flight 1897 Charlotte to Chicago – CANCELLED
4:15 p.m. – Flight 3219 Charlotte to Chicago – CANCELLED
5:55 p.m. – Flight 1253 Charlotte to Chicago – CANCELLED
8: 15 p.m. – Flight 2354 Charlotte to Chicago – CANCELLED
9: 20 p.m. – Flight 1484 Charlotte to Chicago – CANCELLED
All flights to the Midwest had been cancelled.
Standing in the customer service line, with three hundred other people, a TV was playing the news a few feet away.
News Anchor Jake Tapper: “This is the worst winter the Midwest has seen (pause) in twenty years. It’s been called (pause) a Polar Vortex. It is now one degree colder in Chicago (pause) than the North Pole. Years from now people will say how cold it is, (pause) but not as cold as the winter (pause) of January 2014.”
OK, I’m from the South, never seen more than an inch of snow and that was in 2006. What was I getting myself into? I did my best to stay calm, cool and collected. Surely, this was the worst of it. I’ll stay in Charlotte a day and be on the next fight to Chicago in the morning. Be calm, be clam, be calm. Polar (pause) Vortex?
After what seemed like an eternity, in line, I meet with a Charlotte US Airways representative.
US Airways Rep: “Hii thera ma’am. How can we help you?”
Me: “Um, hi, my flight to Chicago was cancelled.”
US Airways Rep: “OOH well let me a see what we have hera. Oh, ma’am. All flights have to Chicago have been a cancelled.”
Me: “Yeah, I noticed. I need the next flight out, please.”
Rep: “Lets see a hera. Looks like the next fight out to Chicago will be Thursday.”
Me: “WHAT? That’s three days from now!”
Rep: “Yeeeeaahhhh. You’re welcome to wait standby.”
Me: “For three days?”
Rep: “I tell you whaaat. Let’s get you a hotel voucher and you can call and see if anything opens up.”
Me: “For three days?”
Rep: “Well, ma’am lots of fliiights were cancelled, so those who were cancelled before yours will get the next fliiights.”
I did my best to hold back tears.
Me: “I understand.”
Rep: “Allll right then. NEXT!”
The airline hooks me up with a hotel near the airport in Charlotte. A shuttle comes to pick me up.
Shuttle Driver, DeWayne: “What happened to your nose?”
Not having the strength to explain my cartilage had collapsed and I recently had minor surgery…
Me: “I scratched it.”
DeWayne: “Man, these people better hurry up. Shooot, I’m gone.”
DeWayne: “You don’t got no bags?”
Me: “I have no idea where my luggage is.”
DeWayne: “Had a lady the other day, same thing. Took her to the dollar store to get pajamas and panties.”
Did he just say panties?
Me: “Oh, um, that was nice of you.”
DeWayne: “Asked why she didn’t just sleep naked, but she said not insa hotel room.”
Me: “Ah, uh.”
I couldn’t tell if this guy wanted to rape me or rob me.
We arrive at the hotel.
I walked into the hotel “lobby” and there was a guy standing eating a box of KFC fried chicken. Approaching the “front desk” the “clerk” was on her phone. As I waited for her to acknowledge me, I started to look around. The fried chicken guy got in the elevator. Another girl seem to be waiting for a ride and yelling at someone on the phone. Then, the fried chicken guy got off the elevator and just stood in the lobby, again. After thirty minutes of checking me in I walked to my room. As I entered I could smell stale cigarettes from days past. The bathroom looked like it had been bleached after a murder scene. I sat there not knowing what to do. So I left. I walked back to the girl at the front desk who was holding a Newport cigarette in her hand with a tattoo that read “Joe” in cursive on her wrist.
Me: “I need to go.”
Front Desk Girl: “You wanna cab? You need to goes somewhere?”
Me: “I want a cab and I want another hotel.”
I couldn’t think of a lie, I just needed out. Fuck her.
Me: “Can you call me a cab? I also need that voucher back.”
Girl: “Well, Ima havta call my manager.”
The fried chicken guy gets on the elevator again.
Me: “That’s fine. Please call me a cab.”
Girl: “Whhy you wanna leave?”
Me: “I don’t feel comfortable here.”
The friend chicken guy gets off the elevator, again.
Girl: “Really? Whhhy?”
Me: “Keep the voucher, just call me a cab.”
Girl: “You sure?”
Me: “Uh, yeah.”
The smell of bleach was making me sick. I waited for the cab outside.
When I arrived at my new hotel, I call a friend and tell them of my troubles.
Friend: “Well, look at it this way, it can’t get any worse.”
Me: “You’re right.”
The Next Morning, Tuesday
7: 25 a.m.
AE! AE! AE! AE! AE! AE! AE! AE! AE!
Me: “Well, it just got worse.”
Me: “The hotels on fire.”
Friend: “Wha, what?”
Me: “We’re evacuating, got to call you back.”
Firefighters showed up, I have no idea what actually happened, but I was able to go back to sleep shortly after.
THREE DAYS LATER
I arrived in Chicago, not knowing where there hell my luggage was. I had been wearing the same clothes since Monday. I was tired, I was defeated, I was over it. It took an hour, but there it was, my luggage, my life, my life I had fit into a suitcase.
The cab ride to my new apartment in Chicago was surreal. I had never seen snow. Not like this. It was like a movie. Everything was covered in a blanket of white. I had made it, so far.
I was sitting on my porch the other night when my neighbors came home. Now, we share a driveway so when they pulled up it was just three feet away from my face. I couldn’t very well run inside because that would be rude, right? Running into your house when your next door neighbors have clearly spotted you is just plain impolite, right? When they got out of the car we exchange some awkward “hello, yeah, it’s real dark out tonight, oh yeah because it’s nighttime” chit chat. It probably wasn’t awkward for them as they are most likely normal human beings unlike myself. I am a huge, awkward, babbling dork in any social situation with humans I’m not familiar with.
Standing around with new strangers I meet one night…
“HA! HA!.. yeah, like you probably have a big vagina. HA! HA! You know, because you have kids! HA! Ha!”
–in my head—oh God that wasn’t funny, be funny, be funny—
Cue I circle a big vagina in the air, step in say “Hi!” and step out. You know, because I’m a huge talking vagina.
Me: “HA! Ha! Ha…ha. I’m totally kidding you know, I’ll bet you had a good episiotomy. For sure your vagina is probably much nicer than mine.”
Others: –one by one slowly start to make conversion with other people around us and push me out of the circle where I stand going on, talking to myself.—
Because I can’t stop myself, because I’m a big, fucking unfiltered awkward shell of a once human being.
Hours later I see my newly-made friends and am like, “hey, yea, remember me, made the vagina joke earlier. Ha! Oh, you’re going over there? Oh yeah, yeah, I’m going to yeah, go just over here, yup.”It was a black tie wedding.
Anyway, as my neighbors walk towards their door I can hear the girlfriend say, “Did you get the water back on?” and her boyfriend reply, “No.” I hear some moans of disappointment and/or disapproval from the female neighbor. At this time, I’m a little buzzed, not intoxicated but a bit tipsy. So I decided it would be a GREAT idea to let them know “HEY! You can use my water! I have water here neighbor! If you want to use it or something, not with me of course but, yup. Water, over here, my place.”
I don’t say that of course, but I write them a note that goes a little something like this…
“HEY! It’s your neighbor! The girl next door. Listen, this may sound crazy, but I think you guys said something about not having water? Well, you are more than welcome to use mine.” Then I write my name and number, but before that I decide it would be a really smart idea to write at the very top of the note in capital letters, “I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER.” Because I’m smart AND funny. Surely, my neighbors whom I’ve met twice get my sense of humor. So I waddle over and tape the note to their door.
Let’s be clear, I can hear a roach from a mile away, but people are another story. I really am a bit hard of hearing and unless you speak loudly and pronunciate, you can usually hear me say loudly to people “USE YOUR WORDS.” I awake the next morning and realize this, I also realize that I was kind of intoxicated as well and MUST GET TO THAT FUCKING LETTER A-SAP.
It’s 7:00am, their car has not been touched, maybe haven’t left the house yet. I run to the kitchen, peer out the window and the letter is fucking gone. It’s gone. I start playing a scenario in my head as to what is going through their head, “She’s so sweet. What a good neighbor. Was that bitch coming on to you? What a freak!” Stuff like that. Then I also start to think that maybe they never even got the letter. They usually leave work after me; they couldn’t have gotten the letter? It did rain a little last night, did it blow away? Then I decided to just let it be; after consulting with some friends, they assured me it was a sweet gesture and my neighbors will probably call and thank me. I have come home several evenings expecting a handwritten thank you card.
It’s been two weeks. I still have no idea if they intercepted my serial killer letter.
I woke up Monday morning to find someone had been in my car. After work I came home and attempted to inform my neighbors of this violation. First, I headed over to the engaged couple’s house, on the left.
Knock, knock, knock…
Guy I don’t know: “Yes?”
Me: “Hi, ummm are the owners here?” I said looking behind him.
Guy I don’t know: “No, can I help you?”
Me: “Oh, I live next door.”
Guy I don’t know: “Ah, the duplex.”
Me: “Oh. Um, no, the little house next door.”
Guy I don’t know: “Oh, the garage apartment.”
Me: “Um, no, it’s a house, an actual house. It’s very small, but it’s a house.”
Guy I don’t know: –flatly–“OK.”
Me: “Anyway, do you know when they’ll be back? Just needed to tell them something.”
Guy I don’t know: –makes a sour face– “Yeah, see I don’t know you…So I don’t feel comfortable giving you that kind of information.” Cue, he makes another sour, sad face at me.
Is this guy serious? Who the hell is he? I don’t know you buddy and you’re in my neighbor’s house. I’m wearing a Hungry Caterpillar t-shirt and All-Stars, for christ sake, did I look threatening? At this point I’ve established he’s gay.
Me: “Uhhhhh, ooook. Well, my car was broken into last night and I thought they should know.”
Guy I don’t know: “Umm, oook? I could email them?” – As if to say ‘will that make you happy?’ –
Me: — I started to get angry– “Yeah, well, I was just trying to be neighborly and keep them informed of violations going on in their neighborhood.”
Guy I don’t know: “Yeah, well they’re pretty good about keeping their gate locked.”
What the fuck does that mean? Is he saying this is my fault?
Me: “OK, great.” And I leave.
Next, I head over to the couple on the right. (the duplex…)
As l approached their porch I can see the guy who lives there sitting in a wheelchair.
Me: –my first honest, genuine reaction– “Dude, were you in Boston?!”
Neighbor in wheelchair: –tries to turnaround, clearly hasn’t been handling a wheelchair long– “Huh, what? Oh. Ha!…ha…no…tore my ACL, got surgery.”
Me: “Oh hey, I’m sorry man. Bad joke, but you know what happened in Boston and all….Sooooo… Glad you’re ok.” –I really need to work on my social skills–
Neighbor in wheelchair: “Oh, uh yeah, no, no, it’s ok.”
Me: “Oh ok, well, I just wanted to let you guys know my car was broken into last night.”
Girl who lives in duplex with wheelchair guy walks out.
Me: “Oh hey! Yyyoou.” –I don’t remember her name–
Neighbor in wheelchair: “Honey, her car was broken into last night.”
She looks at me with a sad face; I react with a ‘well, these things happen’ face.
Girl neighbor: “I’m so sorry. Same thing happened to me last year. We think its some kids.”
Me: “Yeah, they didn’t get anything.”
Girl neighbor: “Well, thanks for letting us know.”
This must be my cue to leave.
Me: “Oh, OK, great, see ya.”
Walking back home I see my neighbor across the street. I decide to go over and let her know of this violation as well. Her two small dogs started barking at me, I tried to make myself less threatening (in my Hungry Caterpillar -t- and All-Stars). Approaching I could see she has a missing appendage. Her right arm has been replaced by a hook. Not a prosthetic arm, but a fucking hook. Hanging from her hook was a bag of dog poop. Walking up I mentally prepared myself for this interaction.
In my head, ‘Do NOT look at her ‘arm’. Look at her EYES. Do NOT say ANYTHING about her hook or the dog poop hanging from it. Eyes UP. Focus on her eyes NOT her hook. Eyes, eyes, eyes, hook, hook, NO EYES!’
Me: “Hi, I live across the street here.” Eyes, eyes, eyes, she is still a normal person.
Hook: “Oh hello, I’m- ___” –I didn’t even pay attention to her name. I was so focused on NOT looking at her hook that I completely missed her fucking name. Too late! Talk! Talk! –
Me: “Hey, um well I just wanted to let you know my car was broken into last night. My mom told me it’s neighborly to let everyone know.” –your mom?! You’re fucking 30! Eyes, eyes, eyes–
Hook: “Oh no! I’m so sorry! You know that same thing happened to Randal at 1403 this weekend!”
In my head, ‘We are just having a normal neighborly conversation. She is really nice. I can barely tell she has a weapon as an appendage holding dog poop. This is completely normal.’
Me: “Yeah, well these things happen. Just wanted to introduce myself and let you know.”
Hook: “Oh well, thank you! I will definitely keep an eye out!”
Me: “OK, great. It was really nice to meet you.”
Cue, she goes for a handshake….with her LEFT HAND. I’m right handed, so my normal reaction to a handshake is using my RIGHT hand. We both reach out. We are now holding hands. My right hand and her left hand have connected, making a swinging like motion. I pull away – quickly.
Me: “OK, bye!”
Hook: “Bye! Have a good night!” –I was already across the street–
I was petty adventurous as a teenager, and by adventurous I mean stupid.
One night, riding around with my boyfriend and best friend, we decided to score some weed. Earlier that evening we dropped a hit of acid and now needed to calm the fuck down. It was around 11:00 p.m. when we arrived at our drug dealer, Rodolfo’s, apartment. The three of us got out and knocked on the door. Several seconds and no answer later we started to get antsy. For some reason we were convinced that our dealer was inside and simply ignoring our needs. It didn’t occur to us, at the time that it was 11 o’clock on a Saturday night and even drug dealers have lives.
Twitching and discouraged we decided to leave, as we did my friend picked up her foot to make a kind of ‘kick rocks’ ‘damn this blows’ gesture. Let me just give you a picture: it was winter time, we had boots on, my friend is a pretty tall bitch. All of a sudden her foot made contact with his cheap ass window at his ghetto ass apartment and shattered that shit! We froze in a tripped out ‘what the fuck just happened we’re all on acid’ type of way. Then…we ran. We ran, jumped in the car and sped the fuck off, never to speak of the situation again…to anyone.
A week later, rumors ran rampant about our drug dealer’s apartment being robbed. Yep. Apparently, we weren’t the only people who stopped by Rodolfo’s that night. After busting out his window someone came to his apartment after us, discovered the open entry and robbed him blind.
I’m not sure what was wrong with me because I continued to think this was ‘not a big deal’ and had absolutely nothing to do with me.
Soon after, I was approached by people saying Rodolfo knew who broke in.
In my head I thought, ‘Did he have surveillance?’ I’ve hung out in that apartment before, and let me just tell you, it was not a sophisticated operation.
Then it came out that there were witnesses.
Witnesses? I call bullshit. This is like on The First 48 when the cops tell DeShaunte they have an eye witness who puts him at the scene, to which DeShaunte responds, “You ain’t got shit, lemme talks to my lawyer main, dis some ole bullshit.”
For the next couple of weeks I walked around paranoid, mostly due to large quantities of weed intake, but also for fear of getting my ass kicked. I was approached twice by a group of Mexican girls connected to Rodolfo threatening to ‘beat my ass,’ but they never followed through with those promises.
Sometime later, I was rolling on ecstasy one night with my friend Claudia when we decided to pick up some weed to help us, again, calm the fuck down. Not sure what I was thinking; clearly the threat of violence against my life had no effect on me. I knocked on Rodolfo’s door tripping balls of love and joy not thinking twice about the fact that this was the same place a horrible, misfortunate accident had happened just weeks earlier and that I was involved. I guess I wasn’t scared because, much like today, I don’t give a fuck; also, I didn’t feel I’d done anything wrong. I mean, I’m not the person who went into his shitty ass apartment and stole his dirt weed and cheap ass Chaps shirts.
So I knocked on the door and out came Rodolfo’s new girlfriend. I knew her and I knew she didn’t like me, but that was irrelevant, we were there for a simple drug transaction – this was business, not personal.
Dealer’s girlfriend: “What the fuck is you doing here?”
Tripping balls, I kind of looked around like ‘is she talking to me?’ because I love everyone today.
Tripping balls me: “Um, is Rodolfo here? We wanted to get a half.” in my high pitch white girl voice.
Dealer’s girlfriend: “We know you broke his fucking window.”
Tripping balls of joy me: “Well, we just wanted some weed, but if you don’t have any that’s cool.” At this point, I still wasn’t getting it. Growing up in white America, I was under the impression that people just talked out their problems, and being on ecstasy I was under the impression that I had no problems.
Tripping balls Claudia: “Come on Ashley, let’s go. Fuck that bitch.”
Then, all hell broke loose…
Girlfriend: “What the fuck did you say bitch!?”
I guess she forgot who her anger was focused towards because she started yelling at me. I was a bit in shock, the ecstasy made me want to touch her hair, talk it out and tell her, her dad loves her.
Girlfriend: “And what the fuck are you doing here! You fucking bitch! Bust out my boyfriends window and think we cool?!”
Once again, I looked around like, ‘Is she talking to me?’ I just want to drink orange juice and talk about friendship tonight, let’s not fight.
Then she swung at me, making slight contact with my left cheek, but I didn’t feel anything. She was really skinny and frail, much like myself, and didn’t pack much of a punch. I just moved to the left and she started fighting with Claudia. I just kind of stood there not knowing what to do. Rodolfo came out and got his girl, I picked up Claudia and we left. But not before Claudia made a phone call to her sister. Within minutes Claudia had us at her sister’s place yelling about what had happened. The next minute, Claudia’s sister and four big ass Mexican dudes put us in a car and told us to navigate them to Rodolfo’s apartment.
For some reason, I’m still not frightened or even upset about what was going on; again nothing felt like a big deal. I was a bit concerned about Claudia getting her sister involved though, I mean, what was the point? The fight was over; let’s go do some underage drinking and salvage what’s left of the night.
We arrived at Rodolfo’s, all seven of us, Claudia’s sister screamed for the girlfriend to come outside. The girlfriend refused, peaking out the door with the chain still attached. So one of the big Mexican guys kicked it in and there we were; Rodolfo and his girlfriend and all of us. I still just thought we were there to talk? After exchanging some words Claudia’s sister pushed the girlfriend on the couch where the girlfriend then kicked her in stomach.
I remember thinking, ‘Shit just got real.’
Claudia’s sister did a move, I’d only seen on WWF’s Hulkamania hour with my dad as a kid, where she held the girlfriend down on the couch, grabbed both of her wrists with one hand and proceeded to punch the shit out of her (in the face) with the other…repeatedly.
Claudia just stood there staring and smirking. Rodolfo stood there waiting for it to end, knowing there was nothing he could do and the other guys stood in front of all of us making sure no one jumped in. However, around five minutes in I couldn’t take it anymore; I was bored and really wanted a beer. So I pushed my way through, grab Claudia’s big ass sister by the waist and told her “she’s a minor and the cops are coming!” The cop’s part was a lie, but the minor part was not. Claudia’s sister was a good seven years older than all of us, including the girl she was beating the fuck out of.
We all hopped into a little Honda Civic (seven deep) and left to a party as if nothing had happened.
Needless to say I had to find another drug dealer.
Lesson learned you guys; never accidently bust out your drug dealers window.
Just as a side note, this is one of the many stories I look back on and think, “I’m so glad I don’t do drugs anymore.”