She Said What??!!!

Listen at me over here hollerin'

The Hitcher

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Never give rides to strangers.

That’s my motto.  Usually.  Tonight I broke with it to give a short lift to a teenager named Amanda, from South El Monte.

My book is about a girl who has been abandoned by her mother.  I started working on it about four years ago (yikes! Really??) and as I’ve learned more about my protagonist, and remember more about what my life was like at 12, 14, 16 and 18, I’ve become much more compassionate towards teenagers.  What an awful welter of hormones and emotions!  I remember a woman I knew telling me I would be happy to be out of my teens, and I just dismissed her thinking she was patronizing me.  LOL.

I had this crazy job working on a public access cable show called Homework Hotline.  We put the show together with the help of the professionals from the TV department for the school district, but they really let us run the boards, the cameras, the floor and the control room almost 100%.  Lots of fun, and I think I made about $4 or $6 an hour. Ha!  How nuts is that? Between that and my weekend job as a receptionist at this luxury real estate firm, I think I made about $600/month.  I thought I was rich!  I could do whatever my mother gave me permission to do.  And I remember how scared I was when I had to work late and take the bus home.  I’d puff myself up, turn up my walkman (ahh, the days of cassette tapes, remember them?) and blow out my eardrums so I could ignore all the grown-ass men trying to make time by asking for my name and number.  Losers.

I lived pretty far out of the city in a little suburb called Troutdale

Troutdale, Oregon.... 'Nuff said.

Troutdale, Oregon.... 'Nuff said.

.  And that’s about as exciting as it sounds.

Needless to say, walking 5-10 miles to get from one end of town to the other wasn’t a big deal.  But we also didn’t have to deal with some of the craziness the teenagers down here in SoCal do.  No, aside from the random serial killer or just nutjob WAR (White Aryan Resistance) gang member, life was pretty simple.  I’d had the Never Ride with A Stranger drilled into my head from childhood because we had a terrible man called the Green River Killer running around scooping up prostitutes and runaways and strangling them and dumping them in rivers… Even though that was happening up north in Washington, my parents were very clear about the no-riding-with-strangers rule.  I can’t tell you how many awful walks in freezing rain would’ve been avoided if I could’ve looked into the eyes of some kindly old woman and not seen John Wayne Gacy staring back at me.  But I digress.

So, there I am, hormonal, cold, hungry and leaving Pavilions after a late night run for Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches and rice milk.  As I’m putting the cart back in the little cart thing-y, I see this young woman, maybe 15 or 16-years old, sitting outside, in the cold (did I mention it was cold out? No higher than 55 degrees or so).  I’m such a sucker for these kids out here selling candy.  Anyway, I buy some raisinettes, she asks if she can use my cellphone (which I also don’t normally let people do since I’m afraid they’ll call a 900 number and charge me $5,000/minute or somehow steal my identity by using my phone number….) and I listen as she has a conversation with some guy named Wayne who is supposed to be picking them up from their various locations.

Now, from the tone of the conversation I can flat-out say that Wayne sounds like he should not be working with children.  No child should have to wheedle and cajole to get a ride home.  Not at night.  And especially not a young woman with baby fat on her cheeks and sparkles on her fingernails.  I was so mad, but I just sat there and smiled because I didn’t want her thinking I was some crazy freak.  After she finished her call, I offered to give her a ride to the McDonald’s where Wayne had asked her to meet him (after suggesting she might try a few other locations to sell candy.  At night.  Alone.  Asshole!!!).  I was going to suggest she chuck him and just let me give her a ride all the way home, but I could tell from her wary look that she just barely trusted me to get her up the street (and I suspect the allure of french fries was stronger than that of arriving home, sans Wayne, in the car of some strange woman).

Nowhere for a kid to be waiting alone!

Nowhere for a kid to be waiting alone!

Anyway, she was very sweet, and ambitious, and determined to take care of herself and earn her own money so that her mother wouldn’t have to take care of her.  Had to look away so I wouldn’t tear up (stupid hormones!!).   I can’t help but worry about her waiting for Wayne at McDonald’s at 9:00 o’clock at night.  She reminded me of the young woman at the center of my book, who has that same combination of naivete, strength, ambition and cluelessness.  It made me think how little we change as we get older, we just get better at hiding it.  I mean, here I am thinking she’s an innocent for getting in a car with a stranger, but heck, she was a stranger to me and I let her use my phone and get in there with me.  I did have the dog to protect me.  Haha.  I’ll post about him some other time as well. She’s probably always gonna be that girl, and I’ll always be the girl who’d rather walk 5-10 miles than ride in a car with a stranger.

Written by Alyss Dixson

April 29, 2009 at 6:30 am

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