I used to park my RV in a bad area of SF. No one else wants to park there, so it's always easy to find a spot. One night a friend and I were hanging out in my RV, we lost track of time, and soon the buses weren't running anymore. She calls a cab and we go outside to wait for it.
A cab pulls up, we say our goodbyes, and it drives right past us. Wrong company. A few minutes later another cab comes, and again drives right by. Out of the corner of my eye I notice a large black woman wandering around fifty feet to our left. Two more cabs drive by, neither one the right company. It's cold outside. We start laughing at the situation.
Noticing our laughter the woman starts staggering towards us.
"Let's wait inside."
Sure enough, two minutes later there's a knock on the door. We ignore it, but she obviously knows we're in there. It's not like my RV has a basement we might have gone down to, and are thus unable to hear the knocking. She knocks again.
I open up the door.
"Why were you laughing at me?"
She's more hurt than angry, and more drunk than either.
"Oh, no. We weren't laughing at you. We were trying to wait for a cab--"
"I lost my dog. Did you take him?"
"No, of course not. We'd never steal someone's dog. We were just waiting for--"
"I'm out here looking for my dog and you're laughing at me. Both of you. Where's my dog?"
"We don't have your dog. I'm really sorry you can't find him. We weren't laughing at you. We were laughing because--"
"Do you mind if I come in and look around?"
The RV tilts as she steps in. She surveys my thirty two square feet of floor space until she is satisfied that we don't have her dog.
"There are bad people everywhere," she says, crying, "I just want my dog back. I love him. I feed him every day. You're good people. I know you wouldn't steal him. I just can't find him. My name is Margaret."
We introduce ourselves and shake her hand.
The cab comes, she leaves, my friend leaves, and I'm back in the RV by myself. It's late, so I brush my teeth and get ready for bed. Just as I'm about to lie down, there's another knock on the door. It's four in the morning.
I know it's Margaret, and I feel like we're friends now, so I open the door. A giant pit bull launches into the RV and headbutts me. Then he jumps on my bed. I pull him off the bed and hug him-- the only way I can actually restrain him.
"He won't bite you, don't worry!" Margaret chimes, "I found him."
As I uncomfortably wrestle with the dog, Margaret starts telling me her life story. She doesn't want a conversation, she just wants for someone to listen, which probably doesn't happen often. So I listen and try to subdue her pit bull for the next twenty or thirty minutes.
She lives alone with her dog and doesn't have friends. She tells me again that there are bad people in the neighborhood, but only hints at their transgressions. She tells me her name and her address at least five times, pleading for me to come over if I need anything.
She finally leaves and I get back to getting ready for bed. I write down her address so that I won't forget it.
Did anyone else think that the picture looked like a pair of womens breasts? Look really closely at it. I swear its a Gestalt picture.
Your writing is good as always, but it's too matter-of-fact, you haven't really given an account of how you felt throughout it all.
Just simply listen actively does make a difference in huge way.
We constantly craved for validation. You just gave Margaret some validation. Maybe she is change course in her life because you decide to open the door.
Good story,touching in many ways,could have been dangerous though.I was born and raised in Detroit,which makes SF look like Sunday School.I have a "sixth sense".Developed from many arrests I made,and the abillity to "size" someone up quickly..You might have it too.Sounds like she was very sad and lonely.That dog was her protector and friend,probably keeping her from going crazy with loneliness.Good man,Tynan!
@mike I left because my RV was being cased and my friend's RV was broken into in the middle of the day
Did you move out of the area after Margaret's late night visits? I wonder if there were other incidents you faced in the hood, sometimes there is just desperation in the air in these rough neighborhoods. Great people though.
I didn't like the story too much, why would you let a drunk aggressive stranger into your RV?? I'd have told her to call the police if she wanted to find her pet.
I looked at the route that Google Maps gave me to drive my RV back to Austin. The route went right past Mandeville, Louisiana. That's where Katya lives.
I hadn't seen her in years. We broke up four years ago, and I only saw her once since then, three years ago. She randomly showed up with her fiancee and took all of the big stuff she'd left at my house. Her fiancee apologized as we carried her bed frame that I'd been sleeping on for a year to his car.
I don't feel like hitting your child is necessary. In fact, positive reinforcements and any type of incentive program is an effective way to modify negative behaviors. Do you know what a 6 year-old will do for a fucking sticker? Anything you want. Do you know what a 16 year-old will do for a fucking sticker? Nothing, they don't give a shit about stickers.
The main component missing from parents these days is the skill of instilling fear into their children. Spankings served this purpose. My first real spanking was when I was in the first grade. It was when I was introduced to an actual grading system in school. My father told me not to miss more than two on any assignment. My teacher had passed back the graded work from the week and I quickly made two piles. Pile one would be the assignments I showed my parents and Pile 2 would be the assignments I would get rid of, never to be seen again. I walked home which gave me a lot of space to be creative about how I discarded my school work. I was in the first grade but I wasn't dumb enough to throw my shit away in the classroom. Teachers are trained snitches. Walking home I threw my failed papers and projects into public trashcans. I walked through the park and stuffed the holes of trees with half-assed class work. I did this every week for almost a month.
So on that last Friday I was walking home ready to dispose of my shame when my mother decided to show up and botch my weekly ritual. What the hell mom, are you trying to get me fucking killed? As she waited at the end of the street for me, I needed to think quick. I had the papers rolled up in my hand already so I decided to ditch the roll into a bush along the sidewalk. Then I would follow the quick bush drop with a light jog soon turning that into a full on sprint. I did this and my mom yelled, "You dropped paper!" First graders suck at trickery. I was dumb and uncoordinated. My mom asked to see the papers, saw they were all failed grades (some were not, but I had missed more than two questions). My father came home from work and I was ordered to gather as much of the trashed school work as I could find. I walked around the park, picking up wet crumpled paper from tree holes and dirty trashcans. That night, my dad beat my ass. Twenty licks with the red leather belt changed my life. It's not to say I stopped being mischievous but I sure as hell was better about not getting caught or rocking anyone's boat. As a teacher, that's really all I'm asking. Work smarter to not get caught. Don't make it so obvious that you don't give a shit.
There was one morning when my dad and I were testing our might, playing Mortal Kombat on the Sega Genesis. He kept taunting me, laughing, and making fun as he kicked my virtual ass. I did what any kid would do and I told him to shut up. I didn’t get a look at his face but I did feel the slap across my legs and his voice saying, “Run.” I had no idea what was happening but I ran. I ran up the stairs towards my bedroom but as I reached for the door, my dad grabbed the back of my shirt and threw me across the bed. I bounced off the bed onto the floor, my dad standing over me while I tried to catch my breath. He put his finger in my face and said, “You’re more scared than hurt. Stop crying.” Christ, he was right. Your father calmly telling you to run FROM HIM could make you shit your pants.
As I got older my dad got more creative. Like the time I answered the question “Who were the first settlers in North America?” with “Vikings.” My dad asked me why I had gotten that question incorrect on my social studies test. I told him the test was too difficult. At that point he felt compelled to teach me the definition of the word difficult. For the lesson I was told to hold a phone book over my head for one hour. After the hour was over he asked me again, “Why did you get that question wrong” to which I answered through teary eyes and jelly arms, “I didn’t study.” "You will think before you tell me something is too difficult."