Usually I don’t talk to many people when I travel. I wouldn’t call this traveling right now, I’ve been here a bunch to see my son with a little bit of a routine going when I’m here… Walk the dog, grab whatever my son needs while I’m here, lunch, piano, then latte. The dog will keep anyone at bay, she looks like a huntress ready to pounce. I don’t worry about my son living alone with this dog around. He’s getting a roommate, which will help him not be so lonely out here.
I found this music store that has a practice room I can rent by the hour for the price of a parking spot in Walnut Creek. Last time I was here for an extended period I was able to go there every day. When I finished practicing, I found a coffee shop a few blocks away on my phone map. I kind of remembered the neighborhood wasn’t great, the coffee shop was cute though so I went there again yesterday.
After I got my latte I cracked open my Kindle to read the New Yorker and some guy asked me what book I was reading? I looked up and told him the New Yorker, then he started a conversation with me about where else besides Amazon can you download books? I told him Amazon owns Kindle and I just download from the store. I wasn’t being rude, I was being friendly too.
He was probably mid-20’s? I had noticed someone sitting outside with his dog when I walked in making sure to avoid him. After I got my drink and started reading I forgot about the guy I avoided outside. Inside he was friendly, thought he was a student. He was blonde, very skinny, from Wisconson originally. He wasn’t high, I didn’t feel threatened at all. Just seemed like a lonely traveler to me so I engaged. A few years ago my husband traveled through Europe alone and said the hardest part of the trip was he had no one to talk to. I thought about that when I was talking to this guy.
He wasn’t a student, he was kind of a nomad. We started talking about the meth problem in these states here when I told him about Ms. meth’s wild ride I had in Bisbee over the summer where I was REALLY scared because she was a wild card. We were on a night hike when we ran into this girl who had been dumped by her boyfriend to walk home. She used my cell (so they had my phone number), then proceeded to hold this hiking group hostage. We gave her a ride “home” after walking her back to the car, first I wanted us to be dropped off at the restaurant and she said, “No!” I said, “I’ve had enough of you, they’re dropping us off first.” My reasoning was more that I didn’t want us four good samaritans to drive into a meth house, the whole experience made me feel like we were being set up. I didn’t feel safe until she was gone, instead of sounding scared though, I came off as a bitch.
Then the guy at the coffee shop started telling me his experiences, how most people are good, how to talk down a meth head, when it clicked he was the guy outside I had slithered by because he had creeped me out. He was telling me about how when he hitch hikes people seem nice until they pull up into a gas station a few miles later then want him to pay for gas. He couch surfs a lot, told me there’s an actual website or app for it, when people get too high he’s able to talk them down without too much trouble.
As he was talking about his nomadic life, my mind started in on an exit plan wondering if I had given him any info on me? My name is unusual, easy to find. Nope, hadn’t exchanged names. I wasn’t too scared though, he really did seem like a friendly guy who was just passing through. Still, I don’t know how I look to others (like a target?). I had my camera backpack with a nice purse sporting my Nordstrom Trunk clothes. I dress just enough to have a cab driver in Bali charge $60 instead of $6. Plus, I was in a really bad part of town.
As I was wondering how I was going to get out of there without being followed the few blocks to my son’s car, I got a txt from my cousins that saved the day. He backed off when I said I was meeting cousins, then said goodbye and wandered off with his dog. I waited a little while before I took off myself.
He wasn’t who I had to worry about, I still had to walk through this neighborhood to get to my car. There were one room apartments, just a door with a room like a closet with bars on every window. Boy did I feel like an idiot for walking through there, no one was on the streets the first few times I did it. This time, people were out and looking at me. I chose my route wisely, not physically walking by anyone that saw me. A car slowed down when I quickly turned that corner to duck around, making him have to back up if he was slowing down for me. What goes on in my mind when I’m totally freaked?? I just thought of how stupid I was for carrying around this camera, looking totally out of place and that I’d be lucky if someone didn’t just mug me right there because I was screaming for it. I took the stuff out of the car with me so that the car wouldn’t be broken into. In the Bay Area, anything you leave in a car is going to have a broken window when you get back. Where I was walking, it would be much easier to just give me a good shove and take it then go through the trouble of breaking a window.
I made it back to the car in front of the music store. When I told my son about it, he confirmed I was in the worst part of town. Won’t be going to that coffee shop again!!
For the most part, I feel pretty safe everywhere I go…mostly because I don’t usually put myself in those types of situations. There have only been a few, “Oh shit!!” moments. I don’t think I was in danger at all talking to that guy – we had a guy follow us in Taipai my uncle was being friendly with, who I’m convinced was a nomad cannibal. Actually, most of those moments have been traveling with my friendly uncle where I have to be the bitch. This was the first time I was solo and scared, no one to blame but myself.
One more day here, then off to lala land.