The relatives needed the minivan to go to Santa Cruz, so I was stuck with the clown car, the VW Jetta. Bought in 2003, it is the first car that I (we) ever owned.
The pride of ownership never took hold. It always needs a wash, a vacuum and is continually a few thousand miles behind an oil change. What it has going for it is a birthdate in the 2000s (not the late ‘80s or early 90s) and reliability. It’s my wife’s car, not mine. I only drive it when I’m forced to.
Paid off in 2008, it has heavy-ass doors and a trunk that requires all your weight to close. On the freeway, when I drive it, I find myself in the fast lane going as fast as I can, longing for driving gloves with holes in the knuckles. Because of this midlife crisis behavior, I prefer the low-and-slow of the minivan, taking corners in a leisurely manner, and pissing off Sammy Hager types in the slow lane. On this day, I didn’t have a choice. I was in the VW with the Old Lady, commuting to San Francisco.
The commute is mine, a time when I’m by myself, listening to sports talk (during baseball season), thinking about stories to write and drinking Diet Pepsi. I should be on BART, but like others who prefer traffic to a crowded train, sometimes driving vs. the train isn’t a decision, it’s about addiction, habit.
Keeping me in the daily commute is a nasty Diet Habit; for most it’s coffee and cigarettes. Boredom while commuting has led to this assertion. 10 years of incessantly looking into the cars of commuters leads to me to believe that this is true. Anything to break up the monotony.
Because the relatives were using my vehicle and I’m using the wife’s vehicle, she’s with me the whole week, copiloting the commute. I’m not happy about it. She’s pushy with the radio, preferring pop stations and she’s chatty. I remind her that I’m the Captain of the ship - ruler of the radio and purveyor of conversation.
After dropping her off at work, I run a few errands, ridding myself of $600 dollars in cash to shady work vendors who refuse to bill. Shady is always a cash transaction.
Once I finish outside business, I return to work and park in the alley, dropping off some crap before moving the car to a paid lot. One the space is available, next to a junkie on the sidewalk, hiding in a recessed doorway.
While putting a quarter in the meter, I hear what appears to be a question. I turn and look at the young woman in the doorway. She’s sitting down with her left pant leg rolled up to her knee and her shoe off. Her exposed leg is swollen, bruised and littered with open sores. A needle in her right hand hovers over her foot.
“Excuse me,” I reply, looking confused.
She repeats the same indiscernible question, accenting the last word.
“Excuse me,” I say again.
She lifts the needle from her foot and focuses on articulation.
“You don’t have a problem with what I’m doing, do ya?”
I chuckle, not expecting this.
I looked at her in disbelief and reply, “Of course I have a problem with what you’re doing - anybody would, but I’m used to it.”
“Oh, ok,” She replied, going back to sweeping her leg for signs of flowing blood.
As I crossed the street, I decided to give her some advice.
“Hey,” I screamed, looking back. She met my eyes like a scared raccoon, still trying to be polite, selling me on her plight.
“Why don’t you just jam it into your thigh,” my right hand pantomiming jamming a needle into my thigh.
While walking away, she muttered something. I assume she was educating me on the difference between a muscle high and vein high.