The following is an unedited, stream-of-consciousness personal journal used to experiment with different subjects outside of assignments and to practice free-writing. It shouldn't (at all) be viewed as a portfolio of polished work.

To see examples of my professional writing, please visit ginabegin.contently.com. For photography, please visit eyeem.com/u/ginabegin or my Instagram channel @ginabegin.

We Won't Hurt You: Mistaken Identities, Drunk Attacks & a Question


Mazda car parked in Squamish, BC with tent fly attached.
A kitchen fashioned for a rainy cookout from my car

Drunks knocked relentlessly on my window. 1:36 a.m. I pulled the sleeping bag low enough to look their way and tried to make sense of what was going on.

“What is he doing in there?” a girl asked, eyes and mouth gaping in my direction. Another staggered over to the driver’s side and tried the handle. “I won’t hurt you. I just want to talk. Get out.”

“Tempting,” I thought.

The sound of vomiting erupted from somewhere in the mix. A muscle-bound man in a black wife-beater crouched between my car and theirs, steadying himself with a fourth person while their bodies attempted to rid themselves of the poison they had ingested at some point earlier in the evening.

Many more questions and accusations were fired my way while they continued in their attempt to get in or get me out. Finding I could not talk myself out of this situation, I turned the keys that waited in the ignition and left them stumbling in their mess.

A quiet dirt lot just past an established neighborhood gave me hope for sleep. I snuggled back down into my Columbia sleeping bag and dozed off again.

My view was different the next time I awoke. 6:23 a.m. The sky had a pale hue and crew of birds surrounded my car. They were much less frightening to awake to, though no less noisy. I stared out from under my bag, allowing only my face to feel the still-chilled air leftover from the night. Spruce limbs reached into the early morning, interrupting up the otherwise clear sky.

This was more like it.

I thought back to when I had 500 square feet of living space and one lockable door to the outside world. It was situated on the top floor in the historic downtown neighborhood of a capital city. I had views of the mountains and the entire valley floor. My balcony was lined with a garden I had planted and my gear had its own closet. There was room to bake and cook food for friends. And I had a bed. A real bed. Queen size —more than enough room for a single person.

A cherry tree bloomed outside my window each spring, filling the pane with pink etherealness. I knew my neighbors; we borrowed cups of sugar and bike gear from each other. Depending on the season, I walked or rode my 1984 Schwinn to school, work and the grocery store. Trails crisscrossed the foothills behind my home giving residents a place to run, mountain bike, or quietly enjoy a city sunset.

There was the other side. Being downtown meant bus stops, late night convenience stores and “undesirables” looking for handouts, some strung out on whatever.  The three converged on a nearby corner within a stone’s throw from my otherwise peaceful habitation. My apartment occasionally felt the ills of this situation. Thieves attempted to take my bikes, strangers stared in at me from my balcony window, and late-night knocks at the door would be followed by delusional but persistent demands for people who I was not or for the drugs I did not possess.

Those events were not unlike what interrupted my sleep two nights ago. The difference is in one living situation the occurrences have been rare; the other attracted them much more frequently.

So which is the safer option? Hold on to your steering wheel: my life in the car grabs the title for least amount of insane visitors. Surprised? I was. Then I thought about a few things. It might be that the crazies, in the midst of their wrong-doings, are halted by the sight of someone who has clearly made a home out of a mobile unit and reasons (with whatever capacity they have left to do so) that this person might be more dysfunctional than they. On the other hand, someone living between four walls conforms at least some norm of society, therefore having a portion of rationality. These people are less threatening and thus easier targets.

Another theory: it may be that the crazies see someone sleeping in their car and feel kinship with that person; an instant bond that clears them from the path of danger whereas the home dweller who has a balcony garden and a lockable front door is clearly living the high life and deserves to be brought down a peg or two through drug-induced threats and stolen items.

I have yet to answer the question of why living in a car has granted me less visits from the insane than when I lived in a stationary home. I’m not exactly rushing to devote brainpower to solving the case. One thing I can pinpoint: the unknown or the unusual appears to make a thing “unsafe” by society’s standards. A single girl traveling and living in a car is dangerous, yet no one batted an eye about my living in a downtown apartment.

What really sparks my curiosity is why we are so fearful of what we’re not used to. Individually, I understand the mechanics behind it- it’s a form of self-preservation meant to keep us away from harm. But as a society I don’t get it. We go so far as to even try to keep others from straying off the path.  

I’m curious: have any of you thought about doing something unusual only to have it talked down? Did you go ahead or get dissuaded? Results? And finally, why do you think society is so worried about the unusual?




17 comments:

  1. In all fairness, you didn't live in the safest part of SLC. Dissuaded from doing something, *cough* heli skiing *cough*, result, well you know.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, not the absolute safest, but definitely not the worst, or even close to. It's generally a highly sought after area for those who want to live near downtown and the university.

      And yeah, the result was obviously awesome. No regrets there.

      Delete
  2. Now I understand! why you opt to sleep in the drivers side! Never made sense to me - tall people avoid that steering wheel and opt for the unoccupied passenger side or sprawl from front seat to back. Smart choice to keep the wheel and keys close. Welp, be careful out there GB.
    PS - Did you see Brody's story on living in a car? It's a good read.
    http://brodyleven.com/2013/04/21/purgatory-living-in-a-car-for-7-14-days/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love ol' Brody.

      And yes, that is exactly why, my friend. Quick getaways are what it is all about!

      Delete
    2. I've thought about that since I have to sleep in the bed of my truck... no real access to get away if someone was hassling me. Can't even lock the canopy from the interior... I'll just have to believe in the good nature of people I guess! :)

      Delete
    3. Scary, Ryan. Can you fashion up an interior lock on the cab? I would definitely want that option.

      Or maybe you can get a "safety orb." ;)

      Delete
  3. I am forever told the things I do are unusual. But they still love to hear my stories. I feel people fear what they don't understand or think is unusual. Thats why they aren't afraid to try to break into your house or apartment, it's normal. But be some weirdo sleeping or living in your car and that is unusual. We better think twice before trying something there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The unusual will always make for a good story. And all hail us crazies that aren't afraid to live unconventionally (yet aren't actually all that crazy)...

      Delete
  4. Seems a lot sketchier reading the story here vs. your tweets. I think society as a whole strives to be like the rest of the whole, which is some giant bubble of normal. There are edge people/outliers who do unconventional things, these fine folks are the free thinkers, dirtbags, the brilliant minds, but they aren't the norm. So people put down their ideas, think they're crazy, dissuade them, etc. I think the edge people/outliers have a job to do in society, and that is to nudge that normalcy bubble forward into new places. Sometimes just takes a lot of nudging to get it there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hard to fill in the sketchy details when you are limited to 140 characters, so this format helps in that regard. By the way, I can't comment on your blog, but I like this photo session of yours! http://www.epicexperiences.com/winter-lifestyle-scenics-and-tom-foolery/

      Delete
    2. Thanks! Also looks like I need to fix my comment system. :)

      Delete
    3. So there is a comment system! Yes, please let me know if it is just me or not. There were several photos/posts I wanted to comment on. :)

      Delete
  5. Ever since birth, I have always been the responsible one. And being a single father, I still have responsibilties to attend to. If one was to look into my mind, they would see a constant struggle between a job, health insurance, retirement... And life on the road, little to be heard from, climbing whenever I want and living in my trailer. In less than a decade, the decision will be made...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Just passing through and am enjoying browsing your blog! My theory is that if you are doing something different that strays from the norm it is inherently questioning the norm - and therefor questioning the decisions of many people.

    The time when I ran into this the most was wedding planning. I felt like our wedding was traditional but apparently it was different enough to freak people our a bit. I especially ran into it when talking to those recently married or engaged and it seemed like my decisions were somehow challenging their decisions. Because obviously there is only one right answer!

    That or maybe we do fear 'different' to keep us safe and want to keep others safe from the unknown as well. That theory has much better intentions...

    Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  7. You gotta be from a rich family or living on somebody's dime to live the way you do. Some kind of access to unlimited resource to sustain it.

    Normal people conform because they need money (resource). They need to work. They can't go for days stinking and looking a mess because they have to be presentable. You live in a car not because you must, but because it's some hippie social adventure for you, but you can always 'tag out' when it gets too hard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow. You know me well. :)

      Those who actually do know me will attest otherwise. I worked from my car. I had very little money. I was laid off from my regular job, Unknown (why are these comments always from people who are afraid to show their identity?), so no, there was no access to unlimited funds. I wrote about my travels because that's how I knew how to gain income.

      I hope the new year brings you a more gracious heart.

      Delete
  8. Are you "unknown" just searching for someone to belittle? There are better ways to communicate? Why not find someone to cheer up and share good thoughts? Have a Merry Christmas and a better 2016 that brings you peace and happiness to you.

    ReplyDelete

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