Oct. 04, 2005
May be I should rename this journal from “Salsera’s Diary” into a “Shitty Car Girl Diary?” Well, truth be said, my car is not shitty. My value system is.
Horizons cleared, job found, phobias fought, number of uncertainties decreased, I am on an Interstate-5, heading back to Los Angeles for a week… to do what? To pick up the rest of my stuff and finish my move to the Silicon Valley, or may be to spend the whole week on a salsa floor, dancing, or to say good bye to the close ones… Do I really have close ones in LA? A month ago I made an executive decision to pull myself out of the LA salsa scene and moved myself four hundred miles away from it only to drive back nearly every weekend? Just this one time. Promise.
Eighty miles to LA my car starts losing speed and as I change lanes moving towards the curb all the emergency lights get on and smoke shows from the hood. I want to jump out before the car explodes.
The only reason I do not catapult is because I am practically naked. It is freaking hot in Southern California in October, my AC stopped working a while ago, so I drive with my windows down and undressed. Jumping out on the freeway wearing only a bra and a beach skirt can increase my chances to survive. The battle of dignity and life saving concerns lasts for a split second with the former taking over. May be you are a car savvy person, having a good laugh right now, knowing there is no way my car could explode, but in my world that car was totally exploding as I was pulling on my damn shirt.
Before I had a chance to start thinking what to do next, a dark blue car slowed down and parked a couple of feet away from me, on the emergency lane. Quite a character emerged from the vehicle that looked way shittier than mine. A lad in his fifties with a pony-tail, tattooed biceps and three weighty earrings was heading towards me. GET A REAL BIKE, FUCKING PUSSY – gently invited his graphic white shirt. “Welcome back to LA,” I thought to myself.
There I was standing on the freeway, my car engine smoking, my wedges ten inches high (do not ask), green mini skirt and hair all messed up by the Santa Ana winds. I scanned the moving object the way animals sniff each other. A web of delicate wrinkles evenly covered the golden skin of his face. I noted his eyes, the same exact shape of an eye socket and pupil color that the lady who wanted me fired at my last workplace in LA had. Same, but different. I caught myself thinking: “this one can be trusted.” I then glanced at his car and spotted someone hairy in the passenger’s seat. Wife. Bummer. Looks like I will be sorting this out all by myself today. As I played out various scenarios in my head, the guy opened the hood.
– Any chance I burned my engine? – I asked
– Very likely so. Do you have AAA?
What d’ya guya think? Do I have AAA? Do I look like the person who has AAA? Do I act like one? Or may be sound like one?
-Hey, but I can get one while ordering road assistance – I said with confidence – I did it before.
-Do you have a cell phone? – My heavily tattooed, generously pierced friend inquired. I rolled my eyes and was about to take it on this stranger, but then recalled our AAA exchange and found myself squeezing an “I do”, instead.
Then followed thirty minutes on the phone with the AAA. We shared responsibilities. I stayed on hold and he did the talking. He made the Road Assistance tow me way over seven miles free of charge. I stared at this unbelievable human being who just fell over my head in sheer admiration. As the AAA negotiations progressed, the hairy passenger emerged from Steve’s car and turned out to be of masculine persuasion as well. His name was Bear and his hair was messier than mine. We exchanged civilities and I turned to my savoir who just flipped my cell phone.
– By the way, my name is Steve. Do you mind if we smoke?
What an old fashioned consideration I thought to myself.
– Pot? – Steve clarified.
Who was I to quibble?
– We saw your car starting to smoke before you began pulling over – said Steve – I told Bear, let’s see, if there is a hot chick in there, I will stop and help her.
Even with all my resources pulled I can never get myself offended by the “hot chick” comment. Just why am I not motivated to fight back with the 5.5 out of 6 on my GRE Analytical Writing score? I do not know what kind of future awaits my shallow self..
I was not looking forward for the tow truck to arrive. It meant I would have to move all my stuff into Steve and Bear’s car. That included a bunch of pumps: in red, yellow, cognac and black colors, along with purses to match, befitting a lady, and two pairs of capezzio dance shoes. Raised in the USSR I was taught that sticking to the bare minimum constitutes a good moral character. I was dreading the moment my rotten moral would be exposed in its full glory. Gentlemen, however, demonstrated radical acceptance.
Steve kicked the door of the towing truck station open with his foot and confronted the staff from the start: “So, how much are you gonna charge her for storing the car?” The gal behind the counter was a tough cookie, she fired back. She then scanned me thoroughly. I let her do the scanning, I know its is vital, I scan everyone too. A miniature whippet showed up from behind the stand. I kneeled in front of the puppy and removed myself from crossfire. The presence of a gullible, sleepy pet calmed the tempers. Negotiations picked up and at some point I overheard “$30 per 24 hours.” That sounded promising.
A sleek newsman on TV screen was commenting on fires in the San Fernando Valley. With false drama to her voice she listed the cities affected: Calabasas, Sun Valley, Woodland Hills.
– Where are you heading? – one of the characters asked me.
– I pointed to the screen with flames sky high and said: “Right there. To the Valley.”
– Who’s taking you home? – Asked the tough gal behind the counter. She was a white, middle-aged woman with round glasses and a long ponytail.
– I nodded towards Steve.
– Do you know them? – She rolled her eyes.
– Not really, but they’ve helped me.
– But of course! – She hissed and looked at me as if I was crazy. She was right. I was. I was about to spend the following week doing acrobatic dance moves with the shadiest of characters in the ghetto area of East Los Angeles. Comparing to those, my heavily tattooed do-gooder, Steve seemed like an Easter bunny. Oh, my… get me out of this town soon, so that I could establish a proper suburbia lifestyle that my parents and the lady behind this counter had wished for me so much…
The tow truck with my baby girl old Volvo on the deck arrived to garage. My heart sank as I saw her resting there, like a wounded horse, all alone and miserable. It became astonishingly clear that with the engine burnt eighty miles away from all the mechanics I know, I might just never see her again. I crawled on the back seat of Steve’s car, next to all my colorful shoes and pulled myself together for a prayer.
Please, God, help me. Please do something to make it possible to have my car back fixed. You know how much I love my dear baby-girl-car. And I do not have the money for the new one. I swear, I’ve learnt my lesson: from now on I promise to be a more responsible person. I will learn to prioritize. What really matters will come first. I will change, I will be more responsible, considerate and I will even try to be organized. Oh, dearest of Gods, just help me keep my car. I will be a better person. I will stop driving to Los Angeles to dance and I will also stop putting my contact lenses in the two-day old solution. Promise.
October 4, 2005.
God bless you, Steve. I hope all is well with you.
Title Picture source: www.wrenphoto.com.au