Dumb American Encounters

March 30, 2010

Two weeks ago Thursday night, or perhaps Friday morning by the time we made our acquaintance, I met a fantastic specimen, one of those people who truly gives you pride in the species and hope for the future. Here’s a story that reflects poorly on just about everyone involved:

It starts out quite innocently – I wake up in the gutted Airstream trailer that I’ve been calling home for my stay in Nashville only to find a group of people sitting in the room playing cards, drinking, and talking. It looks like fun, so despite my waning drunkenness – oncoming hangover looming like storm clouds – I drag myself out of bed, slip into my jeans, stumble over to join them, shaking my head cold away. I have no idea what time it is, but since I fell asleep (passed out hard) around 9pm after playing beer pong all afternoon it must have been later than that. Squinting in the dim light of a tableside lamp, I meet my new roommates – Matt, my travel buddy from NYC; Melissa, the girl I was speaking Spanish-French-bullshit at yesterday; and this new guy Adam whom I’ve never met before, but soon learn is Welsh and lives in town. Cool, friends made, lets play a game.

We’re sitting around, playing Shithead (fabulous card game, we’ll play it sometime) and drinking wine out of the bottle as everyone at the table slips further into a progressive drunken stupor. Matt goes down first, doesn’t say anything, just shakes his head at the wine, wanders slowly to bed and throws himself into it. One down. Melissa for whatever reason isn’t calling it quits, has all the energy in the world perhaps because she wasn’t out drinking with us earlier that day – we’re too stupid to dance but it doesn’t stop us from trying and failing, and Adam eventually gets sick of watching us fall over each other and announces he’s leaving. Fine, cool, party is over. He goes out, we’re sitting at the table again talking about something probably very profound, and I’m playing that game where I realize my eyes have gone somewhat out of focus and I can’t make them come back again. I’m mere minutes from a facedown collapse at this point. Did I mention drunkenness plays a part in this story?

Adam comes back – his car is blocked in and he wants to know who owns that black Toyota in the parking lot. No ideas here – I came with Matt, Melissa flew into town for her research project – but we come outside to “help” anyhow. It is goddamn fucking cold out. I have flip-flips on. My flippy floppies have holes the size of quarters in each heel and are held together with dental floss. The ground is gravel, and it’s drizzling out. This is a profoundly bad idea. I offer to help guide Adam between the parked cars, we almost make it, but the mirrors aren’t going to fit and whoever parked this car did a fantastic job of blocking everyone else in. We’re going to have to move it somehow. At this point, we’ve two really bad choices – we, a pile of drunks, can either go door to door through the hostel, wake up every room one by one, and find the owner by sheer process-of-pissing-everyone-off, or we can find a way to move the car ourselves, presumably by sorcery or something.

That’s when the two Danish guys show up seemingly from thin air. More bad ideas: five people, one small hatchback – how tough can this really be? We start our investigation. All doors are locked. The car is in gear. The car is heavy. We can’t push it, lift it, pull it. People start swearing. “This fucking sucks,” someone says. I agree. People smoke cigarettes, kick rocks. Adam looks grim. It’s cold. Melissa decides to be the voice of reason and suggest waking everyone up again – forty-five minutes, an hour perhaps has passed, why don’t we just find the driver and wake them up? She’s nice enough to not add “dumbasses” to the end, and even phrases it like a question. Future diplomat this one. Nobody has a better idea, so Melissa and I pick a door at random and wake up the occupants of the room.
What a champ this girl – a born bearer of bad news – she just starts knocking like a drug bust and apologizing in that “get the fuck up, no I’m not kidding” sort of way I now associate with New York girls. I stand aside and watch with a grin – it’s pretty clear I’m not needed here, so why get in the way of someone’s fun? Melissa goes into a room that I’m pretty certain is full of Florida college girls in town for spring break – probably not our driver, since the car appeared tonight, but I’ve already decided to stay out of the action. Sure enough, five minutes pass and we leave apologetically. Not our driver.

Another room – no one answers the drug-bust knocking, so Melissa kicks it up a notch – “EXCUSE ME! We’re looking for the driver of a black Toyota hatchback. You need to move your car!” She could have given that clipboard wielding woman in Antigua a decent competition. I’m not up to fill in for the five gunmen backup, but it doesn’t really matter because after a minute she’s inside talking to someone, and then back out on the porch where I’m hopping from foot to foot and trying to stay relevant. Failing that also. Melissa tells me she’s found our elusive driver, and she smokes a Marlboro as I pretend not to crave one. Sure enough a woman – mid-20s, short hair, five foot and a bit, hastily dressed and ready to murder – comes out in a couple minutes and walks toward the parking lot. Mission accomplished, I guess, and not a moment too soon. It is quite definitely bedtime.

Wrong on that one.

Turns out that it isn’t bedtime, but in fact time to get bitched out by an angry person – one of my favorite ways to spend the midnight hours. Now bear in mind, my involvement in this whole circus shitshow has been pretty minimal up until this point – I’ve been dragged out of a drunken stupor, tried and failed to guide a car out of the lot, failed to open car doors, failed to move a car, failed to find the right room full of people to wake up, and sat outside in the cold for far too long simply because it seemed mean to go inside when everyone else was out in the cold. About all I’ve done correctly has been to recognize I’m being useless and step aside. So what happens?

I get yelled at. A lot. It starts like this – Melissa has finished her cig, we’re saying goodnights and going to bed. Right about there our long-lost driver walks up, looking like she’s about to stab someone. “Excuse me! Were you the ones who touched my car?” No. “Those people over there (pointing at the parking lot) said you messed with my car.”

“Well, I’m sorry – nobody here did anything to your car. I tried to guide the other driver out…”

“There was no way to guide another car out past mine!”

“Yeah, I figured that out that the hard way.” Sassing her was a great idea, by which I mean a great way to get your face bitten off. She yelled at me for a while, accused me of putting butt prints on her car and drawing a penis on the windshield. “Someone wrote the world ‘idiot’ on it also – that’s vandalism.” Right there I’m just not willing to put up with this sort of bullshit any longer.

“That’s not vandalism, that’s someone writing in the dust on your car.”

“I could call the cops on you for that!”

“Do it. Call the police. I’ll wait right here.”
“I will!”

“Good. It’s better than having this fucking stare-off and wasting the whole night. Just go call the police. Tell them I drew a penis in the dust on your car. Go.”

“Now you’re admitting to it!”

This ridiculousness goes on for a while. She’s shouting, I’m being a dick, and Melissa is standing off to one side trying to be reasonable. Truth is I didn’t write on her car, but that’s no longer the point of contention – now we’re talking vandalism – VANDALISM – charges, police involvement, all because of finger drawings in the dust on a car, which itself is due to some dumbass who couldn’t park without blocking in someone else’s car in. I love getting into these sorts of situations – it’s like that old saying “no good turn goes unpunished” come to life and spitting in my eye. Fuck it, at least that’s over with, right?

Wrong on that as well.

The next morning I’m up late on account of the drinking and festivities. Oh yeah, that and the shitkicker of a thunderstorm from the night before. If you’ve ever thought that you’d felt a raging storm, I recommend spending the next one in an all-metal box – it feels like you’re inside a great big drum, rain smashing down on the roof, and the reverb off that thunder is pretty intense – add in the ball-ascending cold and you have a real winner of a bedroom. Suffice it to say I didn’t sleep much. It’s just about all I can do to get out of that frigid trailer in the morning. I can’t find shoes. Fuck it – common room, morning grunts, hellos, and jokes. The world is as I left it. A hot shower brings me back to life. Coffee and Ibuprofen – breakfast of champions. Random morning chatter with the other hostel guests. Another day slowly rears its head.

I’m just coming around to the idea of seizing the day or at least facing it without grimacing when my new best friend walks in the door and immediately gives me the stinkeye. And who is with her? The hostel owner, a guy named Ron who very clearly likes me based on his decision to put me out in the trailer park. Fuck my life. “K, we need to talk.” Ron says, “this woman says you vandalized her car.” The whole room gives me looks that say “a vandal! We all just thought he partied too hard and told over-exaggerated stories! How could we have let a CRIMINAL into our midst!?” It’s all I can do to keep from laughing. How do I get into this sort of stuff?

We three head outside and there on the porch Ron – with full seriousface – recites my heinous crimes. “This woman says you drew on her car last night, wrote words on it in the dust.” She breaks in – “And he drew a penis!” I try to just let them talk, hopefully let them see the humor in their own words, but no, not happening. I broach a few questions – is the writing still there? “No, it rained last night.” Well, if it washed away in the rain, how can you claim I vandalized your car? “It was there. I saw it.” How do you know it was me? “Those boys said you did it.” What boys? “The ones from last night! You knew them, stop lying!” It goes circular and makes the brain mushy– I’ll spare you the play by play.

After a few minutes she repeats her threat to call the police on me, and I tell her she’s welcome to. Ron tells me vandalism is a serious matter and I tell him that it certainly is, but that people drawing in the dust on car windows doesn’t qualify, especially after a rainstorm. They both accuse me of not taking the situation seriously, and I tell them both to fuck off, call the cops, and to please put it on speaker so I can hear the dispatcher:

Dispatcher: Hell 911, what is your emergency?

Dumbfucking American: This man wrote a penis in the dust on my car.

Dispatcher: Marm, do you realize we are the police? We handle real emergencies, like people dying.

It probably doesn’t help that I pantomime this to them, complete with cartoony voices, but the satisfaction… worth it. There’s a lot more yelling, accusations, at one point this woman starts crying when I tell her she has no idea what hardship is in life and compare her quite favorably to a teenager huffing paint fumes in the third world to stay warm at night. Ron threatens to kick me out of the hostel, the woman swears she will never come back again. Somehow it all calms back despite my laughing and saying “someone drew a PENIS on her car, and she wants me arrested for vandalism. Do you live in a fantasy world?” repeatedly to Ron. I am not being helpful. The police are never called. Ron gives up and swears he’ll get to the bottom of it. I go out to lunch with the guys.

Matt is driving, Stephen who never was in this story before right now is with us. We laugh about whatever the fuck drives people to throw hissy fits in their mid-20s. “Who do you think did it man?” Mat asks. I have no idea – I never even saw the writing. We let it slide until we pick Adam up from work and head toward the local Tex-Mex joint. “Hey Adam, did you ever see who drew on that woman’s car last night? She went nuts and is trying to get K arrested.”

“Nah man, never saw it – I mean, I was pissed, I kicked her car a couple of times for blocking me in, but I didn’t bother to write on it. Must have been those Danish guys.”

The mystery is never solved. The Danes left that morning early – if it was them, so much the better. Dumb American left the hostel before we got back, and Ron didn’t mention it again. Life went on. I gained a fun story about overvaluing the petty and holding your tongue. I probably won’t apply the second lesson as well as I wish I could – stupid is pretty hard to ignore when it’s concentrated and focused my direction. And that’s the story of my first dumb American encounter in a while– hopefully I won’t have too many sequels soon.


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