A few stories about our attempts to hide from people.
Levi woke up one morning to the familiar sound of someone talking loudly on their phone as they passed by. He tried to fall back asleep, but realized the man on the phone planted himself on a park bench right outside, facing the van. He sat there for a long time discussing his health problems, ongoing divorce, and estrangement from his friends and family…all unaware there was a person in the van (note to self: always assume there’s a person in every van) laying in bed listening to his every word. Although Levi didn’t want to eavesdrop and actually needed to leave for the day, he knew if he drove off then, the guy would know someone had been in there the whole time. He didn’t want the man to know so he just sat there listening and hoping it would end soon. Finally Levi couldn’t take it anymore. He went out there, introduced himself and talked through some of the man’s issues with him. No joke. Therapy from an angelic bum living in a van. God works in mysterious ways.
“Hide Yo Kids”
Levi had to take our regular car for a couple of weeks, leaving me to drive the van to my office. Luckily it has a large parking lot, giving me the small hope of being undiscovered. Being new to this job, the van wasn’t likely to make a great impression. Call me crazy, but there’s just something about that van that speaks less of motivation, promise and success, and more of Dollar General, missing teeth, and a criminal record. It’s like driving around a moving billboard with, “As seen on Megan’s Law” written across it. Not to mention my job was to write about nice cars and I was driving this beast.
Pulling up I felt like a mortified teenager being dropped off in front of the high school in her mom’s horrible mini-van. Except I was both the daughter and the mom. It not only put my social life in danger, but also my livelihood. I didn’t want to raise any eyebrows. And a twenty-something professional woman, living in L.A. without kids or physical disabilities, and no excuse whatsoever to be driving a high-top conversion van definitely will raise some eyebrows. They couldn’t handle the truth: “Hi, I’m the new writer here. I’m a highly responsible person with a lot of motivation to do well in life. And by the way, that crusty van out there? It’s mine. I live in it…Sometimes I sleep in your parking lot.”
So I plotted to park on the far outskirts of the parking lot. Still, I was terrified. Also parked in the outskirts was a co-worker I knew well. He gets out of his Audi and of course walks right in front of me while I’m pulling in. I was so scared he would glance over and recognize me, so I ducked under the steering wheel and drove a considerably unsafe distance at 1 mph until I was sure he was long past. However he kept looking back at the van. I’m not sure if it was because he was sketched out that there was a moving vehicle with a ghost driver, or simply because a molester van was in the vicinity. Either way I can’t blame him.
Leaving work late one night there weren’t many cars left. Another co-worker walking out with me asked where I was parked and I waved my hand vaguely across the entire parking lot, “Uh over there.” He left and I climbed into my van. Another day unnoticed, and I was safe in the comfort of my home.
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor.”
This would only happen when Levi, a regular ol’ Mr. Rodgers, has the van.
LEVI: I met one of our neighbors today.
ANDY: Our neighbors?
LEVI: Yeah her name is Rhonda. She is a recent divorcee and she lives on our street.
ANDY: Wait like a van dweller neighbor, or one who actually lives in a house?
LEVI: A house.
ANDY: Why are you talking to people who live in houses?! Don’t do that!
LEVI: She was nice! Besides she approached me first.
ANDY: A woman who lives in a house approached you? Were you by the van? Why wasn’t she scared? What did she say?
LEVI: She said, ‘Hey you must be my new neighbor.’
ANDY: WHAT? She has noticed us?? Does she know we live in the van?
LEVI: Well yeah I was by the van towel drying, and she said she had noticed our van around and wanted to introduce herself.
ANDY: She wasn’t mad?
LEVI: No. She said there’s lots of us van people around. She was just being a friendly neighbor. She said she lived down the street and that we could always come to her if we needed something.
ANDY: What? This is so weird.
LEVI: Yeah she was really nice.
ANDY: I just don’t understand why she would be so cool with homeless people living on her street:…wait why did she tell you she was divorced?
A few days later I stumble out of the van in the morning, brushing my teeth. The sun was bright and I was groggy. A walking group of women passed by just as I climbed out of the van. I hear: “Good morning Andy!” It was Rhonda. I was as shocked and confused as the group of women she was with, not to mention my mouth was full of toothpaste.Finally I tried to say good morning back, but it came out as the sound of a questioning gurgle. The sound you’d expect from a disheveled homeless woman stumbling into the street out of her rundown van.