I had thought about what I would do when this happened and played it out in my head dozens of times. I slept with pepper spray and a dagger in case some weirdo ever wanted to try something in the dark hours of the night.
Let’s take a step back. I’m 22 and I’m living in my car. I’m in Seattle with Tennessee tags and this is the 3rd night I’m sleeping in this slightly sketchy neighborhood (one of my rules for finding places to sleep in my car is if I don’t die sleeping somewhere one night, I stay there for the rest of the time I’m in the area). I had spent the previous day going to thrift stores and libraries looking for books that are profitable to sell on Amazon, and I was pretty exhausted. That’s how I’m able to pay for this expedition across America. To save on cost (and really more for the experience), I’m living in my car. I took out the passenger seat, gutted the back seats, and laid down a plywood board with a mat on top that I snagged when my high school wrestling room was remodeled as a bed. I made custom window cutouts made out of Reflectix insulation rolls. Attempts to insulate a 2005 Toyota Corolla are futile… the window inserts primary purpose are for privacy (I quickly found out that its extremely unsettling sleeping in a car when you know anyone can look in and see you… I don’t give a shit if you’re a cop, late night creep, or a neighborhood cat … the thought of being watched while sleeping sends chills down my spine… I think it’s something evolutionary). After pimping out the interior of my Corolla, it became super comfortable to sleep in. My car was so comfortable to sleep in that once I woke up on my friend’s couch and went outside to my car to sleep the rest of the night. It was my home.
Anyway, it’s 4 am in Seattle, third night sleeping in this slightly sketchy neighborhood, and I hear a knock on my door. I had a precise game plan for this exact moment:
Locate which window the knock came from.
Stealthily crawl (being careful not to shake the car to show proof of life) to the opposite side.
My pepper spray would be in one hand and my dagger I bought off amazon in the other. I’d slowly open the door and creep out, not making a noise.
I’d look under the car and locate the feet of my perpetrator. If it wasn’t a cop I’d back up and confront them from afar. If they showed signs of aggression I would pepper spray them with the police grade mace I had and then if the situation called for it slice them to pieces with my dagger, and then peel off to the next state in my car.
This is what actually happened… I heard the knock and before my brain was able to process the noise my hand opened the door and I made eye contact with a rough looking older woman wearing a crossing guard uniform. “I know what it’s like, I’ve been there before” She was referring to me living in my vehicle. “Go get yourself something to eat” she said, and then handed me $15. Little did she know this was a voluntary act of “homelessness”. At the time, I was too groggy to process what the hell was going on. Looking back on it, I get choked up. She obviously wasn’t super well off and had enough empathy to give me $15 before she went off to work her $10/hr job. She had no idea that I was just a weird young man embarking on a strange journey of frugal nomadness. I was making plenty of money selling on Amazon to provide for myself, living in my car was a lifestyle a choice.
Acts like this remind me of the kindness and empathy of which humans are capable. I had 4 dreaded knocks while living in my car, but I’ll never forget that one.