When we last left off I was walking down a dark backstreet in a seedy part of Hollywood with my new roommate, Connecticut Chris.
“We’re being tailed” Chris quietly said to me.
It was a sobering moment, to say the least. There I was, feeling high off a night of playing music at a hip café, enamored once again by the paradise that is La La Land, and then this happens. If this town was some sort of fantasy world created for a children’s book, then this particular chapter must have been written by the angsty Emo kid, satiating his sadistic desire to constantly remind people how cruel the world is. You know that kid:
Well, thanks a lot, Emo kid, for contributing. Back to your chapter:
“Do you have any weapons in your car?” Chris asked.
“No. Like…” I stuttered, unsure of what kind of weapons he meant.
“Weapons, like a bat or a knife.”
We finally got to the car and I swiftly but calmly unlocked the door and got in, leaning over to unlock the passenger door. This really would have been a great time for my car alarm to act up again, but alas, no help from the shoddy wiring on this one. Once we were in the car I quickly locked my door and went to start the engine, confident I could get it started and go before the person(s) following us could make it up to the door and try to open it. Of course they might try to punch through the window. I figured worse case scenario was that they held a gun at me, which would be a tricky situation to say the least.
But at this point we were both safely in the locked car, and that put us at a great advantage in comparison to when we were on the street.
I turned the key. Nothing.
I tried again and nothing.
Oh bleeping shit. It occurred to me that I might be using the wrong key. I have two keys that look exactly the same save for the marks scratched into them. Even those are not particularly easy to tell apart unless you look closely. I remember when I first got the keys, I thought it might be worth adding different color key covers to each of them, so that way I wouldn’t have to look closely at the small scratches on the keys every time I went to use one. But alas, for the same reason that I have yet to take the car to the shop to try to figure out how to open the trunk, I have for six months now put off this simple task. The problem is I didn’t see the immediacy of the situation – so I gotta strain my eyes every time I look at my keys to figure out which is which – what’s the big deal?
The big deal was readily apparent to me as I was trying to see which key was which in my car parked on the dimly lit street with a still unseen person or group of persons “tailing” me. I did my best to stay calm as I finally found the key. About to put it in the ignition, something caught my peripheral.
Not a guy with a gun. Not a guy with a bat. Not a group of kids looking to prove their might.
Just a car looking to take my parking space.
One of my least favorite things about Los Angeles is the lengths people will go for a good parking space. It’s not uncommon for someone to wait for up to fifteen minutes for a good spot, when another spot is available just a ninety second walk away. Rather than walk those interminable ninety seconds, on their feet the whole time, this person will instead wait with their foot on the gas pedal, ready to go, blinker-a-blinking, annoyed that it’s taking the person so long.
I first learnt about this during my early all-day explorations of the city. I would keep a lot of stuff in my car, and would sometimes go to my car to get something, and then leave the car where it was. From the perspective of someone seeking out a parking spot, this was a flagrant disregard of the unwritten ‘rules of the road’.
One day I went to Whole Foods and got some grub for dinner, planning to eat at the tables they have there. I went back to my car to get the newspaper I had, as the table area was well lit. It took me about two minutes before I finally got out of the car, when I noticed a Range Rover pulled to the side of the parking lot’s traffic flow, turn signal on. Taking a quick glance around the parking lot I noticed a few spots open and assumed that the person was waiting to pick someone up, and was being courteous by not taking up an available spot. As I was squinting at my keys to figure out which one would lock the door, I noticed the Range Rover aggressively peel out and turn into one of the other spaces.
“Hmm” I thought, still more concerned with figuring out which key was which in this dark parking lot. Finally locking the door, I started to make my way back to the dining area.
“Thanks a lot for telling me you weren’t leaving the spot!” I heard from somewhere, roughly twenty feet away. Not sure who it was that was talking or where they were talking from or if they were talking to me, I scanned the parking lot until I noticed a lady in her thirties, standing next to the aforementioned SUV. “I was waiting for it!” she added, this time the anger in her voice giving way a bit to the underlying tremble of sadness and betrayal.
I had ruined this lady’s day.
For a time I thought of making a sign to put on my car. Since I’m constantly going back to my car to get stuff, or sitting in it and playing guitar, or making phone calls, or just reading, this type of a scenario happens to me all the time. Maybe if I made a big sign that said “NOT LEAVING PARKING SPOT, SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE” then I would not have to deal with people being upset with me.
The sign, however, in this specific scenario, would not have been necessary.
There I was, having been tailed on a dark backstreet, having just gotten into a car with Connecticut Chris and no weapons, fumbling to find the right key, and some jerk pulls up next to me to scope out my parking spot. The car pulled the trick where you just pull up along side the car to make sure the person is in fact leaving the spot, a tactic I quite appreciate given the fact that most people falsely assume that I will be.
I turned to look at the car, assuming I’d see a guy with a “you leaving this spot?” expression written all over his face. But alas, tinted windows. Tinted windows. And no lights on. Like no…headlights on…wait a second!
Turning my head back, it became apparent to me that we were not being tailed by people on foot, as I had just assumed given my experience from times I’ve been tailed in NYC. No no, this is a car culture, as you may remember from the menu & flyer rant, and when people tail you they will tail you in a car.
For five of the longest seconds in the history of the Earth, the car simply sat next to ours, lights off, windows tinted. Tinted windows are like a giant pair of sunglasses – it’s impossible to tell what’s going on in the car. I did my best to stay calm, and just as I started up my engine, the other car pulled ahead across the intersection that was only thirty feet away.
This was good. The car clearly didn’t see what they were looking for and pulled off to the side of the street on the other side of the intersection. If they were going to get out of the car and come after us then they had made a mistake, since we could easily peel out past them. I drove forward and made a right turn at the intersection, so that I wouldn’t have to actually pass the car. There was just enough lighting on the street so that I could see in my rearview mirror the car pulling a 270 in order to start following us again.
“OK, they’re following us” I said to Connecticut Chris.
“Just drive normal” said CC.
Yep. Sure thing, Connecticut Chris. Just another night of typical driving with a black car with tinted windows and no headlights on following closely behind. Just another day in Paradise…
Thanks Emo kid, thanks a lot.
Tune in next Monday to find out what happens!