Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Uniform


Uniform
****
When I was a young waitress in 1970 working the graveyard shift at McGregor's Truck Stop in Anoka, I couldn't figure out why there was this sudden rash of truckers ordering malts...in the winter...at night?  But I'd dutifully go scoop out the ice cream from those huge round cardboard containers in that deep freezer in the corner, put together the malt ingredients, stick it on the machine, get the glass and tall spoon ready, and deliver it with a smile--proud of the fact that we also gave the customer the rest of the malted that was left in the big silver mixing cup.
****
One night when I had all three of the spots full on the mixer I walked over to one of my regular truckers and asked what in the world was the deal with all the malts?  He looked into my eyes and, apparently, couldn't lie to me.  "It's the uniform".  He lowered his head. 
****
The light bulb finally went off.  
****
Not quite five foot two, short uniform, leaning over the deep freeze...
Goodness!  
I always pulled the back of my uniform down before I started--but I also knew how intensely involved I become in whatever I was doing...OMG!  They might have seen my undies for all I knew!  I'm sure my eyes flew wide open.
****
Shame on you! I scolded.  
****
There was a clammer of laughter (mine included) and a slew of red faces (mine included).
****
I kept a long sweater jacket on top of the freezer and tied it around my waist when I had to lean in deep to scoop.  After a few days (and some good natured whining and complaining from the guys) nobody ordered malts until the heat of summer.  ;)
****
I still think about this and giggle.
In honor of my naiveté, 
I have a few quotes today.
****
"My life has been one great big joke,
a dance that's walked, a song that's spoke,
I laugh so hard I almost choke
when I think about myself."
Maya Angelou

"If I am not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there."
Martin Luther

"I love people who make me laugh.  I honestly think it's the thing I like most, to laugh.  It cures a multitude of ills.  It's probably the most important thing in a person."
Audrey Hepburn

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Innocents On The Road (Running Away To Canada-Part Two)

Innocents On The Road.

First of all, I woke up at 4am with "Toronto!" shouting in my head. So, I have to correct my error. We landed in Toronto--not Quebec City. I have always been bad with names, labels, and time. This just proves it--LOL! Anyways, I couldn't get back to sleep so I got up and googled maps. We had gone up through Duluth...through Grand Marais...crossed the border and into Thunder Bay...drove along the lakes...and ended up in Toronto. I kept thinking Quebec, but that is because Anita and I actually made it to the province of Quebec when we hitch-hiked to Montreal.

Yes, Anita and I were feeling so guilty about being a burden to the guys that we decided to take off on our own. Alan and Tim told us we could come back any time and seemed a little worried about us taking off by ourselves. It was a different time, though, and kids were hitch-hiking everywhere. Alan gave me a map of Canada and they let me take most of the money that was left since they could work and I had donated the most into the pot. (I remember it was over a hundred dollars I had saved from my job at the Pet Ranch.)
****
I was too tired to tell "the rest of the story" (anyone else remember Paul Harvey?) yesterday. So--here goes...the misadventures of the missing day in Canada...
****
This is so long ago now that I can't remember if the guys gave us a ride to the highway outside of town, but I think they did. This was 43 years ago and I've been suffering from fibro fog for the past ten--LOL! I just remember Anita and I hitching rides east. We never had to stand there long. Guys seemed more than willing to pick up a couple girls with their thumbs out on the side of the road. The weather was nice. We got a couple short rides and then a longer one with a nice young guy who bought us both cheeseburgers and packs of cigarettes, was fun to chat with, and never hassled us once! But he finally wasn't going any further and we were on the side of the road again...waving goodbye to him.
****
It was late afternoon when a car stopped with two older men who looked Middle Eastern. (Well, they were older to us--maybe in their 30s.) They were talking to each other in some foreign language, didn't seem all that friendly, or even to pay much attention to us. But the one man said, "Are you getting in?" We were on a long stretch of empty road and weren't sure how far the next town was...Anita and I looked at each other, shrugged, and got in the back seat. We felt pretty safe because the two men didn't even seem interested in the least. In fact, they didn't look at us or speak to us. Just chatted in their language and ignored us. We relaxed.
****
They pulled into gas station later and asked us if we were hungry...offered to buy us something to eat. At first I refused. There was something odd about how they would not give you eye contact that bothered me. And they seemed to subtly enjoy the fact they could talk and we didn't have a clue what they were saying to each other. (Learn to trust your gut instincts!) I could tell Anita was agreeable to some food...and, true, we didn't know when we would eat next and didn't want to use the cash if we could help it...so we agreed. This was all non-verbal communication between Anita and I because we didn't know how much English they understood and didn't want to be talking about them or our cash in the back seat, right? We just sat silently, watching the backs of their heads, listened to their strange language and music, and watched Canada roll by the window as the sun set behind us.
****
I had been kind of dozing in the darkness when I suddenly realized we were on a dirt road. Anita looked just as puzzled. I tried to ask them where we were going, but they conveniently didn't understand English and ignored us. They took this dirt road out into the country, parked beside a farmer's field of some kind, got out, opened the back doors, and kind of took our arms to help us out of the car. Anita and I were peering around in the darkness...expecting to see a farmhouse, maybe some place that they planned to stay the night, or lived, or something since they had seemed to know exactly where they were going like they were familiar with the area. But there was nothing. Nothing but crickets.
****
They led us off in different directions and suddenly...well...this guy was all over me! Aggressively! And when I wasn't accommodating he got angry and pushed me down on the ground. I assumed the same thing was happening to Anita. I had been raped before, so the fear aspect dissipated quickly. I was furious! It dawned on me that they had just assumed that we were slutty young girls who owed them because they bought us some fast food. Maybe it was a cultural thing, I don't know, but they really pissed me off! How dare they! The struggle went on for what seemed like forever, but it was just a few minutes. I hit. He hit. I slapped. He slapped...and grabbed my ankles and was trying to pin them up beside my head. I bit. Hard. He quit. Thank God!
****
He was thoroughly disgusted with me...and angry...stood up and called to the other man as I yelled for Anita. She looked disheveled, too, as they kind of pushed us into the back seat of the car again and angrily conversed in their native tongue. I was thrilled I had apparently become too much trouble. ;)
****
Next thing we were back on the highway and it turned out we weren't all that far away from a big town. They drove us into a dimly lit, seedier looking part of town and dumped us off like so much trash...laughing as they drove away.
****
But we were thrilled to be out of that car and away from those creepy men! We spilled our stories, grabbing each other's forearms...so glad to be free of them! But then we had to figure out where we were and what to do. We walked down the block to a phone booth on the corner and discovered we were in Montreal, as we suspected, at two in the morning. I decided to call the police.
****
I explained that we were Americans, we'd been hitch-hiking, two Middle Eastern men picked us up, fed us, and then tried to attack us in a field...then dropped us off in town. The officer, in that charming accent, asked me where exactly we were located. I told Anita to go over and look for a street sign. I relayed the information to the policeman on the phone. He said, "well, there's a street light right there, isn't there?"
"Yes."
"Well, go stand under it."
Click.
****
So much for the Canadian police. No better than the cops in Fridley blaming me when I was abducted off the street and raped. (They told me I shouldn't have been barefoot, wearing a tank top and tight shorts.)
****
Anita and I huddled together near the phone booth wondering what to do and which direction to go. I took out the map and was trying to see if it had a separate little street map of Montreal...when we heard whistling and footsteps.
****
This young guy was strolling up the sidewalk, his hands in his pockets, a bounce to his step, and whistling like he was Fred Astaire in a movie. I imagine we must have looked nervous...and I had the tell-tale map in my hands. He started to talk to us in French. We told him we didn't speak French, so he said in English--"Are you lost?"
****
I told him we were Americans and, yes, we were lost.
"Have you no place to sleep?"
Apprehensive looks passed between Anita and I.
"Oh no...no...no", he laughed. "I live alone. Just me. You are safe. Can sleep on the couch till the morning." His voice was a little slurred and he was quite the happy drunk.
Well, there were two of us and we had just fended off a couple of fairly violent grown men...okay. We followed him a few blocks to his apartment in a wonderful old building with a courtyard.
****
He showed us the bathroom off his bedroom and we all took turns peeing. I noticed he had some women's things in the bathroom--like hair pins, lipstick, mascara--and yet he said he lived alone? Oddly, there was no door to his bedroom, just an archway. He had one of those sectional sofas that wrapped around the corner of the living room...conveniently, for us, near the front door. Plenty of room for Anita and I to lay down. He shut off his light to go to bed as we whispered in the dark.
****
Suddenly we heard him jumping on the bed. Honestly, that was our first impression. Whatever Mr. Inebriated Gymnast was doing in there by himself, it caused another suppressed giggle attack. He bounced and bounced for quite a while and then snored. We talked the rest of the night until morning...afraid to sleep...quietly making plans.
****
In the morning we slipped out at first light. I had found the way to the bus station on the map. We had just enough money to make it back to Toronto. Whew! We were so glad to see the guys, I tell you! And we had stories to tell. Well, I did. I was always the talker...the storyteller. Anita was the corroborator.
****
Innocents or idiots. A toss up, I suppose. ;)
****
Toronto was great. There was a huge park where people gathered. There was usually a cluster of people around various guitar players...sitting and lying about. Usually there was a couple or maybe two making out. Everything was so very clean. I swear nobody so much as dropped a gum wrapper. And the squirrels were black! Gorgeous black squirrels.
****
There was a trailer home that was pulled in (on various streets, I believe) every morning. The American guys went in the front door and came out the back door with fake IDs and work visas. It was very organized...and mobile.
****
There was this one street that was like the hippie street. It was filled with far out shops and blaring music. Every time I hear
this song from Midnight Cowboy...

...or Lay, Lady, Lay by Dylan (no video, just sound)...

...it brings me back to that street, the smell of grass and incense, and all those friendly people.
****
Oh, and Anita had a baby boy. :)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Helpful Hooker (Running Away to Canada-Part One)

In the fall of 1969 my former first love, Alan, and his friend, Tim, were planning to run away to Canada. Tim had been drafted, was home on leave from boot camp, and didn't want to go to Vietnam. Alan had been caught with two joints, was awaiting sentencing, and didn't want to go to prison. My recently acquired friend, Anita, and I talked them into letting us come along. Anita (unbeknownst to us) was afraid she was pregnant. I had been emotionally reeling since I had been gang-raped walking home from a beach dance the summer before. We four friends were going to begin our lives fresh--have a do-over. We hoped to join a commune.
****
We were able to cross the border into Canada pretending to be two couples going on camping vacation for a couple weeks. When they opened the trunk and saw sleeping bags (one of the guys brought) along with everything I had accumulated for living on my own one day--including an iron and my yellow metal colander...

...they probably thought our story must be true. After all, in the age of hippies, who would run away with brush rollers and a bonnet hairdryer? ROFL!
****
Anyways, we drove and slept outdoors. I remember skinny dipping in the dark in Lake Superior and losing my class ring washing my hair. I remember sitting on big rocks along the shoreline eating plums for the first time. We stayed in a hostel along the way where all the girls were in one huge room and all the guys were on another floor in another huge room...army cots and wool blankets (itched like crazy)...but you could take a shower.
****
We thought we were so street wise and worldly. But Anita and I snuck into the bathroom after all the other tougher looking females were asleep to take our showers. We were kind of scared of them...plus shy--LOL! And there we were in the bathroom shaving our legs in the sink and rolling up our hair with the brush rollers. In the dim light I shaved off a mosquito bite that bled profusely and started us off on a suppressed giggling attack that came to an abrupt end when a deep voiced woman yelled at us from the darkness of the army cots. (I have a round scar on my shin to this day.)
****
When we got to Quebec City and heard it was well organized for helping draft dodgers, we decided to find a room to rent and start our new lives. The guys got directions to some very old Victorian looking houses that had been divided up for cheap room rentals. I remember being shown the small grubby room. Tall narrow windows, a single metal bed frame with a thin stained mattress, and a used condom on the floor...but seems to me it was ten dollars a week, they didn't care if four of us stayed there, and we were running low on cash. There was a shared bathroom and kitchen. The kitchen was large enough it had an old table and a couple chairs. The bathroom had a lock on the door. We took the room.
****
I told the guys to get my scrub bucket, dish soap, rags, and Windex out of the trunk (told you I brought everything I owned) and, with optimistic enthusiasm, Anita and I went to town cleaning every inch of that room. The semicircle of tall narrow windows were actually part of one of the turrets you could see from the street...cool! But there were no curtains or blinds (thank goodness we weren't on the ground floor) and if you looked out the back side window you could see right into the room next door to us...and there was a bed right under the window...and a naked girl was sleeping in it...next to a naked man...with no covers! So we tried to be really quiet and turned our heads while we cleaned the windows.
****
Anita and I whispered about how shy we were and how we had never slept naked. How we wished we were as comfortable with our bodies as this girl apparently was. We finished scrubbing every inch of the room, flipped the mattress to the least stained side, and had the guys bring in all our things. Anita and I had found a wooden orange crate under the bed that had been made into shelves, so the rest of our few dry goods stacked nicely in there.
****
We were fluffing the towels and deciding where to hang them in the bathroom when that girl sleepily posed in the open door. We apologized, explained we were just figuring out where to put our bathroom things, and would get out of her way. She smiled and told us, with her groovy French accent, to keep everything in our room and to keep our door locked...including the toilet paper we had just hung on the holder. She told us that the guys would use anything to wipe their butts, including our towels...and that anything and everything would be used or stolen. We thanked her profusely and scooted out with our toilet paper, soap, shampoo, and towels.
****
She was our heroine! Beautiful, long thick dark wavy hair, slender, looked like a model, and kindhearted, too. She always smiled so genuinely and asked how we were doing. Wondered if we were the ones who cleaned the bathroom and the kitchen (of course) and thanked us. Anita and I wondered if we could ever be friends with her. She wasn't much older than us and was just so gentle and sweet!
****
The next day the guys left early to see if they could get fake IDs. They left us with change to wash clothes at the laundromat on the corner. We'd been traveling for several days and were out of clean clothes. Us "women" were expected to clean, wash, and cook, of course...and, girls of the 50s that we were, we loved taking care of the guys. The "men" would return and give us the lay of the land. But it was a small laundromat and all the washers were full with baskets lined up waiting, so we decided to try later in the day. While we were gone we remembered the beautiful girl, were wondering about her some more, and decided to peek out our window. Surly she couldn't be sleeping in the afternoon again, right?
****
She was! Naked! And with a different naked guy!
****
Goodness sakes! We had read all about the hippies and free love...and we knew that grass, hash, and pills of all sorts had finally hit the upper midwest...but we were still a bit shocked to see it close up. Of course, it could have been a French thing. This triggered a long conversation about living in a commune, wondering what was expected, and could we have sex without love...like men did?
****
By dusk the laundromat was almost empty. Anita and I were sitting in the metal chairs watching traffic, waiting on the dryers, wondering when the guys would be back, and still discussing this free love idea...when we watched her saunter up to the corner.
****
She just stood there. Waiting. We figured it must be a bus stop and kept gabbing. But a car drove up, she checked to see who it was, and got in. We figured it must have been one of the two boyfriends picking her up for a date because she was looking good in her mini-skirt and makeup. How rude to make her wait on the corner, though, we thought.
****
We were folding clothes when the car returned to the corner and she got out. Now we were puzzled. If they had a fight she didn't look angry or upset...and she didn't go home. ??? We snuck peeks as she stood on the corner and fixed her lipstick.
****
A different car drove up and stopped by the curb. As she leaned in, we could see the guy this time...and it wasn't either of the younger boyfriends! As she climbed in the light bulb finally went off. I remember Anita and I staring wide-eyed at each other as we heard the car drive away. "She's a hooker!" we whispered at the same time.
****
We scrambled to get all our clothes and get out of there before the car returned to the corner. Not to avoid her. We still absolutely adored her. But we didn't want to embarrass her by kind of catching her in the act, so to speak, you know? I think she knew we were clueless suburban Americans and we didn't want to ruin our friendship with her.
****
We never mentioned anything about her private life. We had a friendly relationship with our self-employed neighbor the entire week we lived there. To this day I think she was the sweetest, most beautiful woman and think of her fondly.
****
The guys could get fake IDs and Work Visas, but there was nothing to help us girls. Without those Anita and I couldn't work in Canada. We didn't want to be a burden for them, so we called home. (Would have been missing persons on TV the next day...missed our 15 minutes of fame, I guess--LOL!) After we flew home, Tim decided he shouldn't go AWOL and returned and went to Vietnam (survived, but they're never the same). Alan drove back for his sentencing. Anita found out she was pregnant. And me? I learned that you can't run away from your sorrows, no matter how hard you try or how far you run. So you might as well deal with them where you stand.
****