Have you ever been so depressed that you resign to thinking that your life is done and that nothing could get worse than it already is? The comic jesters of chance decided to take my pity party and turn it into something to really complain about. Not surprisingly after a serious medical emergency, the months after included follow-up care and insurance-related bureaucratic annoyances. These caused me to have to start traveling for medical appointments. This few hours drive was not so bad until the wildfires of the summer shut down all of the roads that led directly out of town and I soon found my long commute to my doctor had doubled in duration. On my end, there was a lot of stress and whining that it can't get worse. Oh silly me, things can always get worse. Here is how my overconfidence in planning turned a trip to get an insurance-covered MRI went to hell in a handbasket during one outrageous eighteen-hour period.
Two weeks prior to the above scenario, I had tried to drive to Redding only to be stopped an hour into the trip due to road closures. I was completely deflated by being turned around because if I had left a few hours before I could have made my appointment. This setback was the reason my diagnosis could not be finalized and why the medication I needed could not be dispensed. In an effort to prevent this from continuing on, I decided there was no overzealous and that I needed to pull out all the stops for me to get to my appointment on the other side of a mountain through a wall of fire one way or another. It is also probably why my thinking was a little too hopeful. I knew that I couldn't afford a hotel, but I had an ingenious idea to save money; sleep in my car, and park at the Casino. Redding had a Casino that was open all night long that I remembered from when I lived there years before. I assumed that no one would care if I parked there from whenever I rolled into town that evening until the morning when my appointment was. I planned to waste my time watching retirees throw away their pension checks on the slots while I enjoyed the free non-alcoholic drinks I heard so much about from my financially deprived friends, who are known in society as "moochers." My plan included me sneaking to my car to sleep in the back seats which folded down and dream peacefully throughout the night undisturbed.
Oh, I was hopeful in my planning to the point of being delusional. This is how it went wrong. My first mistake was thinking a Casino would have a quiet little nook to park in. The place was lit up with more illumination than a prison yard, and equal camera coverage to boot. Trying to relax was probably the same as trying to take a nap under a heat lamp in the sun. Not to mention that just sitting in my car trying to watch YouTube videos still caused me to drip in sweat from the over eighty-degree heat outside. Still, I stuck to my plan, and I walked around the Casino for long enough to find those free drinks I had been banking on were for the gamblers. The one perk I did utilize to excess was the free bathrooms, which was perfect as I had just driven for over six hours on nothing more than gas station candy and Arizona iced tea that came in a can. Knowing that I never was and never could be a high roller, I retreated to my car once more after wandering around awkwardly in the cigarette smoke-filled lobby for a smidge too long. It was nearly midnight by the time I decided to call it a night and flip down my seat to try to sleep. Not less than ten minutes into this attempt did I see a security guard shining a flashlight into my car's back window. He was none too pleased with me as I could hear him mumble something to the effect that he had mistaken me for a hooker before he left. Fearing that he would report me to the police I decided to try to waste some more time in the Casino again. Stupidly, I rationalized that I would look less like a lady of the night if I appeared to be a slot jockey.
No sooner had I exited my vehicle than I saw that my car was the only one in the far-off lot other than a tiny beater car next to me. Then again my naivety got the better of me and I wrongly assumed that I was in the staff parking. Of course, the security guard was going to give me grief over parking there. I must be sticking out like a sore thumb, I reasoned, wrongly. The person in the car next to me from the corner of my eye looked to be wearing striped cook's pants, something I remembered from my days working in a commercial kitchen. I saw the man was leaning over something in his car and that he had the windows rolled down. Thinking he was a kindred blue-collar worker I doubled back to ask if I was in fact in the staff parking lot. This was my biggest mistake. Before I had finished my trivial question the man leaned up where I saw in full view that he was not only shooting up heroin but also smoking a crack pipe with his injected arm. I quickly tried to end the conversation as fast as I could, which only seemed to annoy the man who was obviously busy. I said "Oh, sorry I thought you were someone else," and tried to walk away. This though, made him indignant and he replied: "No you had something to say so say it." There I was on camera having a chat with a crack/ heroin addict after midnight in a casino parking lot. Not wanting to enrage the man holding a freshly withdrew needle from his arm, I used all of my PR skills at once. "I was just wondering if I could park here, I think it's the staff parking area." He was surprisingly lucid as he inhaled the foul chemicals from his pipe while he remained seated in his sedan, "It's fine they won't tow you." I smiled back at him, "Okay, thank you," and I waved as I walked back to the Casino thinking the man would be in an ambulance soon, but I did not want to risk souring our exchange by moving my car away from his too soon. I went back into the bathroom, splashed cold water on my face, and waited by the door for another person to be going toward the parking lot before I scurried behind them and jumped into my car, not sure where else to go but knowing not to stay there.
When I had a chance to pull over with the Casino far outside of my rearview mirror's sight, I set my GPS for a destination of the nearest truck stop to pull over for the next seven hours before I was scheduled to be seen for my MRI. It was still suffocatingly hot in the car, but I pulled the blanket I had over my body and face anyway to prevent passers-by from noticing me too much. It had not occurred to me when I was planning my little motel replaced with a car to sleep in as a money-saving endeavor that a woman by herself in a car at night could be in danger. Now I know that it is a mere rock through my car window that separated me from a possible wrongdoer. Rest did not come easy as there were people walking by my car all night long, which caused me to awaken hoping to be left alone each time. When it was time to get ready to head to the other side of town where my appointment was I went into the truck stop mini-mart to try to grab a decent breakfast or at least some water as I had sweated out all of my nutrition from the heat over the course of the night. The other truck drivers in there saw my wrinkled clothing and my matted hair which inspired a kind of bashful confidence in them and informed me that they may very well have thought that I was a lot lizard, which is a rude slang word for a truck stop prostitute. My dignity had taken quite the blow through this ordeal that was for sure.
Nonetheless, I had made it through the night regardless of all of the missteps and mishaps that had transpired due to my overly hopeful planning. Humorously enough I pushed the wrong address on my pre-set GPS and it took me right back to the Casino again. I should have turned around when I pulled up, but being too tired to care about pretenses anymore I decided to stop in to get some food because the truck stop only had repacked heartburn fuel that I had turned down. This time thinking I was now ahead of the game I parked in front of the Casino valet stand. I was so proud of myself for becoming street smart that I almost skipped out of my car as I walked in. This was when I crossed paths again with the crack-smoking junkie. He was coming out as I was going in. "My God that person survived the night," sprung to my mind as I processed our last exchange, which might have been exactly what he was thinking of me as we walked by each other and he shouted, "Hey I remember you!" As if he were seeing an old friend. I laughed a little at his joyful reaction but went on just the same and ordered a mushroom burrito to go with an orange juice to drink it down with.
I made it to my MRI, a little ruffled from everything, but nothing anyone could pin down without my explaining my night to them anyway. As soon as I was done, I hit the road to go home all six hours with no radio once more. When I got back into my own bed I laid down newly appreciating my situation. I was about to doze off in a peaceful world where walls separated me from the unpleasantries of poverty, and crackheads were on the other side of them, but best of all where I had a fan to cool me down. However, my comfort was interrupted when my then-boyfriend called. He had just come back from five weeks out of town for his job. The entire time he was gone he had only called me once to ask me to write an essay for him, which I politely turned down. I asked him about his experience to which he was vague, suggesting to me I might not want to know what he did during his time away. Still, I did once feel such a strong connection to this man so I gave it a shot to try to rekindle our relationship. I started thinking it would be funny to tell him about my rough night, to which he only turned the tone from comedic to pitiful as if I were some pathetic person. I realized that at that moment talking to him I felt like I was. In a matter of a few minutes, my funny story was reduced to something shameful by him. Thinking he cared by his reaction, I asked if he would help me out in the future so that I would not have a repeat of the night he so looked down on, to which his answer was "I just can't do that." Just like that, I knew he was no good for me. He didn't care about my wellbeing or human dignity. He only wanted to sit back and judge me for what he considered failings. Funny how that happens, one event took me into another and before I knew it, I learned it was better to be mistaken for a lot lizard crawling out of my car covered in sweat than to be on the phone with the guy who once said he loved me. My bad night led to some much-needed self-respect and I blocked that now ex-boyfriend. In hindsight, I am grateful for all of the trouble I endured because I evolved for the better because of it. I just had to have my wild night to understand why.