A Lesson in Hitch Hiking with Gun Toting Maniacs and Hookers
I’d arrived safe and sound in Austin, eager to explore the downtown I’d heard so much about. Food trucks, dive bars, and a bustling street life was said to come out of 6th st. late at night. My evening exploring the wonders of the scene went well, I drank, I ate, I got to explore, and I had a good time. However, when it was time to wrap up I had the hardest time finding a cab amongst the drunken crowds of local college kids out for the summer.
Figuring the nearby Hilton would be a good place to find a few vehicles, I set out for the hotel only to find its lobby was as crowded as the street. If I was going to find a ride anytime soon, I’d have to partner up with a few folk and split the ride. Unfortunately, the only two going my way were an incredibly plump man who smelled like rotting cat food and a shirtless man in hospital pants who had a scar running up his belly and a bandage covering a recent stab wound.
I don’t know what the fat guy was doing downtown, and I got the sense that the stab victim had escaped from the hospital only a few short hours ago. Naturally I got in the cab with them and headed to the address I’d stored in my phone, hoping to make my way back to the safety of Jay’s home.
The ride was uneventful – save for the terrible smell – and I was dropped off. It wasn’t until the driver had sped away that I realized I was nowhere near Jay’s place and instead was dropped next to the Twisted Pixel office without a proper idea of where I should go from there. With my phone not working terribly well and not wanting to wake my kind hosts at three in the morning, I decided to try and find my way on foot using what little I knew of the local geography.
I remembered a golf course near his place and so, when I came across a Jack in the Box restaurant and saw a man in a security guard’s outfit ordering at the window, I saddled up and asked him for directions. It was only then that I realized, despite the outfit, this guy was definitely not a professional. Unbuttoned and covered in what I can only guess is a mix of Dr. Pepper and queso stains, he rambled at me in rapid half-Spanish that I could barely understand.
When I looked at him quizzically, he called the waitress – his girlfriend apparently – out of the locked shop to refill his drink and lend me a hand. She seemed nice and gave me vague directions to a golf course not far from there. After that, I set out into the dark to find my way, hoping I could find some wifi somewhere to get myself a better map and locate my bed.
By the time I got to the golf course it was the black of night and I knew I was nowhere near where I needed to be. My urge to call Jay and ask for directions was rising, but I really try not to be a burden on my hosts. Luckily one of the nearby homes had an unlocked connection and I stole some internet, finding an email from Jay with a map to his house. Google told me it would be a 2.5 hour walk, but I’d done worse before and the Austin night was surprisingly comfortable.
So, I set out on foot with little other option as there were no cabs or transit running in the area. With no streetlights to make my path visible I stuck to a straight line and started hitch hiking to try and find someone who’d at least be willing to give me a lift to the highway down the road where I was sure I could find a taxi.
I must have walked for another hour at least before a car stopped for me, driven to my surprise by the rambling security guard and the waitress I’d met earlier. Elated to see a familiar face, I hopped in when they offered me a ride and we sped off towards where I wanted to go.
It wasn’t until I was in the car that they revealed to me they’d need to make a stop before they let me out. Apparently the waitress was also a hooker and the security guard was her john. We needed to make a stop at a drug dealer’s house so they could pick up some Vicodin for the woman so she could get nice and relaxed for the plowing the security guard intended to give her.
At this point I thought about diving out of the car, but considering it was a two-door I thought it best to just let it ride rather than disrupt the proceedings trying to convince them to let me out. There was no telling exactly what sort of people they were and how they’d take the offense of my escape, and judging by the exact situation I thought it best not to test their character.
We pulled into a little roundabout where the drug dealer lived and the prostitute started calling him to come out to the car and deliver. As it would turn out, he was asleep or not home as he didn’t answer, which upset her greatly. Even more upset was the john who realized that he wouldn’t be getting laid considering he couldn’t provide the lubricant. They started arguing intensely and I just sat in the back seat praying it would blow over and I could make it back to my bed without incident.
When she demanded to be dropped home before I made my departure, I knew we were facing trouble but I’d bought the ticket and had to take the ride. The two bickered and got even more heated the closer we got to her place in a slummier part of town and I could smell things would not end well by their tone.
The car stopped outside a row of houses with decrepit cars littering the street and the two let their frustrations fly. Just a few more minutes and it’d end though, she’d be out of the vehicle, he’d have an opportunity to cool down and I’d have my ride home. Then things took a stark turn for the worse.
She stepped out of the vehicle and as I was climbing out of the passenger side, he pulled out the .45 he’d been carrying and started brandishing at her, yelling for her to “do her fucking job” and get back in the vehicle. With the gun inches from my face and her quickly running into the house, I knew I had to flee before things got bloody.
I dashed out of the vehicle and headed through a clearing between her house and the next, across a field and into what I could only assume was the most ghetto part of Austin. I reached in my pocket to find the little knife I’d been carrying with me through the trip, but it had fallen out sometime during my escape.
Defenseless, I walked for the next half-hour as the sun rose and found a gas station feeding morning commuters and their cars. The woman at the counter happily called me a cab and within another 45 minutes I was safe in bed going over everything that had just happened.
Everyone in Austin has spoken so highly of its low crime rates and its creative, laid back culture, but I’d managed to find myself in a nightmare situation most locals couldn’t imagine. I’ve gone over the events a million times in my head, and as happy as I am that I made it away from the scene without incident, I can’t help but wonder how I attract these situations. Should I have just called Jay and gotten the proper address when I found out I was lost? Should I have declined their invitation to drive me? Should I have booked when I found out exactly who they were? Probably, but it’s all hindsight and there’s no fixing that. Let’s just leave it as a lesson learned about hitch hiking late at night in foreign cities and try to do better next time.