Article written by Betsy Hunt
It was my first night being homeless. I packed everything I could fit into my car and parked where I hoped I would be safe and wouldn’t get a ticket. Wrapped in a sleeping bag, I squeezed my legs between the two front seats in an attempt to spread out. My toes were able to fully extend but my knees and hips ached with rage as they “rested” at awkward angles.
As a young girl it had always been my dream to live out some great adventure on the road. Maybe visit all the national parks, travel down Route 66 or follow a jam band or two.
I had never planned on being homeless.
I thought I had done everything right. When they ask you what you want to be when you grow up, no one says homeless. It’s much more complicated than that.
Even if you become a doctor, you could find yourself buried alive in debt. Even if you marry a great guy, you could find yourself trapped with a monster years later. Or you could just get sick. God forbid should you end up a highly trained dentist, up to your eyeballs in student loans with a pre-existing peanut allergy.
You never really know how things might turn out and that’s scary.
As I laid there warm enough but extremely uncomfortable, my mind ran through all of the decisions good and bad and how they had brought me to this moment. My immediate situation led to overwhelming regret in my choice of vehicle. Wanting something with reasonable mileage and sporty enough to look smart, I opted for a Toyota Prius. Hell, I could afford it. But why oh, why hadn’t I splurged for an RV or realized my teenage hippie dream of owning a hand-painted rainbow VW van?
My adult-self still has a reasonably professional job. Armed with a good night’s sleep, a suit that had been hung up overnight and a fresh but not too shiny lip gloss, no one would be the wiser.
My memory dragged me back to the dealership on that fateful day. The aggressive salesman pushed all the extras. But I was focused on getting the best deal. Buying a car is a battle and I wanted to walk away victorious not luxurious.
“So, what can I get you in today?”
“I’m interested in checking out a hybrid, maybe a Prius.”
“Ya sure? A tall gal like yourself might want a little more leg room.”
“No, thank you.”
“I can get you into one of these SUV crossovers with stow and go seats. So much room, hell you could sleep in it.”
“I’m not really much of a camper. I just need something that gets good mileage.”
“Well, how about this beauty over here? She gets 50 miles to the gallon; has fully reclining heated seats and I’ll throw in tinted windows for free.”
“Can I see that Prius over there? I really have no need for so much room or all these bells and whistles.”
What the hell was I thinking?
Oh, to be watching DVDs fully stretched out with the windows up and the sunroof cracked just enough to feel the breeze and peek at the stars. I would fill the extra cup holders would with a variety of beverages and snacks. It wouldn’t have to feel like homelessness.
If only I had let the car dealer win a little, I would be glamping right now. But with my limbs folded up like origami in my fuel-efficient Prius, even calling it camping is a bit of a stretch. God, I wish I could stretch. Please Lord, don’t make me have to pee tonight.