Summer before last I was working for a property management company in midtown Atlanta. They owned a very well known “flophouse” hotel with a seedy bar in the basement that was kind of considered a rite of passage for young people “coming of age” to frequent. It was not only known for its seediness but also but the “dancers” who worked there. It has been said that old strippers in Atlanta never die… they just go to this bar and work until they do. The guys who worked at our company would never allow the ladies who worked there to go to this hotel or especially the bar therein.
Most days during my lunch hour I would walk around midtown and through Freedom Park or one of the several nearby parks. Lots of these parks were/are frequented by the homeless. It was not unusual to be approached by them asking for money or worse. One of the young girls I worked with was accosted by one coming back from the bank and he even tried to grab her hand and force her to touch him in very inappropriate places. Needless to say it paid to usually try NOT to make eye contact with some of these people.
One Friday I had to take my car to have the oil changed. It was “casual” Friday and I was wearing Khakis and a casual blouse. Not as casual as a t-shirt but still casual. The place where I took my car to get the oil changed was about a mile or two away and said “flophouse” was between the oil change place and my workplace. At lunchtime I drove over to the oil change place and was going to wait for them to change the oil but they told me they were kind of backed up so I decided to leave the car and walk back to work. I could always get someone from work to bring me back later to get my car. I walked a few blocks down and stopped at Taco Bell to pick up a salad on my way back to work. As I’m walking out of Taco Bell I notice this very disheveled older and obviously homeless man standing at the edge of the parking lot between myself and the sidewalk where I needed to go. I hesitated for a moment and almost turned around and walked the other way – OUT of my way – to avoid the homeless gentleman. Then I felt guilty for judging this poor innocent homeless man and decided to go the way I started. As I got closer to him I noticed he was looking directly at me and smiling. I didn’t want to be rude. I was trying to avoid contact but decided I was being mean so I made eye contact and smiled and kept walking. I had to pass within a foot or two of him to get to the sidewalk. I quickly realized I SHOULD have been mean. As I passed by him he said “Hey Lady!” I nodded and kept going. Then he said “Where you goin’?” I kept walking. Then I hear, right behind me, “Hey, Lady… Pretty Lady… Where you going?” I am now ignoring him and I quicken my step. Then, again… RIGHT behind me… “Hey… Lady… I axed you where you going?” I keep walking and try to walk faster. “Hey, Lady. Pretty Lady, where you goin’ in such a hurry?” Trying to shut him up, I glance over my shoulder and say “I’m on my way back to work. I’m just on my lunch hour. “ Did I think I owed him an explanation? Then he goes. .. “Can I take you out sometime? Next time I gets my check?” I shake my head and mumble “I don’t think so.” And try to walk faster, I even cross the street against the light, hoping to lose him, but he’s right behind me still and now he’s saying “Oh, you think you is too good to go out wit me?” Now, I feel bad. I don’t know why I feel the need to explain myself to him but I say “No, but I’m married and I don’t think my husband would like that.” And I hold up my hand to show him the ring on my finger. Then he goes “I jus wants to buy you a drink… you drinks don’t ya?” Why am I still carrying on a conversation with this man??? I say “I really am not trying to be rude but I REALLY need to get back to work. I’m just on my lunch hour.” Then he goes ‘Where does you work?’ I keep walking. Then he goes “Does you work down to da hotel?” I shake my head and keep walking . Then he says “ Does you work the night shift down to da hotel?” Perplexed I shake my head no and then it dawns on me…. O M G…. he thinks I’m a HOOKER…. He probably thinks I’m a HOMELESS hooker!! I mean, I know it’s casual Friday and all, but, I didn’t think I looked THAT bad! How freaking bad do I have to be dressed to have a homeless man think I’m a homeless hooker? By now I’m almost starting to panic. Bad enough that I must LOOK that bad but he’s STILL following me. I was almost at the corner and the NO CROSSING sign started blinking. I waited until the light turned and practically sprinted across the intersection to lose him. I don’t think I was ever so happy to get BACK to work. As I walked by the “flophouse” I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself even if the thought of looking like a homeless hooker was a bit unnerving. You can just call me H H (Homeless Hooker) if you want, but you won’t be finding me hanging out to da hotel or its seedy bar and you won’t find me there hooking OR stripping. Come to think of it… I probably COULD make some money there… They’d probably pay be to keep my clothes ON!