Except for a few cars strewn across the Kmart parking lot, I was alone and content on this beautiful summer afternoon. I had found myself a nice spot by the side of the building next to some bushes and trees at the edge of the property. With my curtains closed and PJ´s on, I was laying in the back of my tiny mobile home reading a particularly fascinating book on astronomy and physics, while occasionally texting my best friend. That´s life my friends! I can´t even begin to explain my level of contentedness that day. No worries in the back of my mind, a comfortable place to lounge, no annoyances. I was living in the here and now, enjoying every sensation this world offered me. It was perfect. And then shit happened. Of course.
I had been reading for maybe 45 minutes, when I heard a vehicle approach and park close to mine. I didn´t exactly start hoboing yesterday, so the sound of vehicles is but a familiar background noise. However, something started itching in the back of my mind. Why would anyone pick a spot next to me in an empty parking lot? I figured a little movement wouldn´t hurt and while I am at it, I could peak out the window to see who decided to join me.
When I moved the corner of my curtain up, I saw a small, grey, beat up car one spot over from mine. The man in the driver seat hadn´t left and seemed to be waiting on something or someone. “Damn drug dealers” I thought to myself. Seemingly oblivious to my existence, he engaged in the typical activities of bored humans in solitude ranging from checking himself in the mirror to picking his nose. Whatever. I went back to my book. I´d hear if he leaves the car or drives off; no need to keep staring at him. With that, I made myself comfortable again and continued reading my book. Unlike just 10 minutes ago, however, I now found myself distracted wondering what on earth the guy next to me was up to. I couldn´t wait for him to leave.
I barely made it through a page, when I heard a second car approach and park in close proximity. “Here we go” I thought. Surely some goods and money were about to change owners. Drug dealers aren´t exactly great company to have around, but they tend to leave quickly and, for obvious reasons, are unlikely to call the cops on a hobo. Live and let live, right? I listened to car doors opening and slamming shut, some whispering, and a quiet “Hey man, hows it goin?”. I made out voices from three different people, but it seemed like I heard another muffled, deep sounding voice from somewhere else. Still holding my book, I waited for the people outside to leave, but had no such luck.
“Christ! What´s going on out there?”. Annoyed I decided to take another look. I kicked the sheet off me, used a random piece of paper as a bookmark, and shuffled towards the window. The guys outside were laughing and exchanging stories about their weekends. What is this? A BBQ? Just before I had a chance to lift the curtain, the muffled voice reappeared. It seemed so unusually familiar; as if I had heard it a million times. “I brought everything you asked me for in that text”, I heard the first man say. I carefully lifted the corner of the curtain a second time to check out the situation. Three large men in their early 30´s to mid 40´s were standing behind the second car, an older SUV. I quickly pulled down the curtain, when one of them looked in my direction.
There are three options in a situation like this. I can wait and hope everyone leaves without noticing me. Squeezing from the back into my front seat and getting the hell out is another option. This, however, compromises my spot. I could also slip out of my vehicle unseen, pretend I came from somewhere else, and then leave. This is more dangerous, as I have to put myself within reach of whoever is out there. Also, the fact that my vehicle lights up like a Christmas tree, whenever I open a door, makes this a tricky option. I decided to just wait it out and make a jump for the front seat if the situation required it.
My entire perspective changed when I heard the muffled voice once more. It suddenly clicked. My heart dropped and my entire body tensed up. The voice was coming from a walkie-talkie and those guys out there weren´t drug dealers or friends meeting for an afternoon BBQ in a parking lot, they were undercover cops! Now, for a large percentage of the population, this would be great news. Not so for us hobos, who are being arrested merely for living outside a society-approved dwelling. This wasn´t good. This wasn´t good at all.
I could only check my surroundings for seconds at a time, since all eyes were pointed in my direction. “Are we sure someone is there?” I heard one of the cops ask. “Positive”, another replied, and I had the horrible feeling they were talking about me. I made sure to text my friend that I may be uhm… unavailable for the rest of the evening and kept close watch on the situation outside my place. Several minutes past and nothing seemed to add up. Why weren´t they just coming over? What on earth were they waiting for? They must be here for me or else they would have checked the vehicle they parked next to. And this is a nice, remote part of town; nothing close by worth playing Rambo for.
As I was trying to make sense of this unexpected gathering, I heard a third vehicle approaching. “What the…?”. Soon I´d have the entire police station in my back yard! I looked out the window and saw a vehicle with the label “Police K9 Unit” park next to the second car. “This can´t be real” I thought to myself. “A f%&king K9 Unit for a hobo? With my blissful zen more than destroyed, I considered to just go outside and turn myself in. Sure, I am breaking the law by sleeping here, but whatever they think they need a handful of officers and a K9 unit for, I didn´t do.
I anxiously texted my friend who advised me to stay calm and do whatever the officers say. In a comical onset of useless thought, I wondered if they´d be so kind to knock. After all, they couldn´t just kick in my door. “Let´s get this shit started. And remember, we have to be quick”, said the voice of a female officer. With that I heard a lot of movement outside; heavy footsteps moved over sandy pavement, zippers were zipped, car doors were opened and slammed shut once more, and, to my surprise, engines came to life. “Huh?”. I heard one car after the other leave the parking lot and within seconds I was alone once again. No cop knocked on my door, no windows were smashed in, and I was still seated in front of my window like a child waiting for Santa.
Tense with adrenaline-fueled anxiety, it took me a moment to comprehend what had just happened. Dumbfounded I peaked out the window and watched the group of cars disappear towards the city. I started laughing. Loudly. I am not sure if I laughed at my own fear of getting arrested, the idea of a hobo almost jumping out of the car to turn herself in to a group of occupied cops, or the fact that said cops, who were running an undercover busting operation, not once thought about checking the car they parked next to. Regardless of the reason, I laughed. And laughed.