I love drinking and driving. You’re already rolling your eyes at that statement, but hear me out. There are things people like that are considered crazy, stupid and dangerous. And they likely participate privately in these antics without ever drawing attention to themselves. I am not one of these people.
Not only because I am devoid of a social filter, but because the thing I like to do can’t be done in private. And more importantly it could kill someone. If you’re thinking, that could kill you too Sabrina, I already realize that. Unfortunately, I am not afraid to die. So I am left with a private passion that I have to shove very deep down inside myself because it’s the dumbest fucking thing on the planet.
The last time I drove super ridiculously drunk was November 17, 2011. I can remember the date cause it’s the same day I realized I am super fabulous at jail. I crashed my car into a parked car, someone called the cops and I was escorted directly to jail. I didn’t collect 200 dollars. I didn’t pass go. I did learn I could take off handcuffs, which is it’s own sort of prize. I also learned that I am a selfish, know-it-all with a death wish.
I’ll spare you all the details about the post-crash comedown but it included some of the hardest partying in my entire life. That time in my life is generally regarded as my nervous breakdown, which is funny cause almost no one I knew did anything about it. And about six-months after I crashed my car I’d finally dealt with all the court proceedings. I got off easy with a reckless driving instead of a DUI but I lost my license for 15 months.
Now that I look back on it, 15 months probably wasn’t enough, but it is what it is. Regardless,15 months seems like forever when you are taking the bus in Los Angeles. I was bartending at the time, because if people think you have a problem with booze you should definitely be serving it to strangers. I’d leave my apartment in Franklin Village and take the 210 bus on Hollywood and Vine down to Crenshaw and Venice until I would board the 733 into Mar Vista where I’d pour drinks for rummies, bowlers and neighborhoodies.
The thing about the bus is that things are always, always interesting. If you pack strangers into a confined space as though they’re sardines all sense of humanity is lost. Mostly because more than half of those people are homeless and/or mentally unstable and just looking for a place to rest for a while.
Riding the bus I smelled aromas that I didn’t even think was possible. One time, I boarded the 733 and noticed everyone was on the front half of the bus. All the windows were rolled down and the most putrid smell I’ve encountered in my life weighed heavily on the olfactory zone of each passenger. The lone rider in the back was a grinning black gentleman. His hair was wildly unkempt. He wasn’t wearing a shirt, but a tattered black blazer. He was at the very back of the bus grinning from ear-to-ear. A student wearing a Venice High School sweatshirt talked with his friends and then approached the back of the bus. His gags worsened as he approached the homeless man. As he neared, the homeless man kicked his feet up on the back of a seat and smiled harder.
"Holy fuck. It’s his feet. His feet smell that bad."
The kid ran back towards the rest of us, sticking his nose into his sweatshirt. The bus is a war zone and you have to be ready for anything. People that smell like body odor. Seats drenched in piss. People who look past you as you attempt to sit in the empty seat next to them. And people looking for a fight. I was mostly able to avoid all of these things because on the bus there is so much happening I could finally just blend in. But I also had a ritual that made sure I could avoid any and all interaction with strangers.
1. Always wear headphones. I don’t care of you never even listen to music, just plug the earbuds into your ear holes and let everyone think you’re drowning them out. In fact, it’s probably better to do this than just listen to music or your favorite podcast because if the shit hits the fan you will be completely aware of it.
2. Put on some fucking shades. Insane people are looking for someone dumb enough to make eye contact with them. I made this mistake once. A man smiled at me and I smiled back. After that he strategically kept moving backwards until he was standing right above my seat telling me he liked the way my face was, “put together.” When I got weirded out and stood up, he moved to the front of the bus and was the first person off. I stayed on until the next stop even though I would have to walk an additional three blocks home. As I walked back, I could see someone running in the distance. He was waving his arms wildly and screaming at me. Avoid this entirely by wearing sunglasses and never looking up.
3. If an insane person says they want your seat, just fucking give it to them. I once watched a crazy person hock a loogie into the mouth of a proud middle-aged woman. That white lady and her thin lips almost had a heart attack. Insanity is the currency on the bus, respect it.
4. Be nice to the bus drivers. Insane people chilling out on the bus for hours sometimes get bored and if you’re shitty to the bus driver there’s no one on there that can actually help you.
But my favorite bus adventure happened during the 15 months I was license free. Like anytime I had to be at work by 6pm, I’d start the trek from my apartment to Hollywood and Vine. When I got there a guy dressed like Dr. Who was already patiently waiting. He stared into the distance, never once blinking. As the bus approached us, he pulled out the handle from an old rotary phone and began to talk into it in hushed whispers. His eyes darted from side to side. I put on my sunglasses. I added my ear buds and sat directly across from him.
The ride on the 210 down Vine was relatively uneventful. Dr. Who eventually put his phone in his backpack and stared at his shoes. A lady who looked remarkably like Whoopie Goldberg in “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” sits next to me. I try not to look at her for too long. People come and go. The smile. They scoff. They’re tired and hungry. They have places to be. One-by-one they become faded memories.
At Crenshaw and Venice, I stand and get off the 210 making the transfer to the 733. So did Dr. Who. We wait in silence for 7 minutes. I keep checking the app that tells me when my next bus should arrive while Dr. Who stares directly into the sun. I wonder if I should tell him how bad of an idea it is to do that but then I remind myself that he’s likely pretty insane and pass on the idea.
The 733 pulls up and I wave at the bus driver. We have a quick exchange and he tells me he likes my tight. I smile and take the first seat behind the handicapped area. Dr. Who stands at the front of the bus still looking directly into the sun as we drive towards the beach. At the rear of the bus an insane woman in a bright yellow party dress perfect for her 10th birthday begins to sing. To drown her out, I put my iPod on random. The National begin to play and by the time we get to La Brea and Venice more people enter and exit. A strung out, thin man in a dress pushes her way into the seat next to where Dr. Who is standing. The princess in the back of the bus is still singing it’s like the cry of a siren but to all the insane people everywhere.
By the time we get to La Cienega I smell it. The putrid stink of someone releasing their bowels. I look down at my iPod and stare at it while my eyes water. Everyone didn’t take my approach to the situation. The strung out dude in the dress was woken from his opiate slumber by this stench. She stands up and crouches down in the middle of the bus. At this point everyone was paralyzed. She crouches over and starts sniffing at different people’s asses chanting, “SOMEONE IN HERE FARTED ON ME AND I’M GONNA FIGURE OUT WHO.”
And right at that moment the “Beetlejuice Theme Song” started to play. As I’m gripped by the bowls of insanity the junkie sniffs at Dr. Who’s ass and begins to bark. Just physically bark and then tears into him, “IT WAS YOU!”
She’s still crouched down like Smegel and pointing. The bus driver leans back and yells that he will pull this bus right over and throw out whoever’s causing the commotion. It vaguely reminds me of childhood road trips.
By now, Dr. Who stepped backwards trying to distance himself from the fart sniffer but she’s not having any of it.
"THAT MAN FARTED ON ME. I WILL HAVE MY REVENGE."
Dr. Who trips backwards, and onto the bus driver as we pull up to my stop. I swiftly exit and walked towards the bar. Minutes later I’m clocking in when my manager came behind me and asked how my day was. Without looking up I blurted out, ”I watched a maybe transsexual sniff the ass of a man dressed like Dr. Who. I’m never fucking drinking and driving again.”
Cause sometimes, the things you love lead you down a dark path and sometimes that path is the 733 bus into Venice.
It was June possibly July, Erin and I had to drive some idiot I only know as “Dan the Bad Writer” home in Elgin. Erin lived in Logan Square at the time. I’d passed out on the sofa while some pudgy blonde girl in pants two-sizes too-small laid on top of me. The night before she laid outside The Mutiny, on the sidewalk, and cried to a guy she worked with. I spent time with her while she writhed on the sidewalk. She was drunk and inaudible, crying about her boyfriend calling the police on her because she was taking Advil.
This was before I’d met Daryl or Derek or whatever his name was. He had a face like a boxer, the dog and the athlete. He was a particular brand of sexy-ugly that appealed to me at the time. I let him put his cigarettes out on all areas of my exposed flesh while I talked over a band so terrible it was shocking the members were actually playing together. Erin invited Dan the Bad Writer back to her place. I did not invite Boxer face. On the way out I stumbled into the pudgy blonde girl and her co-worker. He was trying to get her to get off the floor. I told her Erin had Trix cereal and I was going to have some. This appealed to her and she got up and followed me back to Erin’s.
On the 9 minute walk she explained that her boyfriend was terrible and hateful, that she’d met him at work and then she was currently on “hiatus” from that position because she was mentally ill and they wrote her up because of her “sexy tight pants.” By the time we got to Erin’s I wondered if she was the living proof that God is dead and society as we know it was doomed. She’d forgotten about the Trix, which was optimal because there wasn’t any to begin with.
In the morning, when I pushed her off of me, she began to babble again. But stopped herself mid-sentence, called a cab and left. I slept sound for another hour when Dan the Bad Writer got up. He was one of those people who generally found themselves filled with wonder over the most basic of things.
"See this baseball," he said as I looked around trying to figure out who he was talking to. "It could have belonged to someone famous."
"It could also be the baseball I stole out of a guy’s car last time I visited."
"It could!" He said with an earnestness that I will never be able to replicate.
I heard footsteps coming from Erin’s room and then the bathroom door shut and locked. She did nothing to mask the song of her wretching. It made me gag but also made me hopeful Dan would take it as a sign to fuck off.
He wandered back to Erin’s bedroom while she washed her face or brushed her teeth or did whatever women do when they are hungover and close to death.
"Have you seen Erin’s bed?"
"It looks like a Costa Rican rainbow."
"You spend a lot of time in Costa Rica?"
"No. I’ve never left Illinois."
By now, Erin emerged from the bathroom with her eyes she asked me what he was still doing there. I answered her in a shrug.
"You ok?" I asked her, Dan still investigating her bedroom.
She crawled next to me on the couch and we sat in silence waiting for the click of the front door to indicate Dan’s departure. Minutes later those dreams were shattered when he walked back into the room and pushed his way onto the couch, in between us.
"Ugh." Erin repeated her earlier sentiment.
"Should we drop you off at the train?" I asked.
"Oh no. I have the day off."
I didn’t even turn to look at him, realizing his plan was to get into whatever we decided to do. Erin got up and walked to her bedroom. I imagined the horror of an entire day with this person. When she walked back into the room she was wearing jeans with the t-shirt she’d passed out in the night before. She put on her Vans in silence while Dan and I watched.
"I’m too hungover to drive. Can you drive?"
I am wearing a see thru t-shirt and no bra.
"Will I have to get out of the car?"
"No. We are just going to Elgin to drop off Dan and then come home."
"Then I am not going to change, I’ll just put a bra on cause, you know, boobs."
When I returned from strapping in my tits, Dan’s inspecting a photograph on Erin’s wall. Erin ignored him, tossing me the keys. I found a pair of flip flops and my purse then we walked to Erin’s car, up the street.
For the sanctity of my hangover, I wished the entire ride had been in silence but Dan had a lot of thoughts and he wished to share them with anyone who’d listen. When you’re trapped in the car driving down the 90 freeway, you have a totally captive audience, and it doesn’t matter if they’d rather kill themselves than listen to you.
I took the time to focus on driving in an area I was completely unfamiliar with. The steering was totally jacked up and kept pulling to the left. The steering wheel shook like a subtle reminder of the car accident I’d broken my neck in years earlier until the traffic cleared and Erin directed me to merge onto another highway because we were close to where Dan lived. Minutes later we pulled up to a bonafied shanty. Dan asked us if we wanted to come in but we politely declined.
"That’s the House on Paper Street. Like the living embodiment of it and he lives there and it completely ruined the Tyler Durden fantasy for me."
"It ruined it for you? I used to fuck him."
We laughed. Erin gave me directions to get me back on the highway, the wheel shook harder than before. I should have been scared, but I wasn’t. I moved into the slow lane and right before we reached the 53 freeway, there was a loud pop and the car slowed and dragged. I pulled over onto an embankment Erin burst out of the car.
"What are we going to do?"
We both looked at the car the way we would if it had been a brand new baby.
"Let’s just change it."
Together, we walked to the back of the car and stared at the trunk. I lifted the covering for the spare. On top of it was a tire iron.
"I am pretty sure we take this thingy and undo the bolts."
"Cool. Let’s do this."
We didn’t bother to think about the fact that we might need a jack or that we had no idea what we were doing. We were problem solvers. Only the new problem became how hard it was to loosen the bolts.
"I am not strong enough to do this."
"Give it here."
While Erin gave it a try, I watch a van pull up ahead of us. It’s paint job’s faded from a bright red to a sort of burnt umber. Two guys get popped out and begun walking our way.
"Um. Two possible rapists are coming our way."
The quizzical look on her face is replaced with worry as the guys get closer and we can actually see them.
"Couldn’t help but notice you guys," the tall one said. "Need help."
Erin handed over the tire iron and while I imagined how awesome my episode of “Dateline” will be after these guys murder, rape, kill us.
"Looks like this thing is on tight. Wanna give it a try Ricky?"
Ricky was a sight to behold. Everything about him was seared into my memory. Ricky held a lot of mass. He was probably 5’8 but easily weighed 280. He had one baggy black shorts that previously had a life as a pair of JNCO raving jeans. His white t-shirt suffered from a level of pit stain that I can only recount as incredible. Where his front teeth should be was a giant hole, as though he’d tried to chew through a tree branch unsuccessfully. And what was left of his broken teeth was stained a Kool-Aid red.
Erin and I stood back while Ricky struggled to turn the tire iron. He took his time and put everything he had into fighting with the tire. Sweat poured down his face and into the little hole where his mouth was. I imagined his teeth five years into the future, then I imagined his gums.
"Man. That’s really on there," the tall one commented while looking through my shirt and at my breasts.
Ricky stood up, hands on his hips and stared at the tire, “Son of a bitch does not wanna come off.”
"Yea," Erin and I said in unison.
"Well, if you want a ride, we can give you one," Ricky spat through the hole while his teeth were closed.
"Nah. I think we’re going to the mall," Erin said.
In the distance, I see hell on Earth, a massive suburb mall in the middle of what feels like nowhere.
"Oh cool. That’s fine cause our van’s having some engine trouble,"
"Your car doesn’t work so you came here to help us?" I said
They nod in unison while Erin and I get back into the car.
"What the fuck are we going to do?"
"I dunno. I think I have AAA but I don’t have the card on me. Also, I have to pee."
"Ugh. I guess we really are walking to the mall."
We get out of the car and walk down a hill to a fence.
"You think you can jump this?"
"Absolutely not. I am in a sleeping bra. My tits will get loose and be ripped off."
We walk along the fence for a ways until the 90 freeway merges with the 53. We climb back up the hill and onto the shoulder. Cars zip by us. Some waving, some honking and every so often a solo white male would pull up and ask us if we needed help. We assured each man we were fine, joking that this was our exercise route.
We went down the offramp and across a street before cutting through the parking lot. Until we found ourselves being seated at a table in the Rainforest Cafe. It was my first time. I was not impressed.
"People come here on purpose?"
"Ugh. The fake rain is making my hangover worse."
I ordered a drink call the Purple Panda or maybe Blue Barracuda and waited for it to go through the proper corporate channels before some schmuck dressed like a baffoon could make it for me. Erin complained that she was dying. I told her I need a shirt that wasn’t see through. We laughed.
My drink arrived. It tasted like the meandering souls of spring breakers. I finally take out my phone and called AAA. It was a whole ordeal. Explaining that we weren’t at the car turned into a nightmare. The operator kept asking where the car was, but at a mall nearby because some meth heads got weird with us, didn’t impress the operator. She wanted to know where to send the tow truck. So I gave her the best directions that I could, “Uh, it’s a white Nissan stranded somewhere on the side of 90 somewhere between Elgin and the mall. The tire on the driver’s side is popped. You can’t miss it.”
"That’s not going to help us. We need you to be at the car."
"Hold on," I told the operator, placing my hand over the receiver. "They just won’t go to the car. We have to be there. Where should we tell the tow truck driver to meet us."
"I dunno. How long will he be?"
"How long will he be?" I heard myself mirror into phone.
"Could be up to 40 minutes, there’s some sort of tow truck driver crisis," I relay to Erin.
"Tell them to meet us at the car."
I explained to the operator that we planned to walk back to the car now, but it would be best if the tow truck driver called us to figure out where we were exactly, especially if it was faster than 40 minutes.
Fifteen minutes later, the driver called my phone saying he’d be on his way shortly and asked for more exact directions.
"Fuck man. I dunno. We are on Golf Road about a half a mile from the mall. We have no idea where we are and are trying to get back to the car."
"Who all is with you?"
"Uh, just me and my friend. She is tiny."
"I’ll just pick you up. Where are you?"
"Uh," I heard myself pausing for time. "Where are we?" I asked to no one in particular.
"Tell him hell incarnate," Erin said.
"Uh, there is a 7-11 on Roselle and East Golf. Can you meet us there?"
"Sure. Who all am I lookin’ for?"
"Two girls. One tall with huge boobs and the other small with no boobs. You can’t miss us. No one can miss us."
I looked at Erin and shrugged. “It’s true,” I said after hanging up the phone.
While we walked up to 7-11 I decided I needed a Slurpee. Even though we were in our late 20s, we found ourselves loitering outside like this was the summer before 10th grade. The Slurpee was half red, half blue cause flavors were the same thing as colors. the drink was cold and I was tried and annoyed. Erin bummed a cigarette and we leaned up against a wall and gave strangers the side eye.
The tow truck pulled up alongside the curb in front of 7-11. The driver didn’t bother to pull into the parking lot so we walked over. Erin pushed me in front of her and said, “You’re bigger. You go first.”
The driver leaned, rolling down the passenger window and said, “Sabrina?”
"I’m Red. Get in and let’s go find your car."
Erin nudged me forward. I grabbed the handle, opened the door and got inside the truck. Erin climbed in shortly after but then paused and said she hadn’t quiet closed the door right and reopened and closed it again.
"Now it’s closed," she announced to no one in particular.
We looked into each other’s eyes and I could sense a fear in her that was also emulated within myself. Red had seen some shit. That much was apparent. From the second we got into the truck he did not stop talking.
"Right over there, he pointed as we merged onto the 90, I picked up a couple whose engine blew after leaving Costco."
We looked over there, it was an embankment ass up to a hill.
"Total shit storm. Nice people though."
We nodded in agreement.
"How far up?"
"Not far," Erin told him. "Right before you merge with the 290."
"Gotcha. It’s coming right up."
"Yea," we said in unison.
"Where’re you headed back to?"
"You’re a little far from home."
"Uh, I’m from LA. I’m more than a little far. I’m just hungover and want to chill out."
"Aw man, sorry. I haven’t drank since ‘92. It got the best of me and I had to stop."
Erin and I looked at him in silence, as if he was the deciding factor for our future choices, “Is that you over there?”
We nodded and he pulled up behind Erin’s car. I handed him the keys and he got out and went to look at the mess we’d made.
"He looks like Henry Lee Lucas."
"The serial killer," I asked.
"Yea. It’s why I made sure the door unlocked from the inside."
"Jesus. I didn’t even think of that."
After he looked over the car, he came back to the passenger side. Erin rolled down the window.
"Looks like your spare is flat, but that’s fine. I can tow you guys to a gas station and fill it with air. Should’t be long before I’ve got you on your way."
He pulled up around the car. We stopped paying attention to everything he was doing now. I pointed out that the creepy meth guys had figured out whatever their car problem was cause their rape van was gone.
"Man, let’s talk about that guy’s teeth for a second," I said.
"That was frightening."
"Faces of Meth, yo."
We laughed. Red returned to the truck and got inside.
"Alright, let’s do this."
Less than five minutes later we’d pulled into a nondescript gas station deep in the middle of the suburbs. We all got out of the truck this time around. Erin and I stood by her car while Red wheeled the flat spare over to a the air compressor and filled it. Just as quickly, he spun it back to the car and attached it to the car, using the same tire iron the methheads couldn’t make work.
"That should do it."
Erin walked over to the passenger side of her car while I signed some papers saying Red took care of our problem. As I walked back to the car I noticed something tucked away under the windshield wipers. I snatched it and then got into the car. It was the cardboard packaging from a condom box. Magnums. On one side scribbled almost unintelligibly it said:
Sorry we couldn’t help you but call if you are down to party.
I threw it at Erin to read and said, “At least the use condoms.” Then I started up the car and drove back to reality.