b Papa Dog's Blog: Okay, Enough with the Cute Baby Tales - It's Time for Stories About Hookers!

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Okay, Enough with the Cute Baby Tales - It's Time for Stories About Hookers!

For a couple of months in 1994 I was surrounded by hookers day and night. I’d go to work, there’d be hookers. I’d go home, there’d be hookers. Hookers, hookers, everywhere. Little Poe and I were kind of thrown together by fate when Tom decided he didn’t want roommates after all, so we went in together on a tiny spot a few blocks away. Our first night in the apartment, we were baffled by the constant comings and goings of the upstairs neighbours. A taxi would pull up outside and honk, then the whole building would shake as something large and heavy barrelled down the outside stairs. This happened repeatedly, and we couldn’t figure out what was going on. Why were so many people leaving the same apartment? Was it one person going away and coming back and then going away again? Was it a party winding down with everybody too drunk to drive themselves? It was a mystery. A cab driver solved the mystery for us the next day. We had gone the Winn Dixie for provisions, got more than we could carry, and took a cab back. When I told the cabbie our address, he said, “Oh, the place with all the hookers?” It turned out our upstairs neighbour was an escort service that advertised in the Yellow Pages. Client calls escort. Escort calls cab. Cab honks. Hooker trundles down stairs in hurry for prepaid romantic assignation. These were not small women. None of the little waiflike hookers you see in the movies. These were big, hardened, apartment-shaking professionals, economy-sized rental units in stiletto heels.

You can get used to anything after while, so we learned to fall asleep and stay asleep despite the taxi honking and the hooker trundling. Little Poe moved on to other climes and I got a job at a motel with hourly rates. One of the establishment’s main revenue streams was business from – you guessed it – hookers. I worked graveyard, so it was usually me checking in the brief encounter crowd. Usually, the john would come up to the night window to rent the room while his temporary ladyfriend hung back out of sight. It was the motel’s policy to require a show of ID when renting a room. Once, an uptight Bernie Goetz-looking guy came to rent a room and balked when I asked to see his driver’s license. “I’m not going to show you my license,” he said huffily. By then I had been at the motel long enough that I had developed a standard response to uptight huffy customers. I said “Okay,” slid his money back out the window, and turned my back on him to resume watching TV. The ones most prone to higher dudgeons were always the least likely to figure out that the minimum wage working stiff couldn’t give two shits whether or not he rented a room. A few minutes later, a working girl came over to rent a room. She gave me her ID without being asked. Behind her, in the shadows of the parking lot, I saw the Bernie Goetz guy watching impatiently, and only then – der – did I figure out why he was so hinky about giving his ID. First time jitters, I suppose. If he’d been a regular, he’d have known by then that all the fleabag motels asked for ID.

Another time, a boisterous pair uncorked from a cab and showed up at my window in the middle of a wee hours rush. The man was red-faced happy and the woman was the sort of big blowsy tart you expect to find in a 1970s German movie about a young boy’s journey to adulthood. When they got to the head of the line, the woman did the talking while the man stood by, grinning with exuberant vacuity. She asked for a room and showed her ID. I quoted her the price, and she nudged the man to give her some money. He blinked at her uncomprehendingly. “Money,” she said. The guy mumbled something in a language that wasn’t English and pulled out an wallet. It yawned emptily and he examined it for some time, perhaps to see if it would get any more empty if only he waited. “You’ve got money,” the woman said impatiently. She grabbed the wallet, saw that it was empty, and handed it back. The man grinned some more and shrugged and rocked back on his heels. He still looked like the happiest man on the Gulf Coast. The woman looked delicately in his jacket pocket and found nothing. Then she started to rummage with abandon through every pocket he had. She turned up maybe three dollars. “Where’s your money?” she demanded. The guy shrugged and grinned. She rolled her eyes in disgust. “That motherfucking cabbie took your money,” she said. She looked back at me. “Forget it, I’m outta here.” A cab had just pulled up out front and she got in it. I went back to dealing with paying customers.

When the crowd had dissipated and I was ready to start watching the MTV again, I suddenly noticed that the drunk man was still standing outside the night window. He looked at me expectantly. I looked blankly back at him. He grinned. I didn’t. “Girl,” he said in a thickly Russian accent. “Uh-huh,” I agreed. “Girl…gone?” he inquired. “Like the wind,” I told him. “Wind,” he repeated. He thought about it. Then he thumped the back of his hand on his chest. “Russian,” he announced. “No kiddin’,” I said, suddenly feeling like I was turning into a desk clerk from something by Mazursky ca. 1974. I thumped a hand on my chest. “Canadian,” I replied. “Cajun?” he asked. I saw no need to correct him. He pondered some more. “Motorman,” he said. That one had me stumped. He made driving motions. “Motorman,” he said again. “Oh – you want a cab?” I asked. He nodded vigorously. “Cab! Yes!” he said. I called him a cab and off he went to an uncertain fate.

Some time later, the cab the Russian had arrived in returned. The cabbie hopped out and walked over to the night window. “Is that Russian guy still around?” he asked. “I was supposed to pick him up.” “No, he’s gone. Didn’t have money for a room.” The cabbie goggled at me. “He’s loaded!” he exclaimed. He looked around the lot to see if I was lying. “Where’s the hooker?” he asked. “She took off first,” I told him. “She ditched him when she saw he didn’t have any money.” I could see the wheels turning in the cabbie’s head. “That fucking hoo-er!” he shouted. “She rolled him!” “I don’t think she rolled him…” I started, but he wasn’t listening. “He had a roll on him, all his pay. The guy’s a Russian sailor. He took some other cab?” “Yeah,” I said, “about an hour ago.” “Aw man,” the cabbie said. “He’s fucked. He’s fucked. He can’t talk English. He’s not gonna be able to tell anybody else how to get to his ship. That fucking whore!” And off he went.

With the motel quiet again, I had time to think it over. It was like one of those stories about a group of blind men feeling different parts of an elephant and each coming to different conclusions about what it was. I knew the hooker hadn’t rolled the Russian; she’d rummaged his pockets right in front of me and come up empty. She need hardly have put on a show for me if she had his money. I knew the cabbie hadn’t ripped him off either, or he would never have come back. The only logical conclusion was that the Russian simply lost his roll. He was more than drunk enough to do that. My bet – and it’s a good one, I think – was that whoever took the cab next after their arrival at the motel had found the roll sitting in the back seat and was now whooping it up all night courtesy of the some Russian shipping concern. And I suppose it’s some sort of life lesson that the person who cared the least (i.e., me) was the only one in a position to clearly see what had happened.


Blogger ArakSOT said...

All right! A hooker story! That's more like it. Ultimately, aren't we all bound in cabs to an uncertain fate?

8:26 AM  
Blogger Judy said...

Wow, quite a different read than the usual! But enjoyable nonetheless!

9:23 AM  

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