Saturday, June 19, 2004

The store visited me last night.

That's right, the store visited me. I did not visit it.

I'll start this by saying that I never answer my phone. In fact, the last few years, I've grown to hate the thing. I'm not one to spend hours talking on it, a stupid device that I must hold to my ear in order to chit chat about the inane. I find a lot of times that it's an invasion in my home, ringing when I'm not in the mood, so I screen calls that I get. If the ID reveals that it's someone that I actually want to talk to, then I will pick up and talk. Save for few, for a very short time.

And that brings me to last night, when the caller ID revealed a wireless caller whose number I did not recognize, WHY I picked it up without letting the machine screen it, I have no idea.

When I answered, the last person that I expected was on the line. A seventeen-year-old girl (soon to be eighteen) whom I worked with at Barnes and Noble. We had a friendly relationship, even though she had clashed with most everyone at the store except for me and a few others. However, I was wise enough to know to keep her at a distance. No bonding, siding with her on gossip, much less believing her gossip, no lunch outings, just friendly chatter. I can recognize a drama queen a mile off, but this girl went way beyond that to a bonafide trauma queen.

As you gain wisdom, you learn to identify certain people whom you know not to get personally involved with. People who live their lives in a reckless, selfish manner and want to have as many people on board as they can when the train wreck happens.

As an example, within the couple months of her working at the store, she borrowed a coworker's car to drive to lunch and wrecked it before she even got out of the parking lot. The owner was also a teenage girl and didn't understand that you never, ever, lend your car out to anyone. Cars are lethal weapons. The trauma queen didn't have a license, insurance, and singularly drove the car into two parked cars right in front of the cafe. After which, she said "no problem, no problem, just send me the bill," and of course, stiffed the girl for any repairs. Luckily for them, the guy who was the owner of the second car was a scam artist with no insurance, and after unsuccessfully trying to scam the girls into paying him a few thousand dollars for a piece of shit that was held together with rubber bands and bubble gum, he went away. His car suffered minor damage, as did the brand new truck. The guy who owned the truck decided to go easy, I think and fixed it himself. The girl's car however, was damaged.

Before that, when she was really new, she involved me in her Halloween costume. I thought she was way older than she was, and on good faith and wanting someone to feel welcome, I lent her my vest that I'd incorporated into my Trinity costume the year before. My Prada vest, that is, from the flush days. After the holiday had passed as well as a couple of weeks, no vest. I asked her to return it several times. No vest appeared. So, the night came when she needed a ride home, and I said, "Sure, and you can run into your house and grab my vest." To which she responded crestfallen, "oh yes," she said, pause, "when you lent it to me I didn't realize it was Prada," in a voice that suggested she was disappointed that I'd remembered she had it. I dropped her off at her way out of the way house, and waited as she ran into get the goods. It was the last time that I gave her a ride home, even when she asked. I live downtown, and it already took me long enough to get home.

While I worked with her, there was always a drama, trauma, or all of the above going on. And usually, she'd involved a few other people in it. I also wasn't sure when she was being honest. So last night when she called to tell me that she'd been kicked out of her apartment after being arrested for assaulting her roommates, was staying in a hotel room that she didn't have the money for and was worried about getting kicked out at 11:00pm, and could I please call the hotel desk and plead her case to stay over one more night, I was frustrated. I spoke to the woman, asking what was going on, and she told me that the trauma queen had promised payment that day and didn't show up. I knew this was a ruse to get me to either pay for her room, or pick her up. Neither of which I offered. She was way out in Towson, and again, I'm downtown. Not going to happen. For a good friend, I'd be there in a second. But this girl isn't a good friend, and shouldn't be spending sixty dollars a night at a hotel. Did I feel for her? Sure. Was I going to rescue her? No. I told her to speak to the hotel lady, who in turn said she'd speak to her supervisor. When the trauma queen called me back, the police were in her room. I asked to speak to one of the officers, and told them that I wasn't a good friend, that I was actually surprised to get this phone call, and that she was an ex-coworker of mine who wasn't of age and needed help. I told them she was on the outs with her mother who lived in town, so if they could guide her to somewhere to stay, or find her mother and take her home, that would be great.

She kept telling me to come down there and let them imprint my credit card, but that was sure as hell not going to happen. During all this, the cops were going through her things, asking her questions, and telling her she had to leave. I had no idea what I was supposed to do about it, and had a feeling that she was calling me because she'd worn all her friendships thin with favors and figured I was fresh. While I was at Barnes and Noble, she was always on her cell phone, so I know that she has friends in town. Finally, a third phone call later, she was out on the street with her stuff, saying she was going to throw herself into traffic. I knew she wasn't, and I said, "go to a place that's open all night, and find somewhere to get inside." I still wasn't convinced that I was her only option, but she was working it really well. About two hours had passed since the first phone call, and I was growing irritated with her. She constantly repeated, "I don't know what to do," which translated into "come solve this for me." I couldn't. Not only that, I wouldn't. The mess she had gotten into was way beyond me. She had to be at Barnes and Noble at 8:30 in the morning, and I told her to find a police department, that once when I locked myself out of my apartment, couldn't reach the landlord and didn't want to spend $150 on a locksmith, I spent the night in one. It was half true. At one point, she asked, "And you can't come here because?" "I can't," I said. I then said that my phone was beeping being low on batteries, and that I'd offered all the suggestions and help that I could, but couldn't do anything further.

That night, I got two more phone calls from her that I didn't answer. One telling me to call a hotel for her. Another telling me to call her.

I didn't.

The next morning, I called Barnes and Noble and spoke to another ex-coworker who told me that she was there and on time. I did want to make sure that she was okay. I had a feeling that she'd think of something, or someone. I also called later that day and spoke to a manager about what had gone on, so they were aware that one of their employees was in trouble. They knew all about it, were shocked that she'd called me, and said that the people at the store are really struggling with her. Apparently, she's imposed on several people, or at least attempted to. I wasn't surprised.

I was online with a couple of friends via IM when I was on the phone with her and explained what was going on. One who was in Los Angeles, the other right next door. Both were telling me that I was doing the right thing. I have a pretty good instinct about things, and my gut feeling told me that saying no in this instance was right. There is always more to the story, and I knew I wasn't getting the whole picture. Especially after talking to the hotel lady.

I feel for this girl, but know that most her hardships were brought on by her careless actions. I also feel that she's gotten into the habit of taking people for granted and being manipulative because so far it's worked. I watched her in action when I worked with her and the clusterfucks that it created for her and others. This wasn't an, "I'm on hard times" phone call. It was a "fix it for me" phone call.

I can only hope that my saying no will resonate somewhat. It was good practice for me, as well.

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