Monday, November 16, 2009

Held captive in the van

I was held captive in the van yesterday afternoon.

It was a nice day so I was in no hurry to walk to campus. I spent the afternoon—all alone in my parking lot—reading, eating, and napping.

At about the time I was ready to walk to the library, a family of three parked two spots over and had a picnic next to my van. FOR FOUR HOURS. All my windows were open so I could hear everything outside, which meant that they could potentially hear everything inside. For hours, I had to stifle all biological emissions—coughs, sneezes, farts, in all—while remaining fixed in the same sprawled-“I’m about to get disemboweled”- position on my bed for fear of making it creak.

After an hour, I thought about sneaking under my curtain into the front seat where I could start the engine and escape unnoticed like someone furtively inching to freedom beneath a cardboard box.

Alas, I determined that it be more prudent just to wait the family out.

Luckily, they were good company. Though I didn’t get a look at them, I figured they were in their early thirties. The child babbled incomprehensibly and giggled like a fool when the father dropped the toy truck on the ground. He must have been less than a year old. During an impromptu game of tag, the starboard side of my van became the “safe zone.”

They seemed like a throwback to an era when families were perceived to be happy and nuclear. I pictured the father in a white tee shirt, sporting a fedora next to his wife whose hay-colored hair matched her yellow sundress. Their child, of course, was dressed in a sailor outfit.

After a while I grew familiar enough with them to the point where I fantasized about walking out of the van (after donning a pair of pants, of course) as if I was a close, avuncular neighbor. I’d shake hands with the man, asking him if he saw the “game” last night before complimenting his wife’s Dahlias this year and lofting a mini football into the stomach of their progeny.

They devoted a considerable portion of their picnic to teaching their son how to talk. The father, as if lost in spiritual rapture, repeated the word “grape” with a persistence of a Buddhist seeking enlightenment through incantation.




“Sweetie, say ‘grape,’” added the mom.

“Grape,” continued the father.

“Sweetie, no crying.”

Much to our displeasure, the little guy never got around to saying it.

Eventually they took off at dusk. Upset to lose the company, yet relieved to have them gone, I quickly scampered out of the van, weaving around trees and fire hydrants like a kick returner evading tacklers en route to the nearest public urinal.


Josh said...

Man that's a classic, and how annoying. Why have a 4 hour picnic in a public car park, I'm sure there's better places to go.

I'm sure if you'd put some pants on and quietly exited your car they wouldn't have been too worried about what you were up to in your van.

Fannie said...

I can't help but comment on the use of the pronoun "our" in the second to last paragraph, "Much to our displeasure." Made me giggle. Come on Ken, are you the van-dwelling version of Grizzley Man, hiding a girl behind the safe confines of the camera/writer's lens, playing it off as if you are recluse both afraid of girls and captivated by them at the same time?All the while an accomplice hides under the covers with you...

Oh wait, I get it... you AND mom equal "our" in this use of the pronoun.

OK, redeemed. Silly van-swelling man. I notice the typo but I like it so much I decided to leave it!!!

Chris said...


By the way have you made a decision on wether you're going to make it for Thanksgiving?? Only like 9 days left to decide. You're welcome to stay the weekend as well.

Mike Troy said...

Ken, found you thru vandwellers site although I'm a conventional dweller. Hopefully in a year I'll be moving "up" and in to my little Tumbleweeds house. Really enjoying your past posts of eloquent blathering (meant as
compliment) and looking forward to more. Best wishes to you my man...

Ken said...

Josh--I probably should have exited immediately, but I'm determined to never let anyone see me enter or exit the van--which is the only real way to keep it a secret.

Fannie--Trust me, I most certainly do not have anyone under the covers with me. :) Van-swelling--not sure how I feel about that.

Chris--count me in. I need a break from spaghetti stew, anyway.

Mike--Glad to meet you. What's a "conventional dweller"? (I'm not quite attuned to the vandwelling lingo yet.)

Mike Troy said...

It's not any particular lingo but I meant I live in a regular house. So I'm downsizing into a 130sq/ft house which I consider "up" to me. Nice to meet you too.

Anonymous said...

I was just catching up on your blog and laughed when I came to this one. You are determined to be stealthy! I've done many things to be keep from being detected in my home on wheels... but I can't say I'd ever have your determination. I loved the way you got caught up in the experience. Well done! ;)

Anonymous said...

"father dropped the toy truck on the ground. He must have been less than a year old"

They start young in the Carolinas!!!!!

"I can't help but comment on the use of the pronoun "our" "

Not wanting to appear critical but the USA's ever-decreasing reading comprehension abilities are apparent.

With practice and available-while-reading context the writer's intent was patently obvious.

Anonymous said...

I really wanted to know if he said "grape" as well so I get the use of "our". Always love your stories!