“That Time We Got Mistaken For Hookers”
When I was 13, right before I started high school, I used to hang with a girl who lived in SE Minneapolis named EO. One day EO and I had taken the city bus down the Mall of America to meet up with our boyfriends. Yes I was one of those mallrats, it was the 90’s, it was a thing.
It was a pretty good day, EO and I had worn dresses because we wanted to look nice for the boys and a fun PG13 time was had by all. Eventually it was time for us to get on another city bus and head back to EO’s house. Except, EO in her infinite 12-year-old wisdom (I was 6mo older than her) had forgotten that Sunday bus routes were different from the rest of the week’s routes and there was no route after 3pm that would take us anywhere near her house. The closest we could do with our limited money would be to take the line that would drop us off at 35W and Lake St. EO’s house was down near 44th and Lake St. To those who know the area, they know the long trek that awaited us, for those unfamiliar let me assure you it was around 50 blocks, altogether, to get to EO’s house.
We had tried, once getting off the bus, to call EO’s mom, but she wasn’t home from work yet, we only had the one quarter so we couldn’t call anyone else as this was a time before there was such a thing as plentiful cell phones just given to teens by their hardworking parents. We decided there was nothing to do but start hoofing it. We began to walk down Lake St towards EO’s house. We got down to Hiawatha just as it was beginning to get dark out. As night fell we started to become a bit more nervous about our long walk ahead of us.
As we passed by the grocery story EO decided we should cross the street over to the south side. We crossed at the light but seconds after we started our east-bound trek we heard a car slow down behind us. A man leaned out the passenger window and asked us “fine ladies” how we were doing that night. We ignored the man and kept walking. The car, with no traffic behind it, continued to match our pace. The guy asked if we wanted a ride somewhere and we just kept ignoring him and walking down the sidewalk. Another car appeared behind the vehicle forcing the car to finally speed up and drive away. We felt relief and briefly discussed it amongst ourselves.
It was short-lived, however. A couple of minutes later the car was back. The man, more insistently this time, tried to engage us in conversation. He asked us if we needed some money, that we could make quite a bit of money. I turned and told him we weren’t interested. He replied that women not interested in making money shouldn’t be wearing dresses walking down Lake St in the dark. I ignored him and turned back to EO and kept walking, already regretting saying a word. Another car came along and forced the vehicle to drive forward again. By this time EO and I were extremely nervous.
I saw the car stop a block ahead of us and park, the guy got out of the passenger seat and started to walk towards us. EO and I began to panic, we looked around and we were walking right past a Rent A Center that was still open. We dashed inside immediately. We went up to the counter and begged the salesman to please let us use his phone. The guy refused. We told him there was a scary man outside trying to get us to go with him and we really didn’t feel safe. He started to hesitate but finally let us use the phone. We called EO’s house again and this time her mom picked up. We told her she had to come get us right away. She didn’t seem too happy but said she’d be there in 10 minutes.
We thanked the salesman for letting us use the phone and begged to be allowed to stand inside, quiet and making no trouble, until EO’s mom came for us. He wasn’t going to let us but one of us (I honestly can’t remember if it was EO or me) started quivering our lip, letting a tear emerge, to emphasise how afraid we were to go back outside and so he relented. We stayed in his sight near the door until EO’s mom pulled up outside. We thanked the salesman and dashed outside to her car. As we got in her vehicle we saw the creepy man still leaning against his car half a block up the street. It was a scary realization that if the salesman hadn’t let us stay inside that man might have forced us to go somewhere.
I should’ve vowed then and there to never again use public transportation, but sadly I was young and it would take one more lesson before that sank in. I will say this, I never again left the house with no money.