I picked up a prostitute Monday night.
Now, before I start getting the angry letters and religious tracts, I'd like to point out that it was totally accidental. I mean, if it weren't, how likely is it that I would write about it?
The whole episode stemmed from my ignorance of the fact that apparently the gesture for, "You may cross in front of my car" is indistinguishable in street lingo from "Please get into my car so I can solicit sexual favors."
So there I was, waiting for the light to change at an intersection in midtown Atlanta. I knew it wasn't the best neighborhood, but it lay on the only route I knew to the bookstore on Ponce de Leon Avenue.
As I waited, I noticed a woman, probably in her late 40s, apparently waiting to cross the street. It was very cold, and she was wearing jeans, a sweater and a toboggan.
Being a gentleman (and a rube from North Georgia who obviously doesn't know any better), I wanted to speed her across so she could get to what I hoped was a warmer place on the other side. So I unthinkingly motioned for her to cross in front of my car.
Too late, I realized that she was coming toward my car instead. Also too late, I remembered that I hadn't relocked my doors after unloading some stuff just before I left for Atlanta. Before I knew it, I was the very surprised bearer of an (and I emphasize this word) unsolicited passenger.
I can't remember exactly what I said, but I think it was something like, "Can I help you?" She said she was just trying to get out of the cold. At a loss as to what to do, I told her I was going to the bookstore just down the street but would be glad to take her there.
I had an inkling that I was in trouble, but my worst suspicions were confirmed when she replied, "OK, and maybe I can do a favor for you in return."
I'm afraid to say I actually laughed, because the whole situation was so absurd.
On the way to the store, she again insinuated that she could do me a "favor." At that point, I knew I had to set the record straight.
"I think there's been a misunderstanding," I said. "I was motioning for you to cross the street."
"Oh," she replied (I assume somewhat awkwardly), "I'm so sorry."
I took her to the bookstore, but she wanted me to give her a ride back across the street to "where she lived." On the road, we discussed the fact that I was a writer, and that she had learned about short stories in a class she had taken in jail.
I took her to a driveway just off North Avenue, and there we said our goodbyes. She made several more offers for "favors," but I finally convinced her I wasn't interested.
The whole time, I was trying to think of some inspirational words to encourage her to put her life on a better track. All I could manage was, "I hope things look up for you."
Now, although I have already had a few laughs sharing this story with my friends, and while the scenario is patently absurd, in truth it's not really funny. While I am able to come back to my safe, warm home to have a chuckle, for all I know "Sky" is still out on the streets selling her body.
Admittedly, she's probably made (and continues to make) choices that have brought her to this pass; but I still think it's sad. I hope someone convinces her n or she decides for herself n to get out of that life. If she doesn't know how, I hope she finds someone who can help.
I just hope that person will be counting on helping her get her life straightened out, instead of just helping her get across the street.
Clay Wilson is the education reporter for the Daily Herald. His column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.