Just about an hour before I started writing this, 11:30am on a Sunday in the city of Rancho Cordova, I was walking east on Folsom Blvd to get fast food. Ahead of me is the Zinfandel train station when a late 90s dark green Toyota Camry abruptly pulls into the bus lane, the driver waving his arm in the air. I figure he’s waving at a vehicle behind him, and then he shouts “Get in the fucking car!”
I grew up in neighborhoods like this, so I tend to walk briskly with my hands in my pockets, minding my own business. Rancho Cordova has a habit of involving you anyway. The late-20s, thin, shirtless gentleman steps out of his car and starts yelling at me, “I said get in the fucking car, Sam!”
I look behind me, there’s no one there other than an elderly woman waiting at the crosswalk. I casually ask, “Do I know you?”
“Oh, you aren’t Sam?”
“Shit, you look a lot like my good buddy Sam.”
“Sorry man. You have a good one.”
I went my own way and he drove to wherever it was that he needed to be.
Okay, let’s break this story down a bit. Depending on your experience and world view, you could have read that as being anything from the setup to a horror movie, to being something completely normal and anything in between.
This is totally routine on Folsom Blvd.
Shortly after moving here, I was walking in that same direction, when a heavyset man with no shirt on was dragging a stolen shopping cart from Target behind him. He made eye contact with me and said “If you turn out to be a faggot, I’ll beat your ass!”
Rancho Cordova is a small, underdeveloped city on the east border of Sacramento, but still a part of Sacramento County. It’s the kind of city that’s gentrification-proof, see; not urban enough for hipsters to move there and no developers see a point in putting anything cool there. The cheap rent and lack of pedestrian traffic attract drug culture. The homeless population is more vagrant than that of the inner-city and sometimes prone to violence. Between the vagrants, tweakers, and angry young men being brought up in a culture that promotes their fundamental territorial instincts, being stopped by random sweaty, shirtless white dudes on Folsom Blvd is so normal that you quit noticing it’s happening by around the 4th time.
That may as well have been a methamphetamine handshake.
White trash culture in America is a relatively schizophrenic affair. It’s half toxic masculinity, half drug and alcohol abuse, together creating a dark philosophy that enables violence and sloth.
In this moment I reacted as casually as in any other case of mistaken identity. That’s because, growing up in this culture, that is a perfectly acceptable way for tweakers to greet each other. Your best friend could walk in, punch you in the chest, get you in a headlock, and 20 minutes later you’re drinking Keystone and having borderline rapey conversations about women you’re interested in.
I stayed aware of my surroundings, but you even do that with your friends in that culture. He stood with his chest puffed out in typical territorial primate fashion, speaking with aggression. I was able to see in his eyes that he wasn’t confident enough that I was Sam to push on the subject. If he didn’t know Sam and Sam owed someone money, this might be a more interesting story. If I am to believe Sam is his “good buddy”, I don’t doubt Sam would have jumped in the car, been punched really hard in his left side, and then went on to discuss the drugs he had just scored that morning.
Oh yeah, there was a kid in the fucking car.
The back seat did appear as if it was piled full of junk when seeing it strictly from the back. I would expect nothing less from a 90s Toyota; my Corolla had a different odor every week. It was after the gentleman was getting back into his vehicle that I noticed a carseat in the back with a toddler in it. This fills me with many warm childhood memories.
I promise to get in the car the next time this happens and write a routine about it if I survive.