I grew up in South Florida, where the weather is warm and the people are weird. When you can run around half nude most of the year, I guess it can make you a bit odd. I know, not only because I’m still recovering from living there, but because I had to interact with catcallers and creeps whenever I left my apartment.
The apartment building we lived in when I was a teen was on a circle. So, traffic would exit the circle and onto the street I lived on, and then another street intersected with all of that. It was a busy intersection and an all-around clusterfuck of traffic. This was where the dumpster for our building was located. Guess who’s job it was to take out the trash?
I felt like I was on stage whenever I did that walk of shame to the big, green, rusty dumpster. I hated the fact that I had to live in an apartment when all my friends lived in normal houses as the universe intended. So, I was always afraid someone would see me carrying out my meager apartment trash. I was also a bit tired of the occasional honking and yelling from the cars that would whiz around the circle.
One day, when I was 15 and at the height of my trash anxiety, the granddaddy of all catcall creep episodes happened. The garbage man took a fancy to my sweaty shorts, tank top, and shiny acne-faced look. He started yelling and whistling at me from the back of the truck. Lucky for me, they didn’t stop for the contents of my dumpster. So, I wasn’t forced to run for my life in flip-flops. The truck kept going around the circle, with the truck riding creep yelling at me. Honestly, what did he really think would happen? Did he think I would run after the truck, jump on the back with him, and ride off into the next South Florida thunderstorm while inhaling dirty diapers and Budweiser cans? I shook my head over that one for a while, until I met a creepier man at the beach.
A few weeks later, while still only 15, I was at the beach with my friends. Hollywood beach has a great broadwalk. (No, it is not a boardwalk, as autocorrect is trying to tell me. Look it up.) It’s not one of those boring full of only nature without any indoor plumbing beaches. I hate those. If I want to see nature, I will turn on the National Geographic channel. Hollywood Beach has a nice, paved walkway where you can walk or attempt to run into nice, innocent walkers on your bike by ignoring all bike lane rules. It also has stores, restaurants, and assorted ice cream places. Our next creep was seated on a patio in one of the bar/restaurants.
Now, I will say that OBVIOUSLY this guy had partaken in the bar portion of the establishment quite a bit. This is the only explanation for his behavior. Well, I suppose he could have had the eyesight of Mr. Magoo since he didn’t notice that I was 15 going on 12. The gentleman in question, and I do use this term very loosely, was a middle-aged French-Canadian (We got LOTS of French Canadian visitors in Hollywood.) wearing a bikini bottom bathing suit and a desperate lack of soap or deodorant. He was red, smelly, and creepy.
“Can I buy you zee drink?” He asked me, as I walked by, barely filling out my newly shoplifted blue bikini.
I wanted to reply with, “Can I buy you zee mirror or zee working nostrils?” Instead, I said, “no thank you.”
He answered in a way that only someone who is truly drunk and or impaired from the smell of their own body odor can. “Iz your loss.”
Yep. That is what this lobster red, smelly, scantily clad, OLD man told me. That is was MY loss. YES. He was right. I’m still kicking myself, 30 years later, that I didn’t get drunk and have stinky old man sex right there on Hollywood Beach. What was I thinking?
I still look back to my time in South Florida and imagine what could have happened if I had been a more adventurous girl. I could have married the trash man, or moved to Canada, or been murdered and dismembered. One or the other. Now, I live up north where people cannot run around half naked most of the year unless they really want to freeze to death. I’m also 45 now, so I don’t get catcalled as often. I’m OK with all of this.