A San Diego native, I was well aware of El Cajon Boulevard’s reputation long before I moved into my University Heights apartment. I barely raised an eyebrow the first morning I made my hike to grab a cup of joe from Filter Coffeehouse, nee The Other Syde, to see more than one young lady teetering down the sidewalk in open toed high heels and stretched halter tops at 6 in the morning.
In fact, I encountered this unique brand of service workers quite often. Since an almost arrogant lack of maintenance had long rendered my Grand Am inoperable, I found myself walking and fully utilizing San Diego’s public transportation system on a daily basis. These girls sauntered all over my hood, loitering at crosswalks and behind bus stops. I came to know them, recognizing certain ones hiding behind parked semis, or quietly sleeping in the corner booth of the newly renovated Taco Bell.
These girls somehow worked their way into my heart, and I found myself often thinking of them- what brought them to this point in life? How many of them had issues with addiction? Did they have fathers or big brothers somewhere, worried or completely clueless to their new occupation? What, or more frightenly, who kept them captive in this world of depravity? I wondered, just who are the pimps of El Cajon Boulevard?
And one morning, I found out.
I was waiting for the 15 bus at the Texas and El Cajon Boulevard bus stop to whisk me off to my Sunday brunch server gig at the Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. (Somewhere around my 25th birthday, I had dropped the term waitress for the more refined food server moniker, which to me implied that I had some type of career. The fact that I was relying on public transportation to take me to said post didn’t seem to factor in to my logic.) I was staring off, dreaming of my first cup of coffee, when I felt someone approaching. Looking up, I locked eyes with a man in his late twenties, chewing on a toothpick and staring hard at me. Leaning over the back of the bus stop, he purred, “Good morning.”
Being a 20-something female, I’m well acquainted with the obscure situations men will use to initiate conversation with fertile women- but 7:00 AM at a bus stop was new even for me.
“Good morning,” I replied absently, making a point of looking away.
“Girl, how do I get to you?”
“What?” I asked.
“I just want to know how I can get to you. Just standing here wondering what it takes to get to you.”
This was too much for my under caffeinated brain to process.
“What you doing out here so early on a Sunday morning?”
“Work,” I spat out, already tired of this exchange.
“And what do you do for a living, beautiful?”
“I’m a server.”
“Server,” I vehemently corrected.
For a moment, we fell silent both staring at the couple of cars beginning to pull into the McDonalds across the street.
“Can I ask you a personal question?” he said, pointing his toothpick at me.
I narrowed my eyes at him, almost daring him to ask me a cliché question about my boyfriend status or actual bra size. “What’s that?”
“How much you make being a waitress?”
“Well, how much is the most you ever made? In a day?”
“I dunno. Probably $300.”
“$300? Wow. Damn.”
He circled the bench and sat down beside me.
“What would you say if I told you you could make 3 times that in one day?”
It was too early for this. Too early for a pyramid scheme.
He leaned close to me. “Why don’t you stop wiping up them tables and start wiping up them streets?”
Lightbulb: Pimp. A real live pimp.
“You see that Expedition over there?” he asked, pointing to a black SUV complete with those chrome rims that spin and freak me out. “That’s mine. I don’t ride the bus. I used to. But I don’t anymore. And you don’t have to anymore. And all you gotta do is sit here and let those long legs attract attention, just like you’re doing now.”
A real live pimp headhunter. Was I actually being recruited?
“Hold on,” I finally sputtered out. “You and I both know what you’re talking about, and I definitely have to do a lot more than just attract attention.
“Not really,” he said. “I mean, you’re already giving that sweetness away for free. Well, at least for a dinner at Applebee’s. I’m just saying you get what you’re due.”
Now I was appalled. Who was he to presume I gave away my ‘sweetness’ for anything less than a meal at Outback?
“You ever flown first class? You could be flying all over the world first class, eating steak.”
I closed my eyes and leaned my head back. So that girl passed out in Taco Bell was just napping before she darted off to Lindbergh to catch her first class flight to Saint Croix?
Is this how these girls fell into this world? Seduced by a fast talking man as they waited for a bus early one morning? Empty promises of riches and glamour? I wonder if they felt cheated as they bounced in the backseats of Camrys on Utah Street, or if they closed their eyes and just tried to imagine their brand new Expeditions and Louis Vuitton bags.
At that moment, the 15 rolled up in all its grandeur and I abruptly jumped to my feet.
With a previously absent forcefulness, Pimp Man grabbed my arm. “You either get on that bus and go back to your old life, or you stay here with me and start your new life,” he growled.
I locked eyes with him, and shook my arm free. “I’m getting on the bus.”
And with that I climbed the steps back to my old bus riding life, another long legged waitress in San Diego, just wiping up them tables.