The Four Interviews: Pilgrimage Ow Line
A non-interview Personal Experience
by goura fotadar
Circa January 2014
In Knoxville, TN, I arrived while on-pilgrimage at a bus station; very early in the morning. I planned only to stay in Knoxville for a day, and visit some local places, and interview some local people; or at least speak with them, you know, just about any old thing. I had enough sponsorship to get there, frequent a few places; and also get on the bus.
However, the bus I came in on got to Knoxville, very early. Like around 5 am or something; it was still dark outside, and nothing was open. Also, I was like above exhausted. At that point in time, my cellphone … I didn’t yet have a free state phone for the income-less or something of that type of necessary accessory for that type living; and my phone from before home-out pilgrimage was still with paid minutes. In other and more clear words, I had a phone that was in service, something that I didn’t always have on-pilgrimage. The reason I mention this is obviously for safety purpose. Travelling without a phone, in the way that I did, almost proved to be dangerous. Fortunately though when you don’t have a phone, most local businesses will let you use theirs. I only mention this because there is so much going-on when you’re travelling sometimes on foot on-pilgrimage; that it always helps to have a rough idea of how you might be able to legally help yourself in a tough situation. I believe I’ve already written “stuff” about this.
But now the point I’m at: when I was in Knoxville, sleeping on a chair in the lighted bus station, waiting for the city to open: I was asleep, and all of sudden, because I don’t know how long I’d been there asleep; but it was almost or was light outside; and I woke up to a guy sitting next to me groping me, and a guy right in front of me, staring at me. I jerked awake, and when I opened my eyes glancing at them; the people groping at and staring at me; noticing what they were doing in the vision sense; I also looked around and saw the bus station attendant behind the desk, watching the whole scene. Wow, I wondered. I realize bus stations aren’t sleeping spots for those without shelter, but … I also don’t expect to be groped as others watch, and by strangers, and as I sleep.
When I jerked awake, they started insulting me. Then they started asking me out, and asking to use my things. The two of them. Though it was light outside, I didn’t quite feel safe leaving yet. When I tried to leave the station, they started following me. I talked to them but minimally, and I was trying to leave. Then one of them as I finally did leave the station got randomly picked up by a car. It seemed sort of unbelievable, since he hadn’t made a phone call to get picked up or anything. Especially the location where he was picked up. It was a random spot down the street from the station, where I had been walking, and he had been following me to. I was trying to get downtown. The other one, started following me further, and told me that I was naive. Finally when I approached downtown, where there were more people, the guy that had not been picked up, left from following behind me.
I went on with my day, and met some people around that area. I tried to seek sponsorship then, because now I feared that I might not have enough money for bus fare; since I had bought some food and refreshments having gotten hungry; at a local cafe. Unfortunately, there was no place to get sponsored from; unless, the local people that I met, told me; unless, I waited a night. I didn’t want to do that so I hoped I had enough left for fare now.
Being homeless, I find out now is not the same thing as having your shelter threatened.
The worst thing about being homeless is not the fact that you are at a shelter, which is hard enough as it is;
but to repeatedly be told that you are going to be without shelter soon. I’m not sure why we have this shelter system in our society, and it is really hard on people who are homeless; whoever they are. At least I can say that it was really hard on me. And since I currently stay with my family, and live without an income; it is still really hard on me. They are continuously threatening me for not doing enough work, and then threatening me for doing work. Often yelling about how my work is pointless or something much worse. It’s a very odd situation to be in. In some sense, I never left my first pilgrimage; and in another, I wonder if I will ever.
When I returned to the bus station, later in the evening, and was waiting to get on a bus; out of Knoxville. I started doing some research on bus fare, and found that if I purchased the on-line rate; I had enough to get further, and not so otherwise. However, I only had cash. The online system seemed to require a card, and that was not an option for me … (on-pilgrimage; I had to be sponsored everywhere I went, and didn’t have any monetary security system of my own other than of course sponsorship.)
Unfortunately, for me, fate and my decision process had something much worse in store for me; but at least survivable. One of the guys that had been following and staring at me earlier, re-appeared just as I was trying to figure out what to do about fare. Stupid me, I spoke outloud so that he could hear, and he offered me an exchange for ticket fare. It’s not illegal as it might sound; but I’m still not sure why I believed him. Everything was terrible right then, I was stranded somewhat in a bus station, because I chose to eat a meal, and couldn’t procure sponsorship that would get me out of there; plus I only had a small amount of cash left, something like $20. I think really I left the station and accepted his option of his friend who is a woman accepting cash from me, and using her card to pay for the ticket which cost something like $12 in the on-line fare system; because I was more concerned that he would not leave me alone that night if I had to wait there, (until I got sponsorship). I think the ticket price not online was something like $28, and it was not going to get me very far. (Had I not eaten, I would have had enough.)
It was very worrisome, I felt like there was a greater power at work, and I wondered how he knew when I’d be back at the station; and that I’d be worried about fare; like this was the most opportune time for him to get me under his wing, so that he could attack me.
I guess as I walked out of the station with him, I knew that something bad could happen to me; but I thought it was worth a try to get a bus ticket out of there. I literally spotted nobody at the station, that I could approach for help. I walked out with him for self-protection as odd as that sounds; this way, I thought, quickly; he would leave me alone, and stop following me; it was greatly noticeable to me that he had invested now close to 15 hours or so, in following me, in Knoxville near the bus station; and until now with minimal contact from me; and I also did it out of desperation, the bus station wasn’t giving me the safest vibe, and I just did not want to wait there overnight, even if I could have.
When I got outside, the woman his friend he introduced me to, I shook her hand, but now can’t remember her name. She was in her car, and she had a child in the backseat. It was a very odd situation that had only gotten seemingly more dangerous and stranger. I wondered how I would get out of it. But first I continued on with my plan, and the offer to exchange cash for a charge on her card; i.e., a bus ticket that I couldn’t afford without the online: card-needing fare, price.
I handed her more than the cost of the ticket, and at that moment, I looked down at my suitcase. I did this because he seemed to be about to put it in the backseat. I never agreed to go with them anywhere. So of course, this was something that alerted me to what could were their dangerous plans for me. As I did this, the guy that led me to the car with his “friend”, grabbed my wallet out of my hand: it had in it my driver’s license, social security card, and even I think, birth certificate; among other things, such as, a triple a(aa) card, etc.
He said as he grabbed the wallet out of my hand, “Bitch! get away from my car.”
(I’ve since fictionalized a version of this actual happening.)
He also shoved me really hard, and I fell onto the ground. When I got up, I shrieked in his face. He was physically taken aback for what seemed like a moment. He then got into the passenger seat, and they drove away, (with the child in the backseat), and all of my identification (in my wallet), and now with him. (It was essentially a travel wallet.) The woman, and child gawked at me, as she drove them away. The way that she pulled of that parking lot, and how I was backed up into it;
this is a parking lot associated and almost right next to the bus station, made me think that she was considering hitting me with her car. She nearly did, but just as she did I back jumped onto a fence of wire right behind me. It sounds like a scene from a movie, but it was my real life. I knew then they wouldn’t come back for me, ever. I guess I couldn’t tell you this if you were a cop, but I just know; they’d be gone forever from my life forever. How odd, because I don’t know any of these people, in fact; that was the first and only time I have ever seen them.
Immediately after, as they drove away; I tried to get the license plate of the car; I wanted to photograph it with my phone, but wasn’t quick enough to do so. I remembered something about the guy that robbed me, (with assistance); that he had mentioned to have just gotten out of jail that same day. I however when I heard this in passing, didn’t know how true it was. A lot of times, in shelters; though this wasn’t one, people would tell me that they were criminals, and sometimes I think it was true; but other times, I wasn’t so sure. Also he had been following me since so early that morning, he would have had to get out before the morning hit. So again, I wasn’t sure how true it was. But I called the police because of being robbed, and filed a report; right outside the bus station. Since I had been robbed I didn’t even have the cash that I had before, and of course I had no identification. So just as I had finished filing the police report, a guy stood outside of the bus station; asked me about my robbery, and handed me $40; more than enough to get on the bus; and to another better part of Tennessee. After I paid for my ticket, I started reporting all of my identification by using the internet access on my phone; and I reported it as being stolen, online. I got immediate email notification that the identification had been reported as missing to for example the Social Security Bureau, the California Department of Motor Vehicles, etc.
It was crazy. Crazier still on another part of my pilgrimage, when things had been more settled in terms of travel, was that my phone got stolen, by another guy following for this time two day; I’ll have to tell more of that story later. But with gone were all of my pictures (almost all of them), of my pilgrimage.
I wonder about the people that robbed in Knoxville. I wonder if they often hang out at that bus station, which is one that has no security; when I was last there. I wonder if they hang around, and rob people; especially women, who pass through.