Free Parking

Indianapolis is warehouse city, man. I once had a friend tell me they call it "Naptown" after all the guys who spend their days sleeping in the backs of warehouses., waiting for the next boxcar or semi. He was a real smart guy who told me that. So smart he spends about half his time in the City-County jail. He's a drinker. You can find him most days on the curb on West 10th. St. near some dive or other. But that's the small stuff they haul him in for. He also likes to write bad checks. That's his main inspiration, his big shot in life. Gonna get rich kiting checks and selling TVs. Great role model, huh?

Well, my sights are set higher, right? I ain't staying in these South Side projects forever. I go t plans. I could show you I got the smarts too, if you'll listen to this story.

So, you see, I'd just finished a little four-hour job that I got at Manpower here. We were unloading aluminum siding from a semi at one of them warehouses. Siding's big business in this town. By the way, you see that movie, Tin Men? Funny as hell. Anyway, they throw up subdivisions in this town like--well, like my friend there throws up Four Roses. Just about as regular, I mean. So somebody always needs sliding and that mean somebody's got to unload it. Manpower is famous for instant labor, and I'm famous at Manpower for showing up on time. Like I said, I got plans. I know you got to have respectable habits if you're gonna get somewhere.

But this story I'm telling you happened before I got so respectable. It just shows you I always had the smarts.

There was this concert at the War Memorial, I don't remember what group--I don't have twenty or twenty-five bucks to blow on rock concerts. I got my MTV. So I finished the siding job and thought I'd go on down by the Memorial and run a little protection on the concert-goers. You know, I'm a big guy, and I don't dress like I shop at Brooks Brothers. I'd watch for one of these yuppies getting out of his Mazda with his little Benetton lady and I'd sorta sidle up as she's diggin' in her purse for the tickets. They'd look me over and the guy steps a little closer to his woman. Or sometimes they step away a little. "I ain't got nothin' you want buddy, but there she is, and just don't scuff my Italian loafers," you know.

Either way, I'd smile real wide and say, "Nice car. Hate to see it get scratched, all this traffic. You know, sometime these concert punks come by on drugs and bend over your radio antenna. Heh, heh, make it look like one a them toy crazy straws..."

Usually the guy'll say something like, "OK, how much you want to watch it?" and I'd say, "Hey, that's a great idea! Yeah, why don't you give me a buck and I'll make sure nothin' happens to it."

The guy fishes a sweaty dollar from his wallet and hands it to me, and I smile again and say, "Thanks, this is great! Maybe I should start a business!" And the guy nods at me over his shoulder as they leave, like he knows damn well this is my business, and his chick moves a little closer. When they're out of sight, I'd split and find a BMW down the block.

Now you understand if they didn't offer, I wouldn't push 'em. I'm really not the criminal type, and I don't want any police record in my way when I go for the big job. I sure wouldn't want to have threatened them. It wouldn't really do. I'm just a big teddy bear at heart. Besides, the guy gets to act like a big man in front of his girl, you know, curl his lip and straighten his shoulders when he asks "How much?", and maybe later she'll pay him off in a big way. So I'm doing him a favor, right? Except I know that's just an excuse, really, for me to do something nasty and feel good about it.

Well, Indy is a warehouse town, a motel town, a place a lot of freight and people are passing through. There's five interstates here, and a huge rail yard. What it boils down to is that most of the folks in the green spiked heels and pink T-shirts under tan sports coats you meet on the streets nights are strangers. Here for a day, a week, a convention, buyers for chain stores. Lots of new buildings going up and old ones coming down. You can't build a a stable business on a transient population. Looked that up just before I flunked out of junior college.

So I'm down by the arena frightening motorists for fun and profit and I notice a few folks parking their rented cars in one of the vacant lots nearby. Somebody put up a factory to make wheel bearings for boxcars, and went out of business. City tore it down and now it's waiting for somebody else to start a scope-inspection sweatshop. In the meantime, the locals avoid it like they do characters like me 'cause it's full of potholes and broken bottles and junk. Park there and you're likely to get a flat tire just by accident. If you don't, some kid'll probably flatten it on purpose.

But these travelers don't know this and so I stroll on over there, figuring I could save some legwork as long as they're all parking in the same place anyway.

Just as I come out of the darkness to where the street light shines over the driveway entrance, a big white Eldorado pulls up. The guy rolls down his window, looks at me, and says, "What's the charge?"

I didn't bat an eye. "Three bucks," I said, and he fiddled in his pants picket and handed me a five. "Keep the change and keep an eye on it would you?"

Well I just about snapped to attention, flashed a big grin, and said, "Yes sir. Thank you, sir. You can park it right over there, next to the blue Olds."

"Fine," he says, and pulls it in. By this time there's another one behind him, a little red sports car, one of those Japanese models they change the names on every year. The driver is a young girl--no disrespect ladies, she couldn't have been over seventeen--she just rolls down her window and looks at me expectantly. I smile and say "Three bucks" and I motion over towards the Caddy. She forks it over, and rolls on in.

Now I was only there an hour; some rent-a-cop from the concert was headed my way, probably for a cigarette break. But I wasn't taking any chances. I just turned around and walked away, up toward Washington St., and not too fast either. But that hour got me $675 and some change.

Told you I had smarts. Maybe I'll reapply to that junior college. What do you think I'd be good at? Sales promotion?

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