A PIECE ABOUT SPENDING NIGHTS AT THE PARKING LOT OF A 24/7 WALMART
I don’t have a home, therefore I currently sleep in my car at night. Would I like a bed? Oh yes, I would.
But that only happens on those occasions when I can afford a cool, cozy, non-smoking room at the Motel 6, an affordable, not-bad motor-hotel chain if you want to get some quick rest. But there are those who bump up the room fees whenever some festive, important shit is popping off. There is one currently charging $100 with tax because it’s located next to where the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo is currently happening. And they know people might get a room over there and just walk over, instead of having to deal with the inscrutable traffic that happens after, say, a Cardi B show.
I wasn’t planning to sleep in my car. I briefly had a residence someone I knew on Facebook let me stay at. Unfortunately, that home wasn’t owned by him; it was owned by his ex-girlfriend, who was coming back home from Europe and didn’t want anything belonging to him on her premises. I’ve been paying rent and utilities there, and was willing to continue doing that. But she said she’s renovating the home and, then, she’s gonna accept audition roommates afterwards.
You’re probably wondering why hasn’t anyone else let me crash at their place. Hey, it’s Houston. I’ve been trying for two years to find a place to perch until I got my shit together, and people have consistently turned me down because they don’t have room or just don’t want me in their house or whatever. And there was that time I stayed in the hellhole that is Sad Animal House. (Trust me — I’ll be dropping more stories from that shithouse real soon.)
I was planning to say goodbye to my hometown once again and try to make it somewhere else, like Los Angeles. A friend of mine connected me to this woman who has a guest house in the CIty of Angels. We were going back and forth until I brought up how much could I give her on a monthly basis. I think she might have been offended by that, because that was the last I heard from her. I keep on messaging her about the house, but I only got silence from her end.
So, here I am, stuck in this limbo, which is located at this 24-hour Walmart in Houston. After previously finding parking lots to sleep in on a nightly basis, I can honestly say the 24-hour Walmart is the best one. For starters, you can sleep there and not get hassled by security. At various lots (including Walmarts that close at midnight), there are always those flashing, security vehicles that scurry around the region, making sure riff-raff isn’t around loitering. The 24-hour Walmarts have that, but they just make sure everything is just quiet and orderly. If you’re sleeping in your car, they just leave you alone.
Another reason the 24-hour Walmarts are the best is because, well, it’s common knowledge 24-hour Walmart parking lots are prime rest-stop locations. The New York Times even wrote a piece about it. I have to say the Walmart I’m at isn’t as communal as other spots the Times wrote about. This is Houston, after all — this place isn’t as welcoming as you’d expect. (Hell, look at me — and I was raised here!) Every now and then, I see 18-wheelers making pit stops or Lyft drivers chilling until their next ride. If there are other people making this Walmart their temporary home, you wouldn’t know it. People mostly keep to themselves around here.
Another perk of crashing at a 24/7 Walmart is that it’s always open for you to go to the bathroom. You can always walk in there and do your business, and get no hassle from the greeters and the employees. They’re mostly too busy making sure people walk out of the store with all the items that they paid for.
That happened to me one early morning. I brought an orange juice and one of those Patti LaBelle mini-sweet potato pies and put it in my hoodie. As I was heading through the exit doors, the security guard next to the doors asked, “Do you have a receipt for that juice and that pie?” I showed him the receipt but, for some reason, he still thought I was out here shoplifting. He suggested to me that I should get “bigger pockets” if I was going to lift stuff. I showed him the receipts, notes and other bullshit I had in my hoodie pockets to show him I wasn’t stealing anything, but he kept telling me to leave. “Go, on man, I’m just telling ya,” he said. That was a rather peculiar moment to have at five in the gotdamn morning.
But, the 24/7 Walmart parking lot is a good place to hang if you enjoy seeing loud kids getting smacked on the ass by their parents for acting up or guys who just got through getting drunk at the club standing atop their whips and talking to their girls on the phone or a bunch of Hispanic teens doing Jackass-style stunts with shopping carts and capturing it on their phones. Yeah, I’ve seen all this shit through the windshield of my car, as I figure out what the fuck to do with my life.
But don’t cry for me. It’s not all that ungodly. At least I’m not sleeping underneath freeway overpasses. There was even one more morning when I got a knock on my driver’s side window from a white woman who saw me and gave me $200 for my troubles. I’m just biding my time, resting in a reclining position, plotting my next move, thankful that I’m near a place that’ll let me take a whizz any time of the day.