Tuesday, May 31, 2011

31 MAY 11: Cruising for a Bruising

The Saturday night run was a heat-filled workout, but with a great payoff - as I made it three miles non-stop on the Riverwalk! Hopefully my sweaty body didn't ruin the romantic mood for several couples I passed. Who knows - maybe I made things steamier.

I picked up dinner on Buena Vista Road after the run. Saturday night freight trains east of downtown led me to drive home down Tenth Street - and at a traffic light, the driver of a car to my right motioned for me to roll down my window. It was a busy Saturday night on a holiday weekend, but the purple-shirted "ambassadors" were NOT out giving directions.

BLOGGER BEGGAR #5: I rolled down the passenger side window a bit - and then came the surprise. "Do you want to date?" a woman asked me. A second woman was with her in the car. Even in 2011, some old-fashioned "values" about romance remain in Columbus.

This question was the last thing I expected. "Want to date?!" I asked.

"Are you a cop?" If that's the second question, I don't think the woman was expecting to share a sandwich at Momma Goldberg's Deli.

I tried to point out my humble Honda was not a police car. And in the process, I tried to turn on my emergency lights to show I was stopped - except in the shock of the moment, I turned on the rear-window defroster.

"Do you have money?" the woman in the other car asked next. That's one problem with modern-day downtown Columbus - the 12th Street Library isn't around anymore for reading books.

"You're looking for a date with someone you've never met?" I asked in further disbelief. Whatever happened to old-fashioned matchmaking? Dating sites like Match.com certainly don't require burning gasoline costing more than three dollars a gallon.

"Find a place to park. I'm following you," the woman said. I was six blocks from home, and suddenly was leading someone against my will. At least NASCAR drafting partners tend to be on the same team these days.

But downtown Columbus was a very busy place at 10:00 on a Saturday night. I realized I couldn't park legally on First Avenue from where I was, so I kept driving down Tenth Street - only there were no parking spots at all, much less two of them. I never face this dilemma at other times downtown. But of course, that's when banks are open instead of nightclubs.

I was forced to turn left at Front Avenue, and found one spot next to Dillingham Street. I pulled over at the triangle in front of that spot, so the women in the other car could back into the legal spot. Instead, they stopped to my left for further discussion. Excuse me for forgetting females tend to be more verbal.

"Do you want to date?" the question came again from the other car.

"I'm just trying to go home and eat dinner," I admitted. "But you need to go on a date right now." If they would simply ask for directions to Scruffy Murphy's, we could settle this.

"Do you have money?" the woman asked again. While I didn't answer that, I had less than two dollars in change from Burger King. I also had a credit card, but somehow I didn't think they would count that.

"Park in that lot over there. We're following you." The woman pointed to a lot between the Convention and Visitors Bureau office and the Front Avenue parking deck.

"No, YOU lead," I demanded. "You're leading this whole thing." Sadie Hawkins Day in the comic strips never was done on four wheels....

The women turned around their car at Ninth and Front to enter the open parking lot. While that lot was full as well, I was thankful at least it was in the open. If something strange happened to me, there could be plenty of witnesses - quick to point out my bright orange running shorts.

I found a parking place near the garage, while the women parked two rows away. I got out of the car, and simply stood by the trunk -- intent on having these women come to me, if they're really that desperate for a date.

But the woman refused to get out of their car, and motioned me toward theirs. Finally I walked over and tried to end all doubt about what was happening.

"I'm going to put this in language we all can understand. Are you two prostitutes? Yes or no?" I spoke in a loud voice, to make sure strangers could hear me - and if the strangers happened to carry badges, so much the better.

"Yes or no??" I asked again. The women said nothing -- not even invoking their fifth amendment right against self-incrimination.

"Because if you are, I don't want to have anything to do with you," I added firmly. No one seemed to stop and watch this moment. Perhaps they thought I was the real weirdo.

Finally the female driver answered: "Can we have the medicines you're using?" Medicines?! No - this was more like a "runner's high," mixed with high anxiety.

"I'm not using any medicines," I told the women. "What is this - something like the Mark Shelnutt case?" [3 Oct 10]

With that, the woman rolled up her car window, backed out of the parking space and went on her way. Can I get an attorney referral fee for that?

I walked back to my car, and drove home with my dinner down Front Avenue - making sure no one was following me as I did. A classic Bill Purvis sermon came to mind, about a Saturday night when he met prostitutes in downtown Columbus. Purvis wound up "left for dead." My choice was simpler and less bloody -- left.

This wasn't the first time women have tried to "pick me up" after dark. Another car tried it on a winter night in downtown Kansas City, when I was a college intern at a television station. I turned down that offer, too - and it's a good thing they didn't ask about money, because I didn't even have a credit card then.

But if you're wondering if prostitution is lurking in downtown Columbus, what happened to me over the weekend ought to provide the answer. And amazingly, the offer came right outside the Government Center. If Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson wants to start another task force, she can move from copper thefts to call-girl lifts.

So we seem to have rolling prostitutes on Tenth Street, in addition to "courtesy patrols" of Fort Benning soldiers on Broadway. If this is what downtown Columbus is becoming, I'm not sure I want to be part of it. Perhaps the "second shift" of visitors shows up around 10:00 p.m. -- as families go home, leaving the rowdy singles to themselves.

We received one e-mail involving downtown activities Monday, but I'm going to hold it until some reviewing can be done. In the meantime, let's check other (ahem) fun and games from the holiday weekend....

+ The Monday high temperature in Columbus broke another record, at 96 degrees F. WTVM counts seven days in May where the record high either has been tied or broken -- and jumping dogs must miss the Aflac Outdoor Games pool.

+ Scott Ressmeyer returned to Columbus from his three-week cross-country fund-raising trip for the Children Miracle's Network. It was billed as "Scott's Ride for Miracles" -- but WLTZ called his motorcycle posse "The Freedom Riders." Maybe freedom from sickness, but not from expenses....

+ WURY-FM returned to the air, after being silent for more than a week. The Seventh-Day Adventist station was down during Harold Camping's "Judgment Day" - which makes you wonder if Uchee Pines Institute was waiting for law officers to show up, and see if the staff had been raptured.

+ Columbus and Spalding split a doubleheader, to send the Georgia AAA high school baseball finals to a decisive third game today. The scores were 18-1 and 12-2 -- so fans shielding themselves from the sun provided the only "in-tents" moments of the day.

(The final-round doubleheader attracted a big crowd at Randy Jordan Field - so big that WDAK's Scott Miller found some people trying to sit inside the ballpark, against the centerfield fence. Who are these people, unemployed basketball photographers?)

+ The Columbus Lady Wings won their first women's basketball game -- except they won because the opponents from South Carolina forfeited and never came to town. Either the Wings are that good, or this semi-pro league is that bad.

+ Callaway Gardens hosted the annual Masters Water Ski Tournament. Jimmy Siemers and Whitney McClintock won the titles in "men's tricks" and "women's tricks" - which is strange, because I've been told all these years that tricks are for kids.

+ Instant Message to Skipper's Seafood on Buena Vista Road: Which one is it? One side of your sign offers a "blue crab boil" on Friday nights. The other side offers a "blue CARB boil." Would I need to enroll in Weight Watchers, to know which color of carbohydrate is better for me?

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