<By Beppy Huls>
I joined the sailing team on a lark. I was 700 miles from home and didn’t know a soul. The flyer said “no experience needed.” I was the only member of the team who took that line seriously. Everyone else knew the moves, knew the terms, like they had been brought up as sailors, and they had, in gated, man-made lakeside country club communities. Practice was grueling, but I stuck with it because I liked being out on the lake and we always went out for dinner afterwards. Being on the sailing team forced me to interact with people, forced people to interact with me, and I got to go to the regattas that were of no real consequence – the college road trip experience.
It’s a twelve hour drive from Austin, TX, to New Orleans, LA. We left around 3:00 pm and stopped at the liquor store before we got on the highway. We had rigged up a television and DVD player in the backseat and brought along Super Troopers (I do have the sailing team to thank for introducing me to that great piece of cinema) and The Usual Suspects, but they don’t make up nearly that much time, and we started to get bored. Meanwhile, I was realizing just how out of my element I was. Children of privilege behave in ways I don’t understand. There were a lot of incredibly racist jokes followed by looking at the kid from Venezuela to make sure he was laughing too because that would make it okay regardless of the target race. Not knowing how to handle the situation, I started drinking. I had never drunk to excess before, and this seemed as good a time as any. By midnight, around Baton Rouge, the van’s 9 underage passengers had gone through copious amounts of alcohol and were basically retarded. We were complaining about not having anything left to watch on the DVD player and that no place would be open except a porn shop – a statement which was followed by the inevitable, “hey, wouldn’t it be funny if we got a porno?”
The idea was tossed back and forth and all but dismissed when we pulled up next to a Burger King and saw neon lights flashing XXX directly across the parking lot. The count of coherent van occupants was down to me and five males. This would make me the cool chick. I shrugged and said, “why not?” And when the cheapest porno we could find, Poke-A-Hot-Ass, was $25 and I threw down $5 before anyone else, they couldn’t help but follow suit. We were buying a porno, “just for shits. You know . . . just to see how bad it is. And make fun of it.” There was nothing weird about a bunch of drunken college dudes and a drunken 18 year old virgin freshman watching a porno in a van. Nothing at all. (I actually wasn’t at all worried about anything like that. It had been established that no one on the team was attracted to me, as I weighed an unacceptable 140 lbs.)
So we started to watch it and the first thing the dudes did was start in on the women for being fat and ugly, and that made me feel just awesome because they were skinnier than I was. We made little quips about the dialog, but there’s not much to joke about during the sex scenes themselves. The experience was moving away from funny and going straight into uncomfortable territory. I did the only thing I could think of; I just kept drinking.
I was drifting in and out of consciousness when I heard the sirens. Actually, I don’t know if I heard the sirens or saw the lights first. Point is, it was the fucking cops. We were being pulled over and I was 18 and shitfaced. Our driver, Andy, the only sober team member, got out of the van and told us not to move. I sat there for what seemed like forever, drafting my speech to my parents about how I was talked into it and just wanted to be part of the group. They’d feel sorry for me. They knew how badly I wanted to make friends.
So there we were in the van, 9 of us, all now fully awake and aware in at least some capacity, while Andy was outside talking to the cop. We sat there barely breathing, not moving a muscle, as if sitting completely still would somehow improve our situation, and Andy came back and said something to Pedro, Pedro ejected the porno and handed it to Andy, who walked away with it, came back, and we got the fuck out of there.
Andy explained to us that the cop had walked Andy back to his car and told him that it’s illegal to transport pornography across the state of Louisiana, but he’d let us go if we just gave him the porno. The cop kept a respectable distance from the van – he seemed to assume there were people masturbating in the van and he couldn’t very well arrest them for that. That assumption kept me out of the drunk tank.
We made it to New Orleans, where we continued to drink, and Boston lost the semifinals to the motherfucking Yankees and that’s all I yelled about for the rest of the weekend. What’s great about New Orleans is you can be 18, drunk off your ass, hurricane in hand, staggering up and down the street yelling, “Man, FUCK the Yankees!” and other unintelligible musings, and passersby won’t look twice. I promise you that couldn’t happen in Lenexa, Kansas. I’ve been back to The Big Easy several times since then and it remains one of my favorite cities. I have a few stories about being there, but none of them are as epic as the one about the time we drove there in the sailing team van.
Beppy Huls lives in cozy, uneventful Overland Park, KS with her husband, her two cats, and her dog. In high school she was voted most likely to write a bestseller. She’s working on it. Very slowly. http://www.whataboutbeppy.com.
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