I slept in my car last night. The problems with sleeping in ones car are many-fold, as has been adequately noted by others: Sleeping in a car parked on the side of the road. Either you freak-out the house dwellers, or the cops show-up, or some jerks come by and harass you… Its, just, not an activity one should ever do. But desperate times call for desperate measures.
I have slept in my office a time or two. But in my contract with the landlord, “living” in their offices is strictly verboten. And I cannot afford another eviction. No, I must find lodging elsewhere.
I’ve heard of one man, in Santa Barbara, who used to sleep on the beach. I am sure others are presently doing so. But that sounds like a gritty, smelly, damp, cold, and dangerous night of no sleep. That same man is currently sleeping in a tent in someone’s back yard. Not that he has to, he has far more money in the bank than you or I, its just how he rolls. Did I mention I love Santa Barbara? Not only is there a thousand-naire bivouacked in someone’s back yard, but there is a homeowner letting him do so. Myself, I’ve been living in an Argosy trailer in the back of someone’s yard for six years. We Santa Barbarians may be eccentric, but we’ve got heart.
Santa Barbara is replete with unconventional living arrangements, we have to be. If you were to look at our city on a map you will notice three things: One, there is the Pacific ocean to our south. Two, there are mountains to our north. And three, almost the entirety of those mountains are National Forest Park land. The city of Santa Barbara is the little sliver of land in between. The only where left to build is up, right? No. Santa Barbara has strict building height restrictions. Firstly, because of the great earthquake of 1925. And secondly, because the people of this city want to preserve “Santa Barbara’s small town personality and historic ambience.” The History of Santa Barbara’s Building Heights is a fascinating read. As well as, B is for Building Height which chronicles our townsfolk’s efforts to restrict building heights, even more.
No, until I can earn enough money to afford a better option, I’ll be sleeping in my car. “So,” you ask, “what was that like?” Taking a page from my research of others’ experience, I made a plan… I drove to a location I had reconnoitered the day before at the precise time of night I wished to go to sleep, with the sun roof open, just a bit, for ventilation. To avoid attracting attention, I was already dressed in my pajamas (soft cotton workout pants and t-shirt), and my bed already made. Once parked, I kicked off my shoes and was about to jump in the back seat, when a car pulled up and parked behind me. I busied myself, acting like I was looking for something. The driver got out of his car and walked, straight away, into his house. Before someone else had the chance to show-up, I got into the back seat and crawled into the trunk through the opening left by the rear seats with their backs folded down, and then carefully pulled the seat backs upright again, making the car appear empty. That’s right, I slept in the trunk of my car.
I’m six feet, one inch tall and wirey. It was cramped, but I was comfortable. I lay there and listened. Warm in my cubby hole, I was overwhelmed with a sense of giddiness. Like I was pulling one over on the world. I heard cars pull-up, muffled conversations, doors closing. At one point a woman walked her dog past my car. I heard her soft voice urging, “come on boy. Come on boy.” With the seat backs fully upright, it was pitch black. The back of my head was pressed against the panel that housed the passenger side tail light and my feet alternating position between tail light and seat back, trying to find the place of perfect comfort. “Okay,” I thought to myself, “As dry runs go, not too bad.” I busied myself with contemplation of how the experience could be improved. I think I drifted off to sleep. Then awoke again and conked my head on the trunk lid, with a faint sense of oncoming claustrophobia. I listened. No noises except the sounds of trucks on the highway, 200 yards away. I slowly shifted position, ’til my head reached one of the seat backs and pushed a little. The resulting cool air and dim street light brought on a feeling of calm. I checked my phone, under the covers, so as not to be detected… Only three hours had past. I thumbed the phone to change the alarm time. Instead of 5am, I’ll wake at four. I felt around behind me. I had placed a little pillow in here. Finding it, I put it between my head and the wheel well and tried again to sleep. Sleep came, I think, but I awoke again. “Maybe if I poke my head out a little bit, I’ll be comfortable.” I pushed the seat back all the way down and placed my pillow and head upon it. “A little better,” I thought, and tried to sleep. I don’t know if I actually slept, but I was brought alert by nearby voices, lights turning on, and movement. Slowly I pulled my head back into my cubby hole and listened. A drunk maybe? I heard a woman’s voice. A lover? The light extinguished itself. The voices moved away. In what seem like many minutes, quiet returned. I pulled the seat back upright again and tried to get comfortable. I checked my phone… 1am. I waited and listened. Drifted in and out of slumber. Checked my phone again… 2:02am. I listened. All quiet. Slowly I shifted again, but this time so my feet pressed the seat back on its side. Pushing it all the way down, I extend my blanket covered legs ’til my feet touched the back of the driver’s seat. Fully extended and laying on my back… Finally, comfort. I slept. I awoke again. This time the house light right next to my car came on, casting its light inside my car. Voices again. A woman’s voice urging someone to, “get up, sleepy head.” Foot steps nearby. The muffled sound of someone startled. Did they see me?! I lay perfectly still, holding back a flood of potential terror and embarrassment. More voices, communicating. Minutes pass… I stay utterly still for many minutes more, legs and feet still protruding into the cabin. I look at my phone under the blanket… 3:15 am. Light is still on. I decide to risk it. I find my keys and begin pulling myself into my car proper. Slowly I pull my body out, open the door and get out. No one there. I get in and drive away.
I drove to 7/eleven, bought a cup of coffee and two Epic bars. And drove around in search of a level patch of pavement in a dark and secluded place, free from traffic, cops, homeless, and party goers. I locate one. Next time I’ll put box over my legs and label it, “Vinyl Wood Flooring.” Or something. Next time, I’ll actually get some sleep.