My Epic Electric Journey with Men in Parking Lots

by Indigo Pearl – Contributing Writer

A few weeks ago, in December 2021, I drove my brand new zero emission Electric Vehicle across the country from Massachusetts to California. 

It was my first time doing a transcontinental drive like this in an EV alone, and there are long stretches of Texas and New Mexico that have little to offer in the way of public charging. 

So, this story should be about the harrowing journey in the New Mexico desert where I got stuck at a broken charger, had to be towed deeper into the desert to an RV park in the windiest part of southern New Mexico, where I passed the night huddled in my wind flattened tent through a dust storm while filling my car battery, and how I drove away at dawn, with lungs lined with grit yet still breathing…

But it is not.

Unfortunately, this story is about F’n men propositioning me for sex in parking lots.

The friendliest charge I got on the trip was at Roanoke, Virginia, where the town fills your battery at the fastest, level 3, for three bucks right downtown where one can walk, find a clean public bathroom, hear buskers play music, eat at locally owned restaurants and cafes and shop for cool memorabilia. Fun! 

I did meet some nice people on my trip. In Little Rock, Arkansas there was a trans-gendered person at a farm to table cafe who suggested I write about my electric journey.

In one place in Oklahoma, I went into a coffee shop run by women, with great lattes and tchotchkes for sale. There was a good if expensive charging station there; but most of the journey I sat around at Walmart superstore parking lots in the middle of nowhere waiting for my car to charge enough to get the hell outta there.

During one of those charging sessions, a friendly middle aged oil rig worker whom we’ll call Orlando Hernandez suddenly approaches, all curiosity and manners, asking about the car’s range and showing interest in the abundance of information I have to offer.

Driving an EV is inevitably a kind of mission. Almost every time I charge my car, people walk up to me with questions and concerns about EVs, and I can’t blame them,  asking an EV driver is a much more reliable source of real info than the car dealerships, where most of the salespeople know little about EVs even if they are honest.

I say to Orlando, “How about the exorbitant cost of public charging? I should write about the injustice and political wrongness of privatizing EV charging. We should build a public sustainable energy network to freely power numerous chargers in every rest stop across the country. They should be in well-lit and safe places everywhere, so that everyone can charge for free.”

We finish the conversation and I go back into my car, when he suddenly approaches the open window, and leans in.

“Hey, you wanna have some fun?”

I respond in a manner the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called “being a lady” and say firmly and with dignity “I don’t do that, I’m not interested,” and am still even willing to end the conversation cordially when he says “Can I at least touch your…” gesturing to my breast.

This is when I wave him away, roll up my window and exclaim loudly “We were having a nice conversation and you ruined it, get away from me, go!”

But in my mind I am screaming at him and every other dude sexually harassing someone in a parking lot…

GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME YOU FUCKING ASSHOLES

GO FUCK YOURSELVES

GO FUCK EACH OTHER

BUT STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME

But you know, having been assaulted in a parking lot I can tell you that you can only say so much, because the reality is they can probably rape you anyway, being that much stronger and less concerned with ethical questions and human feelings. In fact, a proposition like this is almost always lined with the threat of taking by force if I give the wrong answer or if my attitude isn’t submissive enough.

To Orlando’s credit, he backed away and apologized, and he did not follow nor threaten me in any way other than of course sexually harassing me in a parking lot.

That was the first time on this trip I was scared.

I had been on the road for almost two weeks by then, through NYC rush hour traffic, through valleys, mountains, camping in thunder storms in below freezing temps and was now heading for the harsh southern Texas desert. I had reasons to be scared – I later did get stuck with a drained battery, I did almost have to consider changing my name from Indigo Pearl to Tumble Weed, and I even saw an amazing UFO in the Marfa, Texas sky.

But I wasn’t scared until I realized Orlando could follow me to the desert and have his way if he was a psychopath or even just a jerk.

What the fuck is wrong with people!

Even when I told a trusted hetero cisgender male friend about this his first reaction was “well, you are hot” implying what? That I should take this harassment as a compliment and let the guys off the hook because my attractiveness overpowers them? What the fuck is wrong with you guys? And I do mean guys because I have never been sexually harassed by a woman. Respectfully asked and accepted, yes, but not harassed.

Truly, even if I were straight, no woman wants to be propositioned anything at a Walmart “porking” lot.

In contrast, how about the gay male host at a hip camping spot in Texas who understood with amazing insight what my quest is about. When I travel I like meeting people who are considered to be on the fringes because if they are managing to survive where they are day to day, I should be able to get through 24 hours.

Which can be challenging when the charging company with a monopoly over a 600 mile stretch of highway fails to provide a working charger. The next day I was stranded in a remote stretch of the southern New Mexico desert. My only recourse was, as mentioned earlier, to be towed at sunset on a dark local road to an RV park 90 miles away near the Mexican border.

The tow truck driver, we’ll call him Johnny Crowfeather, is a gentle soul I am hard pressed to imagine hurting me. Even though we are deep in the desert in a terrain he knows well, and by the time anyone would have noticed I was missing both my body and car could have been parceled out for parts and made to disappear, I am trading UFO stories and making jokes. I feel in control of the situation, as I am all too aware that I wouldn’t be writing this right now if Johnny were a psychopath or even just a jerk.

The Saguaro National park awaited as I hurried into Arizona, wind swept, exhausted to the marrow of my bones, but still driving down the road in my unbeatable electric horse.

Although I got no sleep in the dust storm the night before, the sight of those majestic cacti was enough to shake me out of my stupor to take a walk and some pictures. At the visitor center, congratulating myself on having survived fairly unscathed both Texas and New Mexico, this guy approaches with a dog in his arms. The dog is one eyed, small and ill and he cradles her with the tenderness of a lover. I know that relationship, I used to have it with a dog I saved from abusive owners and who probably saved me from self destruction. I talk to the guy, a Vietnam veteran whom we’ll call Jerry Miller, about PTSD and how animals help and how he saved his dog from the streets of some city and she clearly saved him from going nuts, and he shows interest in the car and says what I am doing “is brave” and then he asks me…

“Hey, are you a Christian?”

I’m surprised, as even from this guy, who seems pretty decent and generally respectful, I would have expected “do you wanna have some fun?” before that question. I rally and disclose that “I tried it on for size but it didn’t take” as he sizes me up and says, “if you need a place to stay you can come to my house” as if my lack of Christian faith wasn’t going to stop him from extending me the privilege of, what? Warming up his bed? Becoming his mate? His personal assistant? Even if he was sincerely looking for a girlfriend, the bottom line is that after engaging me in a friendly conversation about whatever I was interested in, he was propositioning me for a “missionary position.”

I politely declined the invitation and to his credit Jerry left me alone after that – no friendly goodbye or “good luck on your journey” once I shut down his plans for the night.

But in my mind I am screaming

GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME YOU FUCKING ASSHOLES

GO FUCK YOURSELVES

GO FUCK EACH OTHER

BUT STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME

But again I was scared – I was in his town and driving a conspicuous car, and if he wanted to follow me he could have. Here I am surrounded by some of the most strikingly beautiful landscape in the Southwest where I could spend days happily exploring on foot, yet my attention is occupied by this pesky thought that I must get the hell away from this national park in case Jerry is a psychopath or even just a jerk.

So I stayed at a woman’s house in Tucson and drove all day the next day to get into California, where I thought surely the charging stations would be better positioned, not all owned by one negligent company, and there would be a bathroom. I was sorely disappointed on all three counts as I pulled into a mall parking lot a couple of hours east of Los Angeles.

Truly I am appalled by the EV charging corporations – chargers are often badly situated, poorly maintained and inconsistently and almost always grossly overpriced. Even the physical design of the charging station is often ludicrous as if whomever came up with it never saw an EV or understood how they work or where one plugs into them.

This is a competitive, consumerist approach to what should be a species-wide effort, a situation in which the commodity being traded isn’t electricity, but the EV driver’s dire need to not run out of charge before getting to the next charger. EV drivers are blatantly taken advantage of by the charging companies and the charger “hosts” who get to set the price. Even worse is the predatory nature of most of the businesses involved (Walmart, Dunkin’s, chain motels, malls.) I would like to see the fastest chargers next to health food stores, farm to table restaurants and in Eco motels. I would like to see solar panels and windmills near by.

I am talking about this to a guy, we’ll call Ken Chung, at the East L.A. mall who pulls up next to my car to charge his small outdated yet still operational drive-around-town EV. Naturally we engage in a conversation about the advances made since he last shopped for an EV and about range anxiety. We commiserate about commercial charging companies who put a $5-$20 hold on your credit card and exact a fee of $10-$20 for a lesser and slower charge.

Ken is an attractive late 20s – early 30s professional, getting ready to ride his scooter around the mall while his car charges. After an otherwise pleasant conversation, he thrusts his phone at me and says…

“Hey, can I have your phone number?”

“No,” I say incredulous, “you can’t have my number” but in my mind I am screaming

GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME YOU FUCKING ASSHOLES

GO FUCK YOURSELVES

GO FUCK EACH OTHER

BUT STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME

My epic electric journey was challenging what with the greedy and incompetent charging companies.  Sexual harassment aside, I feel like I am being punished for doing my bit for the environment!

Still, I can’t help but wonder if any of those guys would have propositioned me for sex in Roanoke Virginia, in the middle of town right in front of City Hall where people walk by and one can ask for help in case of an encounter with a psychopath or even just a jerk.