Names have been changed to protect the identities of the innocent.
On a rainy winter night I approached a mini-bus parked at a dirt field at the end of town. There were no signs of light inside and no other sounds besides water droplets bouncing off the fiberglass roof. “Jack! You in there?” I called listening for any movement within. Then the hydraulic doors parted the way they’d down thousands of times before when the micro-bus was in use by the City of Bellflower.
“What are you up too? Come on in.” Jack announced with excitement. He appreciates nothing more than visitors. A wave of heat hit my face as I climbed up the stairs and the mechanical doors closed behind. A propane heater in the back of the bus explained why Jack was hanging out in pajama shorts on this cold night.
“Dude, I was just cooking up a stir-fry. There’s plenty to go around.”
The bus’ seats were removed and a bed built in the back turning the vehicle into a mobile living quarters. Black cloth hung over the windows blocking any light from the outside and his two massive dogs returned to their bunks after they gave me a thorough sniffing.
Jack has lived out of vehicles longer than anyone else I’ve known and has the routine down to a science. His set up wasn’t always this luxurious. When I first met him he used to park a rusty white van at the river mouth where I surfed often. His dogs used to roam the area freely until the city started actively protecting the Snowy Plover, an endangered bird that lives in sand dunes of California. For years Jack parked his van there until his dog Duke ran up to a harbor patrol officer with a snowy plover hanging from the sides of his mouth.
“Since you are the guru of living out of vehicles I decided to ask you a few questions to write a story about how to save money by avoiding rent.”
Jack was actually a marine in his younger years. After camping for years in the jungles of Vietnam and killing numerous individuals all he wanted when he returned was to live a peaceful existence. He had some kids and tried to work a normal job, but had trouble taking orders from any kind of boss. With no rent he is able to live a comfortable existence working the occasional odd job in construction.
“What if someone was to live out of their vehicle and work a normal job. Theoretically they’d be able to stack some serious dough. Don’t you think?”
“Sure dude, I used to pay almost twenty thousand a year for rent in California.”
Jack handed me a beer as the stir fry sizzled before us his face turned serious and he went into the basics of how to live out of a vehicle.