The Ladies of the Redlight District

Image result for prostitutes painting

Years ago, when I was 18 years old, at a time when cell phones and GPS systems weren’t existing, I drove all by myself from Austria down to the South of Italy. It was just me, my little car and our old farm dog -a security measure my Grandmother had insisted on. 

I took the scenic route and not the tollways that I couldn’t afford anyway. I passed Bologna and Verona, had lunch on a parking bench in Pisa and enjoyed dinner in a small tavern near Rome. It was around 8 pm in the evening when I decided I would continue my trip, only 3 more hours in the car and I would arrive at my destination. I wanted to visit friends in Salerno and finally visit Pompeii, that was the goal I had in mind.

Image result for italy map

 

It’s hard to get lost in Italy. It’s surrounded by the ocean, as long as you keep the water on the right side, you are good to go. It had been so easy during the day, now and then I had caught a glimpse of the sea when I looked through the passenger window, but at night, I felt lost. There was darkness when I looked outside, my focus point was gone. I decided to drive closer to the shore on my way through Napoli (Naples).

The scenery outside changed. I had been driving through impressive streets with big houses and lots of streetlights, now the houses got smaller, there was not much light, and everything looked shabby; then there were no houses at all, instead, I saw containers and big ships when I looked outside.

I had driven right into the harbor in the middle of the night, a place that turns into a red light district when the sun goes down. I passed a gate, drove around the curve and found myself at a parking lot, surrounded by women who didn’t wear too many clothes. I was stuck at a dead end, a place full of prostitutes.

It took around 2 seconds, and I was terrified; I panicked and thought about the little bit of money I had with me. Surely they would rob me and who knows what else they would do to me.

I locked the car doors, grabbed my purse, sat on it and tried to wake up the watchdog beside me. A few women approached my car and looked at me through the window. That was the end of me, I was sure about it.

They knocked and I had no other choice but to roll down the glass. They asked me what I wanted, and I told them all about my plans and the rest of my life story. I really can’t recall what I said, but I remember very well how they reacted.

Some of the older ones got angry with me and scolded me for driving around in the night, others made sure I got a cup of coffee and a something to eat. I spent about an hour with them, walked my watchdog and stretched my legs under their supervision. Cars pulled in and out, nobody bothered me. I was protected and safe.

They didn’t “allow” me to drive any further, they wrote down a name of a small hotel close by and they made sure I got there. I spent the rest of the night in a nice room, with clean sheets.

The next morning I got up well rested. When I wanted to pay for the room, I heard there was no charge. A friend of a friend of a friend was friends with the owner. I thanked the owner and left a note for the ladies.

Labeling people is a dumb thing to do. The ones we fear, at first sight, are often the ones who will surprise us the most. There is a lot of labeling going on these days and I hate it from the bottom of my heart. I wish I could reach people and make them understand.

Call a jack a jack. Call a spade a spade. But always call a whore a lady. Their lives are hard enough, and it never hurts to be polite.” ― Patrick Rothfuss

Label

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35 thoughts on “The Ladies of the Redlight District

  1. Read this very nice and thoughtful post, and most of the comments, as usual. So, first, I will add my enjoyment and appreciation of the quote to what appears to be the only other comment you got that noted it.

    As far as the overall message of the post and succeeding comments, I can really say a few more things, most of them based on tried and true and probably overused popular expressions.
    1. You can’t judge a book by its cover. I clearly remember saying these exact words to some friends when were discussing their disapproval for a young person who was tatooed, pierced, and at the time I think sporting green hair!
    2. A girl’s got to make a living. As long as all the girls mentioned chose to make their living by selling their bodies, far be it from anyone who makes a comfortable living by some other means to label or denigrate them. If only the Donald and his ilk realized and accepted there is a fine line between whores/prostitutes or whatever name they choose to refer to themselves and women who were forced to interact with him while making their living in other professions where their appearance would, for most people, not have any bearing on their skills or how they should be treated.

    As far as finding yourself in an unexpectedly seedy part of a seaside town…My dear, it’s clear that you did not grow up and have not spent much time in one anywhere else in the world. All port cities have at least one area like that within the city limits. I had a somewhat similar experience as a single girl when I was traveling up the east coast of the US and was forced to hunker down in a “no-tell” motel in New Haven, CT. While it’s true that I did have the money for a room with a door that locked, I was afraid that if I encountered anyone else there they might think I was one of “those” (professional) girls. My other fear was that the roof of this downtrodden and dirty old place might be blown off by Hurricane Gloria. This was my first experience with a weather related natural disaster. I grew up in Southern California and so was only acquainted with earthquakes before this. Now that I live in TN, I have learned to generally ignore tornado warnings as most of the natives do!

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    • “As far as finding yourself in an unexpectedly seedy part of a seaside town…My dear, it’s clear that you did not grow up and have not spent much time in one anywhere else in the world. ” I couldn’t help but laugh when I read that.
      I was 19 when I took the road trip down to Italy. That was my first vacation all by myself and the first time I left my tiny, little bubble…called home.

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  2. Brilliant story. They’re nice people.
    Some guy I ran into once brought me to two black prostitutes. I didn’t know they were prostitutes. It was in a private apartment, it was warm there and they sat in their underwear. They had a lot of cell phones that were buzzing and beeping all the time and I found that a bit weird. When we left I asked the guy about the phones and the explanation was: “They’re prostitutes.”

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  3. I wanted to see the “red light district in Amsterdam” because I could not believe it existed. It was full of women who looked like anyone else, but sitting in windows waited to be selected. I did not expect them to look like any other women. It just teaches us ” except for the grace of God”

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  4. How wonderfully brave and foolhardy – and you are so right. I find if you approach people with trust, whatever their outward trappings, you will rarely be disappointed. At 17 I hitchhiked all over Europe with my 22 year-old sister-in-law to be. She was a stunning blonde and we never had to wait long for a lift (we never accepted one with two men, only couples or single men). We met some terrifying driving, but nothing worse and we heard a lot of stories. This is probably why I struggle to write realistic villains into my writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I never hitchhiked on purpose, only once when my car broke down. I bet that trip was fun and you have great memories.

      I never had a really bad experience when I traveled. I am trusting, but not stupid and I use common sense. I guess that’s all that’s needed.

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  5. Bridget what a wonderful story of how wrong it is to label and judge. My heart was in my throat as I read, thinking of you driving in the dark like that! One never knows the reasons people end up as they do- and this story proves that- these women were kind and thoughtful and caring. Wonderful – thank you for sharing. I do love the quote too.

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  6. Such a lesson to learn in such a lovely way! Blessings come so many ways, don’t they? We all have amazing stories–so glad you shared this one. In the past months, I’ve felt completely blessed by someone shunned by so many for various reasons; this person has made me want to believe, fight and support her. My relationship and faith in God is the strongest ever. And I’ve gained a very special person in my life, along with a wonderfully ongoing experience too. True compassion changes us–if we let it.

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  7. Yes! This is life. This is Italy. This is the place where I rode the bus for free. Got a job in a hostel. Saw Pompeii even though I was completely broke. Italy rewards he foolhardy. The romantic. The dreamers.

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  8. A brilliant story to recall Bridget.. and it always shows us never to judge a book by its cover..
    I know from working in support.. And meeting some punk rockers complete with tattoos, piercings and dyed Mahican hair cuts, while out with those who had learning difficulties, they helped me settle one who was having a semi fit.. And we got talking and such hearts of gold you could not wish for..
    Moments earlier some very well dressed people had crossed the other side of the road, literally, tut tutting that such people should not be out, Meaning me and the two I was supporting who were brother and sister both Adults in their 50’s but with mental ages of around 6..

    Had they known the histories of these as children they would perhaps have had more compassion.. but some people only see what they want to see..

    I am so pleased these group of ladies, ‘Mothered’ you and took care of you.. And brave girl at 18 to undertake such a journey.. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • I will always recall that night in Naples. Looking back I belief it changed my life. Perhaps I was able to conquer the world because I didn’t feel fear of the unknown.

      I couldn’t help but smile when you wrote about the punk rockers. Way back I met a couple in London with a heart of gold, just their look was a bit different. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, they can look pretty scary lol, as the one I saw had a spiders web tattooed upon his head.. 🙂 lol.. But with their help I managed to calm the sister down while I saw to the other to make sure he was ok..
        And yes a pivotal moment in your life which could have turned the other way had they not looked after you..
        Bless you and long may your road be protected.. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  9. This is a wonderful story about labeling and acceptance. As humans, we tend to look at people and place them in a category that’s not always nice. Bravo to the Ladies…I hope they all found better circumstances and a better life because of their kindness.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It never pays to ‘label’ because one never knows what someone else is really about. Inside where things really count. Now it doesn’t hurt to be prudent and pay attention to one’s inner voices that will tell you, if you listen, when someone IS exactly what they seem to be and is a danger. And having dogs along never hurts. THEY aren’t fooled by outside trappings at all. There is a favorite meme of mine that shows a tough, biker looking chap helping an old lady across a street. There’s a kernel of wisdom with it, but danged if I can remember it. Basically it’s ‘judge not’ sort of thinking. We never should. And I loved the little saying at the end of your post…how very fine. Thank you for sharing! ❤

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    • I am glad you liked the quote at the end, it seems you are the only one -beside me. 🙂

      I think I saw the meme with the biker and the old lady. Never judge a book by it’s cover, that’s something many of us have to re-learn.

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    • For the longest time I thought life cheated me, when we couldn’t have children. Now, with age, I realize more and more how blessed my life is and has been-even though it wasn’t the “normal life” I wished for.

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      • It’s funny how we have to keep re-framing our expectations from life based on the plot twists that come around. I guess the people who are really unhappy never mastered the art of re-framing.

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