Monday July 1, 2002

Zoe Bott is a 17 year old girl who works at the place I do. She does telephone support and referrals for young people. She’s been trained to use “active listening skills” to provide peer-to-peer counseling and give information to callers about youth programs and services. Last Friday night during her shift she told people in the office that she had run away from home.

I was in the room, designing a database application to record the statistics of the street outreach efforts of the organization, and I was just eavesdropping but the basic gist of it was that Zoe wasn’t too worried about it. I thought of all the messed up stuff I’d experienced on the streets in SF and I was afraid for Zoe for a second. Did she really know enough about the situation to justify not being afraid? The tone of her voice seemed to be too confident – like she was the perfect candidate to have her romantic adolescent scheme shattered by some sagely TOUGHLOVE. She spoke of sleeping in tunnels and shelters and couch-surfing. Her fellow peer counselors on that shift seemed kind of stunned. What to do when someone who gives support to runaways decides to become one? Chris asked her where she was going to go and she said hadn’t figured that out yet.

I started to think of that film Dark Days. I thought of an ex-girIfriend who is permanently damaged from her days as teen tweaker. I remembered when I learned that when you go see the crack dealer, it aint like the pot dealer. You just smoke right there with him out of his pipe. You don’t buy a sack and then go home. You do it in a doorway on the street. He’s not like some stoner geek trying to make friends. Crack dealers look like they’ve had their eyes punched out. To me, couch-surfing is a wholesome, exploratory stage most college-age kids go through. Hustling just plain sucks. All I said to her that night was “take care” as she was leaving.

I was telling a Adam about it how remarkably plain-spoken and forthright she was, and the irony of her situation and he suggested I write a story about her (he's managing editor at Wired). I emailed her and asked if I could put it on my website and she agreed to it the next day.

I talked with her last night and I'm gonna write about that here.