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Weird Things That Have Happened to Me (and People I Know) While Living in Richmond

First of all, let me start off by saying that I absolutely adore Richmond. It’s a good mix of city and community. It doesn’t feel too big but still has public transportation and the general vibe of living in a more industrial area. However, during my time here, I have had the honor of being witness to some very strange events and situations. When laughing about it with my friends, many of them also pitched in and added some things that had happened to them.

For the most part, they are comedic, but I still find it funny that I never had such an excess number of entertaining stories back when I lived in the suburbs. I feel that the artistic and liberal vibes (both things that I loved about Richmond) largely contribute to this being the case. Here are a few strange and random things that have either happened to me or friends while either walking or just existing in Richmond.

Someone Accidentally Threw Weed at me During Their Drug Deal

I would like to start this one off by saying that I wasn’t at all involved in this drug deal, which was the funny part. Instead, I had woken up late and had decided to go on a walk around the neighborhood to (hopefully) help stimulate my motivation levels. I was almost back at my home when I turned a corner and approached a young man who was exiting a cute little townhome. As I passed by him, we made brief and polite eye contact, so I was surprised when someone from inside the townhome shouted wordlessly and went out onto the balcony.

From one floor up (they were standing well above us), this person shouted, “Hey man, you forgot your stuff,” and proceeded to toss a plastic baggy the floor down. I’m not sure if he was high at the time or if he simply didn’t have very good aim, but he did cause a fairly large and strongly smelled bag of weed to spin right past my ear and directly onto the floor. Overall, this wasn’t a big deal, but I wasn’t expecting someone to throw drugs of any kind at me or my head and so it came as a bit of a shock. Regardless, I’m glad that the man standing on the balcony was kind enough to remind his friend. 

My Car Broke Down Recently While Getting Take Out

This one happened very recently, and neither my roommates nor I can really attribute it to Richmond being at fault. We were driving late at night to go pick up Indian takeout and were in the intense process of both ignoring the alarmingly loud grind of the car motor and flashing engine light present on the dashboard. I specifically remember mentioning a slight scent of smoke, and my roommate responded with, “don’t worry about it.” 

Due to all this and the fact that we were cruising down the highway at debatably legal speeds, it should have come as much of a surprise when we did stop outside of the restaurant and suddenly became very aware of smoke billowing from the engine. Strangely enough, we were all more upset about the potential lack of being able to get food back to our apartment rather than the possibility of us having died. It worked out in the end, and our takeout was very good. 

Our House Got Squatted in Over Quarantine and a Tree Fell Through Our Window
Photo via @kenlud/fliker

After the end of last semester, it was common for people to have gone home for spring break, expecting to return and then simply did not once the plague fully descended upon us. It was during the following months that no one (out of the four people who live there) was really present in our apartment. About a month before school was going to be starting up once again, one of my roommates took the drive back to Richmond to pick up some things that she had left there prior.

The rest of us were shocked and (understandably) horrified when she proceeded to inform us someone (or a group of someone’s) had clearly been squatting in our apartment, sleeping in our beds, using our bathrooms and eating our food. They left a weird combination of backpacks, dirty shirts and children books sprawled across the floor. In addition to this, the only food they ate of ours was frozen mozzarella sticks, and the entirety of our first aid kits.

It was also in the same apartment that when we did move back in and was having to deal with all this stuff, a tree promptly fell and smashed through our window, spraying glass and further frustration along with it. It took management about one and a half months to finally get it fixed, and so, we lived for quite a while with a very blatant and alarming hole in our wall. 

Someone Using a Shopping Cart in a Very Creative Way

I feel that Richmond, as a whole, tends to have very exciting vehicles. I’ve seen cars with ridiculously big tires, and an excess number of smaller and less impressive things speed by on Broad Street. However, my favorite thus far has to be watching an elderly man mosey on by in a shopping cart that he had installed a motor of some sort into. It went surprisingly fast, and he seemed perfectly comfortable perched in the basket and revving the unexpected and seemingly very effective engine. 

Saw a Man With no Back to His Pants

It’s not that I haven’t seen a man’s ass before; it’s just that I don’t necessarily expect to see it in 30-degree weather with the added wind chill. I had been returning from a trip to Panera, bagel in hand, excited to get home and eat my spoils. As is not uncommon, I found myself walking several feet behind a man on my way down the street. I found no issue with this until I glanced up several seconds later, only to realize that although his jeans seemed normal, they were missing the entire back portion.

I hadn’t meant to stare, but being confronted with a random man’s ass only several feet away while I was just looking forward to getting to eat my bagel, was slightly shocking. I still don’t remember if his pants were simply sagging so low that his butt was hanging out or if they had been designed specifically to show more cheek that was advisable, but I’m not upset that I seem to have blocked it out for the most part. 

Made Direct Eye Contact With a Man Pissing on the Street

This one happened to a friend of mine. She was crossing the street and looked up to see a man peeing on the curb. This may not have been the most pleasant way to start the day but wouldn’t have been a big deal except that he was directly facing her, and they ended up making fairly extended and intense eye contact. She described the whole ordeal as “a strange battle to assert dominance while he emptied his bladder.”

The Worst Parallel Parking Job

The same friend who had the moment with our aforementioned pissing buddy told me about this one recently. She and a friend had been returning from their weekly coffee date from somewhere in Shockoe bottom and had watched a man pull up to a very small parking spot on the street. He then proceeded to try and back into the spot, squeezing his car in between two others and promptly backing up directly into the car behind him, setting off its alarm.

Understandably he then tried to pull forward, this time hitting the car in front and setting off that alarm as well. This was unfortunate in itself but what really got me was when my friend claimed he then simply got out of the car and waltzed into the nearby bank, leaving a symphony of car alarms and dented bumpers in his wake. 

Man Always Sits Outside of Nearby Business and Plays His Guitar… Very Badly

About a month ago, a thrift store opened up across the street from where I live. I haven’t ever gone in, as the prices are a bit steep for what I consider to be a “thrift” store. However, I’ve always enjoyed glancing wistfully at the well made and very expensive looking jean jackets lining the windows. Weirdly enough, the store opening also seemed to be accompanied by the presence of a random man. He sits right outside on the curb and switches between playing the guitar and ukulele. This by itself wouldn’t be particularly strange, but he also manages to do both extremely badly.

I don’t really mind him being there, but the confidence he plays and handles the instruments with suggests that he knows what he’s doing. But as soon he begins to strum away, it becomes very apparent that he does not. My roommates once told me that he winked at her as she passed him, something that could have been suave if it hadn’t been accompanied by a caterwaul of confusing chords and notes. One of the only positives of having online classes this semester is that I don’t have to walk by him every morning on my way to campus and hear his very loud and very debatable musical talent. Regardless, I’m glad he’s willing and confident enough to live out his dreams, even if it may hurt my ears. 

Random Pot Bellied Man Who’s Always Smoking in Our Garage

I don’t have much to say about this one beyond there is a man who, without fail, is always standing in our garage smoking a cigarette. Every single time we go down to drive somewhere or take out the trash, he is leaning against a wall, exhaling smoke and looking very angry. I don’t know why my roommates and I find this so funny— chain-smoking and looking as constantly unhappy as he does certainly isn’t. It’s something about the way that he stands, slumped with his pelvis shoved forward, aggressively sucking on the end of a cigarette and generally just being in the way.

As the parking garage is privately owned by the apartment complex, I’m fairly sure he has to live there to have access. However, I can’t say I’ve ever seen him anywhere but his special smoking spot. I like to think he neither enters nor exits the building. He simply exists as another strange and slightly irritating aspect of our home. 

Most of the things on this list are random and weird. Many of them aren’t even really positive. And yet, when I read over it, I am struck with affection towards where I live. Richmond is such a strange city. Like all other places, it has its own quirks and vibes. As eccentric as it can sometimes get, I find myself enjoying the people and places, no matter how uncomfortable some of them may make me. And even if some of these situations aren’t ideal, they do make for fun stories. 

Emma Ostenfeld is currently a Junior at Virginia Commonwealth University studying psychology. She is interested in creative (or any other form) of writing and has joined Her Campus in order to improve her skills and experience in this field. Originally from NOVA, she loves everything about living in Richmond Except that she had to leave her three cats at home and misses them dearly. She loves her friends but is enough of an introvert that alone time is a necessity for the sake of her mental health and the sanity of those around her. She is an extreme foodie and always appreciates any restaurant recommendations.
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