Friday, August 1, 2008

As promised, I have a hell of a story about getting to the airport to fly home… I’ll share it, but I really don’t want any comments lecturing me about how stupid I was!

I had a ticket for Monday July 21, but moved it up to Sunday to surprise my boyfriend…

I live about 15 miles from LAX (or 30 to 90 minutes. LOL!) Of course, parking at the airport is horribly expensive and I didn’t want to leave my car there for over a week. With my flight leaving at 9:15 a.m., that meant asking someone to get up pretty early, but I was able to secure a lift to the airport… for Monday.

When I decided at 3 a.m. Saturday to move my flight up, I knew I was running a big risk, but I decided it was worth it. I was on pins and needles all day Saturday waiting to hear if my original ride could take me Sunday instead; at 5 p.m. I found out they could not. I had already priced a cab and looked at the bus routes; yes, I know more than one person in LA, but I can’t tell you how much I hate asking people for things! Especially on such late notice, and airport transport is almost as bad as helping someone move – no one wants to do it! With cab fares nearly as bad as parking at the airport, I resigned myself to the fact I’d have to take the bus.

No big deal… people use the bus everyday. I’ve been meaning to figure out how to use the public transit system, but hadn’t forced myself to do it. I knew it had to be easy, but I felt so stupid! Do I have to get a ticket? Can I pay the driver? How do I know which bus goes where? I’d heard horror stories – that the buses are unreliable, the people are scary and that your trip takes three-times longer…

I had visited the official LA public transit website several times but still didn’t feel confident in the logistics. The bus schedules and maps are difficult to read; fortunately they have a trip planner in which you just enter your destination and it tells you where to go. Although there’s a bus stop right in front of my apartment, I’d have to walk three-fourths of a mile to another one to catch a 5:45 a.m. bus. It would take me three miles east to the hub at Universal Studios where I’d have to find the Red Line to go to the Flyaway terminal in Van Nyce, which is several miles west of both Universal, my apartment and the first bus stop. From Van Nyce I’d take the third bus south, directly to LAX, arriving an hour and a half later at 7:15 a.m. and costing a total of $6.50.

I “pulled an all-nighter” packing, the entire time mulling over the reality of my situation. At six in the morning, the bus should be safe, right? But I’ll be a single white female with a large suitcase and matching carry-on, a clear target of vulnerability with a high likelihood of valuable possessions. Indeed, I’d be carrying a laptop, digital camera, yet to be activated iPhone and two Coach purses! What if I missed one of my connections? What if I missed my flight?! Was I seriously going to roll my big-ass suitcase nearly a mile down the street at 5 in the morning?

Yes, yes I was, and I was damn proud of myself! Why not take the bus?! I’d be saving myself money, saving someone else gas, saving the environment emissions (maybe), I wouldn’t owe anyone for taking me and most of all, I’d prove to myself I could do it! At one point I just told myself to just shut the fuck up! It’s public transportation, it’s there for people to use! It can’t be that hard! It’s a bus, not a subway, which seems like it should be safer… But then as the five o’clock hour drew closer, I was once again overwhelmed by the fear. No matter how I acted or dressed, being alone and carrying luggage put a target on my back.

But what could I do!? I left my apartment at 5:15 a.m. I had hoped it would be light out, but it was not. As I walked by the bus stop in front of my apartment, with the wheels of my suitcase making a racket on the sidewalk past all the apartment buildings, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Not only was it odd as a small town Ohioan, but also as an LA resident. People in LA do not walk. Anywhere.

When I reached the main road a problem I had anticipated came to fruition. The bus stop was not where it had looked to be on the map, but there were stops on the other three side of the damn intersection. Great! How was I to know which one was right? I wheeled past the 24 hour diner at on the corner and asked the only other person waiting; he pointed me to the stop in the opposite direction. As I wheeled back past the restaurant a group of diners on the patio called out to me. “Do you need… help?” I told them which stop I was looking for and they whipped out their phones to use their GPS… They asked where I was going and then they explained that the Flyaway hub was the opposite direction and only sends buses from Van Nyce to LAX and back, every 15 minutes. “You mean I’m going to Universal, to then go all the way back to Van Nyce?” (I know I explained that above, but had not realized it until they told me.)

“Let us finish our breakfast and we can drop you off in Van Nyce.”

I know this sounds like a bad idea, I in that moment I knew there was no way I was turning them down! Of course I asked, “Are you serious? You would do that?”

Before you start freaking and writing long comments about my safety, hear me out… In addition to just being a damn good deal, two things made me immediately say yes. #1. There’s strength in numbers. They were three twenty-something females and two guys. This sort of offer from a singer person, or even a couple would have seemed odd, but these were clearly a group of friends who trusted one another and were accountable for one another. #2. I immediately got a good vibe. I know, I know, con artists specialize in creating a false sense of security, but I believe that 9 times out of 10 we can trust our intuition about people. Their helpfulness was genuine.

They said, “We’ve already helped one girl in need tonight, we have to help you…”

I joined them and ordered a cup of coffee. As it turns out, they all knew each other from AA meetings. That night they had gone to a rave-type event at the Santa Monica Pier. They said it had strangely turned out to be a non-event; there was no live music, no… anything, yet 25 thousand people had shown up, of course many of them were on one substance or another. They noticed a young woman passed out on the beach. Before long she drew a crowd of people making jokes and taking pictures. The women I met tried to wake her and when they realized the severity of the situation, the guys went to find a cop. When she did come to, they said she literally shot up and ran away like a scared wild animal. Ironically they ran into her again, she was clearly tripping on something hard and her friends had left her. The women insisted on helping her and though she didn’t make it easy, they eventually got her to tell them where she lived and took her home. She called them her “crack angels,” thus indicating one of the substances she may have been on!

Among the group, there were varying levels of familiarity; one of the guys realized it was his thirtieth day of sobriety and one of the women got him a “thirty day chip” from her car. He was so overwhelmed by what the women had done for the girl on the beach, he kept calling them heroes, picked up the tab for breakfast and had the waiter bring them chocolate cake…

One of the women who said she was a preschool teacher had purple hair, the thirty-day guy looked like Dave Navarro and another woman chattered away about everything from incorporating a new AA member more, to an accidental bank overdrafts and wondering how she’d pay her rent in a few days… They were real people supporting one another and offering me genuine help out of the goodness of their hearts.

Sure, getting in a car with a total stranger is never ever a good idea, but I’ve learned you just have to trust your gut! I immediately trusted these perfect strangers much more then the LA transit system and my ability to navigate it!

So instead of an hour and a half and three buses, I had coffee, met interesting people and took a 10 minute car ride, then a 15 minute bus ride straight to the airport…

I figured my boyfriend and another good friend would kill me when they heard what I had done, but they both said at least I got to know them, and had plenty of time to get out of the situation if it had turned odd. Also in my defense, if anything would have happened, one other Ohio friend knew my plan of taking the bus.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I bet I know at least one who you directed that comment about safety lectures to...LOL!!!!!! Anyway, what a heartwarming story...just goes to show there are genuinely warm, caring people out there!