Thursday, December 10, 2009

California or/a Bust

A holiday trip to Los Angeles has become a bit of a tradition in recent years, and I've been looking forward to this one since booking a flight last summer. My car rental was secured at roughly half-price (thank you, Priceline), and my dear friend Judy, who runs the drama department in a private high school out there, enlisted me to teach her students during the week. (Not only does it help allay the cost of the trip, it allows me to write the whole thing off. Plus, it's fun.)

I hit a major snag the week or so before taking off. A car was stolen from our condo's private parking lot, signalling yet again the joys of urban living. Very, very frustrating to know that one's own car, parked in one's own parking space (which is fully owned by each condo owner...I have a deed for my spot, and pay separate property taxes on it), is unsafe from the scum who make living in a city so trying. I had planned to leave my car safely parked in my own private spot for the 10 days of my trip; this seemed no longer logical. So, I came to the reluctant decision to leave my car at the airport, where it is surely safe but also very expensive.

I drove to National Airport (still can't bring myself to call it Reagan National) very early Saturday morning, under a steady, cold rain. I understand DC received several inches of snow later that day, but for now, it was just dark, wet, and yucky. As I pulled into the economy parking lot, I noticed the shuttle bus right ahead of me. This bus would take me from the faraway lot to the terminal, and as it was before 6 AM, I had a hunch there were not many of them roaming the lot. In an effort to park and get myself to one of the pick-up kiosks before this lone shuttle left, I slid into a spot, hurriedly hooked my new Club onto my steering wheel (again, thank you DC car thieves), popped the trunk, and dashed through the freezing rain to the closest pick-up hut.

Without locking my car.

I have hopes that, with the Club clearly visible, and the car itself in a "secure" parking lot, my Honda will be waiting for me when I return. Stay tuned on that one.

My luck continued to hold as I boarded the first, and longest, leg of my trip. I had chosen my seat, always on the aisle, online, but the airline had, quite sneakily, hidden the fact that it was one of those rows which backs up to a bulkhead. The seats do not lean back. The disappointment of sitting five hours straight, in a chair which did not recline, was compounded by the huge man who plopped into the seat in front of me. Without a doubt the fattest man on the flight, and the rudest, too, as he immediately reclined his seatback into my face. Other than take-off and landing, it remained in that position, with his seat about four inches from my head, and crammed against my knees so that even crossing my legs was out of the question.

This charmer also provided olfactory entertainment when, about four hours into the flight, he opened a huge bag of Beef Jerky and filled the cabin with the obnoxious smell. I had no idea Beef Jerky smells like human excrement, but it does. He passed the bag across the aisle to his wife, waving the fumes in my direction.

I despise the strangers with whom I am forced to travel, and this guy is a perfect example why.

The one hour flight from Phoenix to Burbank was, by comparison, a dream, and I had just enough time to get rid of the giggles I had from my Phoenix Airport layover. I was there less than an hour, and during that time, I caught two glimpses of the strangest sight I've ever seen in an airport. This character made me wish I had mastered the technique of snapping pictures surreptitiously with my cell phone, though the way this guy was acting, he probably would have posed for a picture had I asked him. But who wants to approach someone dressed so inappropriately?

See if you can picture it. He was a tall middle-aged man, over six feet, with short, nicely combed, gray hair. He had very broad shoulders which were accentuated by the 80s-style shoulder pads he wore under the bright red blouse which stopped just below the breast. He also wore very tight hip-huggers, also bright red (I guess it was a set), which rested just above his butt and clung to his trunk so closely it was apparent he wore no underwear. And what religion he wasn't.

The clothes were clearly meant for a woman smaller than himself, and created a huge gap in the mid-drift area. No, we were not treated to his sagging belly; he had covered up the middle torso with a black corset. You think I'm making this up, but I assure you, in this outlandish outfit, he marched up and down the terminal, glancing from side to side to make sure he was being noticed. And he was. I've never seen so many double-takes, giggles, and astonished stares.

He clearly loved every minute of it. What possesses some poor soul to seek that kind of attention in a public place?

Back to Burbank, where I picked up my rental car and headed out to lunch with Judy. We had a swell time catching up, and planning a bit for her classes to begin on Monday. It was late afternoon before I drove up the cul de sac to my hosts' home, where I was greeted with a distinct surprise. Stay tuned.

No comments: