Saturday, 12 June 2010

First Impressions

Bleary eyed, slightly disorientated and looking a right state, as is the norm when you arrive in a new country seven hours before you left the last, the greeting I received seemed at odds with my lack of sleep and the stern questioning / scanning of various body parts two minutes earlier.

"In town for a modelling job?" asked the portly unformed man charged with collecting my customs form. I shook my head, more baffled than complimented. "No? My bad. Heh heh. Have a nice stay."

I wondered into arrivals smiling. Armed with an address and phone number, resisting the simplicity and expense of a taxi, I called my hostel and got directions to it via public transport.

Fifteen minutes later and I was on a bus where passengers seemed to actually talk to each other, rather than staring into the back of a fellow passenger's head. Not me though. My bleary eyes found a seat behind a man whose grey hair was covered by a black baseball cap, which promoted "The Future of Handguns" in stitched white lettering on the back. We progressed slowly away from the airport in roads thick with traffic, and crawled past the first of many billboards announcing

"Lose weight with the lapband! Call 1 - 800 - GET-THIN"

Oh yeah, thought I. Welcome to Los Angeles.

It was while I was waiting for my second bus at Union Street Bus Station, feeling every bit the conspicuous tourist with my engorged backpack and flip flops, that America made its first introduction. Whether it was my vaguely confused expression, the backpack or all of the above, no less than three people asked if I knew where I was going, needed help or what bus I was waiting for.

"The 33." I told the third, a woman sitting at the bus stop alongside me. "I need to get to..." I paused while I checked the alien sounding road names on the palm of my hand, "Seven and...main street? South main street? I think?"
"Seven and main?" she repeated.
"Yes, is 33 the right bus?"
"Yes that's the bus I'm getting. But you don't want to go to seven and main." A worried expression came over her face. "It's very dangerous."

Now, if there's one thing bound to spoil the mood when you've just arrived in a new country, it's being told that you're headed somewhere inherantly dangerous. Reading Lonely Planet and hearing rumours from other backpackers is one thing, but when your destination is denounced by a local...one does start to panic a little. The warnings continued as we boarded the bus. She told the bus driver where I was going, to alert me when we were there, then asked another woman on the bus to verify where I had to get off. This was between telling me how bloody awful downtown LA was, and most importantly, how I must not leave my hostel or wonder around at night on my own.

After assuring her that I had no such plans, and that my location choice was down to ease of airport access rather than suicidal tendencies, she seemed to relax. A bit. I, meanwhile, was about to disembark a bus in a dodgy area with $95 and a rather essential passport in my pocket.

There was only one thing for it. I steeled myself, hopped off the bus and enlisted the help of my long forgotten London Face. Usually reserved for people edging to nab my seat on the tube or for barging past people on Oxford Street, my London Face got me safely to my hostel where I'm sitting now, typing this, unscathed. But knackered.

So, good night Friday, it was nice seeing you twice today. But I've got a 6:30am appointment at LAX arrivals to pick up my bodyguard / Boyfriend tomorrow, so this girl's got to sleep.

Oh, and hello America. Nice to meet you.

4 comments:

roseski said...

Ignoring the fact that this is an American chicflick and nothing like real life... I saw this trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HGDx2cAdMo&feature=fvst and thought it was going to be the story of you and boyfriend! ...but then it goes a bit off and they skip the part where he travels through multiple continents to get to you. I prefer your story!

London-Lass said...

Yes, I think my `London Face' has got me out of a few sticky situations too. But talk about an ego boost - arriving in LA and being asked if you're there to model?! The best I've had is a very small (slightly simian looking) Cuban trying to chat to me about my jeans (he probably wanted to sell them) when I arrived in Miami.

Ellie said...

Fuck Yeah!

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Roseski - Haha, just had a look at that. Uncanny. Maybe they should make a film about our story instead?

Londonlass - Yeah I'm still not sure if he was being sarcastic, but decided to take it as a compliment anyway. They're few and far between these days ;)

Ellie - WOOOOOOOOOYEAH!

 

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