Right now I am on a Continental Airlines flight heading to Houston, Texas. The flight is 4 days after my planned departure, but is 4 days before the original re-schedule. The itinerary is not ideal, but the main thing is to get back to the UK and hopefully stay there for a while. From Houston I fly to Frankfurt, where I have 4 hours to wait before the next flight. I plan to get some sleep on the trans-Atlantic leg, and then shower in Frankfurt before the short hop to London.
Los Angeles: So heading from San Francisco to Los Angeles I didn’t really know what was waiting for me. I am not a huge fan of large cities, and my time living in London a few years ago has cured me of wanting to live in one. For me, though, as a Brit, the advantage of city living is the idea at least that you don’t need a car. There is public transport, and everything within a short distance. Even if this is the case in LA, you simply need a car. Not having a car is a strange thing. It is frowned upon, it would seem.
I spent the first couple of days in LA just trying to get some work done, and more importantly, trying to find out if I could get home any earlier. I was reading about jet engines, volcanic ash, trans-Atlantic routing, airline regulations, and all sorts of other things in order to try to find a way home a little sooner. It eventually worked, with the agent on the phone doing everything that she could to get me one of the seats that invariably opened up as people cancelled and took earlier standby fights themselves.
I felt trapped. The past week was not a pleasant experience. It wasn’t horrific either, and I know that I am very lucky, but it did make me think about how much I take sitting on an aeroplane for granted. I think nothing of it – until I was forced to.
I wanted to ride in LA. I wanted to take a bike and just head off somewhere. I didn’t though. The setting up of a colleague’s one size too small bike would have been less than perfect for me, but even less appealing was the sound of every other vehicle on the road having a big burbling V8 – almost highlighting the threat that they pose – as they come up behind you.
I was staying in West Hollywood. Sunset Boulevard, and Hollywood Boulevard were walking distance. As were the hills and the palaces of Beverley Hills. I chose to don the running shoes and jog up into this area. I ran for about an hour in total. I counted the £100,000 cars, and the muli-million dollar houses that appeared neither inspired nor inspiring. I liked my colleagues house, and the family neighbourhood in which he lives. The Beverly Hills mansions reminded me of Gerrards Cross just outside of London. Houses for those with more money than taste. Each one different but somehow exactly the same.
I thought about it, and decided that there must be more to the city, and yesterday I decided to give in. I hired a car and planned to drive around and get lost in LA. The wonders of Facebook saved me though, and I was able to contact a guy who I used to DJ with back when I was at school. He now works as a soccer coach (I am making the distinction here, so as not to confuse football, and football) and lives in LA with his wife, with whom I went to school. They live in a beautiful area down at the Marina, clearly trading in their landlocked life in rural Dorset, where we were brought up, for a more exciting existence near the beach in LA. He took me to some of the tourist spots, showing me Venice beach and the Muscle Beach. It was overcast and fairly deserted, but somehow this was better. It reflected my outlook more. After that we just drove around a bit. I think I saw a lot more of the city than I realise, but he and I were just talking about times gone by, when we lived in a different world, spinning records in the local nightclub. For him, being there for 7 or 8 years, the visitors that they get bring a little bit of home to them. For me, it was a connection to home that sometimes I dearly miss, and this past week, with the option to go back taken from me, was one such occasion.
The evening was spent back at my colleague’s house, with his wife, and his two children – a boy and a girl who were confident, intelligent and very well behaved 9 and 11 year olds. We had some food and drank some beer and watched Survivor together, which appeared to be a family activity. It felt like a privilege to have a small insight into their lives.
So that was it. Being stuck wasn’t all that bad at all, when it comes down to it. In fact, it was nice to be able to spend some time working with a different part of the company, although next time, I would like to plan it. Will I return to LA? I think at some point I would like to, because the less than ideal circumstance to going there meant that I was unprepared for it. I needed to be mentally there, but I wasn’t, I was mentally already back at home, with the physical me stuck somewhere else – I have spoken to a number of other people who were stranded by this volcano in the same way, and all of them have spoken of the same. I am sure many of those unaffected will wonder what the problem was though?!
Actually, I wrote this on the first flight. When I got to Houston, I had a delay of 6 hours. I was invited by a fellow passenger into the lounge. What happened in there is a post in itself.
Of course, this meant that I missed my connection in Frankfurt and was re-booked on BA from Lufthansa – except BA didn’t want to know. I returned to Lufty and asked them to put me on the next available seat to London, and went to their lounge to have a shower. This was glorious – it was about 7pm by this point. I had been travelling 24 hours already.
I got back to London at 22.30. The Pretty One picked me up. I was so glad to be back.