Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Public transportation in Los Angeles

At 10 p.m. at the Coffee Bean in Orange, California (20 minutes away from Disneyland), there is exactly one public transportation option if you want to return to downtown Los Angeles: take the 50 Bus 21 stops to Katella-Clementine, right outside the Disneyland entrance; wait 3 hours and 10 minutes for the 460 Bus; ride the 460 bus 60 stops; then take the 28 Bus 51 stops. 5 hours and 46 minutes later, you'll have arrived.

Tonight, I attempted this ambitious (stupid) journey.

I had a literary-foreshadowing of the night to come when I stubbed my toe, hard, leaving the Coffee Bean. I ignored this God-given sign and paid $1.50 for the bus. In the middle of the trip, I jumped off abruptly: my bladder was about the burst. After I relieved myself at a Shell station (the Indian owner gave me a dirty look because I didn't buy anything) I waited 40 minutes for the next bus.

After paying another $1.50, I sat down. The next stop, a drunk biker wearing a Redskins cap sat down next to me. 

"Deported...deported...You should be deported. I'm an American. This is my country. You motherf***ing illegal immigrants," he said -- not to me -- but to two Latina ladies sitting across from us. One of them started blinking back tears. At the next stop, the bus driver walked off the train and arrived 15 minutes later with a police office. Redskins cap at that point realized the trouble he's in, and rode off into the night on his bike, completely drunk. After 7 more stops into increasingly less well-lit territory, I asked the driver if Clementine Street was coming up. He told me we passed it 7 stops ago.

I called Kevin (my savior tonight) and asked him to redirect me. He patiently broke down Google Map directions on the phone. I had a new route – and new hope. When I got off the 50 bus line, the bus driver's last words were, "Be sure you don't fall asleep around here." 

On the 94 bus, I told the driver I was going to Long Beach Boulevard to wait for the 2:54 a.m. bus. "Oh no no no. You can't wait two hours there," he said. Then he visibly shuddered. "Take a taxi. If you care about your life." At this point, I'm a little worried. Even if I do reach downtown LA, I would be in downtown LA. At 4 a.m. I called the cab company.

 "Hi, can I get a taxi to Ocean and Pine?"

"Are you calling from a business or a residence?" the operator asked.

"Um, I guess a residence? I'm on a bus right now."

"Do you have a location?"

"No, I'm on a bus."

"We can't pick you up unless you give us a physical address, sorry. Call us when you get there." Click.

Thankfully, when I got off, there were taxis parked one block away. I leaned into the window of the second one. "Hi, I'm going to Santa Monica. How much is it?"

"This is a guess, but $120. Tell you what, though, whatever the meter ends up at, I'll give you a 10% discount."

At this point, I see slightly menacing people walking on the other side of the street, and I think they’re looking at me. Then I realize that, also across the street – I shit you not – there is a restaurant whose name is Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery. (F & M bank – otherwise construed as Eff Me Bank, is also close.) I need to get out of here. "How much is it to Anaheim?"

"Probably around $60. But listen, I'll give you a good deal."

At this point, I weigh my options: either I pay $60 and wait 3 hours at the train station, pay $120 to get back to LA proper, or walk around on the streets thumbing my rosary beads. There's no placing a value on my life, but I can’t swallow paying $60 to go backwards. There has to be a better way. I see a hotel behind me.

The lobby of the Renaissance hotel is flanked by two imposing wooden beams gilded with silver. The rug (I learn later) has been stepped on by Adrian Brody, Bill Gates, Bill Gates' bomb-squad security, Goldie Hawn, Tito Lopez from UFC, and Tito's girlfriend, Jenna Jameson. I ask the concierge how much a night here is. It's $169. I ask if I can make a call in the lounge area. She tells me the lounge is off-limits.

She does, however, let me use the computer. Hotels.com -- apparently, I can book a $60 ticket somewhere close for tomorrow night, then show up tonight and say I made a mistake booking. I start looking. There are no $60 tickets. There are, however, $179 and $219 tickets. I call Kevin again. I think, briefly, about hiding in the hotel's parking structure until daybreak arrives.

It is then the security guard approaches me. This is it, I think. Back to the curb. "You can sit here in the lobby until 5 a.m., when the metro starts to run,” she says. “You don't look like a bum (and you seem nice), so you can stay here. I'll bring you tea, ok?"

God’s benevolent hand had reached out and brushed off my shoulders. Either that, or it’s my yellow shoes. I’m so glad I wore them for this trip. I proceed to stop looking up hotels and check my email.

From 1:20 a.m. to 5 a.m., I stave off my growing sleepiness by talking to the concierge. We cover how I can be a bit actor in a commercial, student film, TV show, or movie; why she dumped her "stupid-ass" girlfriend for being a hypocrite; her 70% discount at Marriotts around the country and how, after working 25 years, she can stay at any Marriott for free; and the floor plans for the Presidential suite.

In the gaudy, mismatched, expensive-furniture lobby, I write this entry. And check my email. Around 4 a.m., the concierge brings me Starbucks tea, a silver spoon, 4 honey containers and 4 sugar bags. 15 minutes later, the security guard brings me 2 croissants. Am I in heaven? At 5 a.m, I use the bathroom. The stalls are made of wood the color of stallions. The sinks are turquoise-cracked-blue. I run to the subway, where I buy a ticket. It’s $1.50.

During my multiple (what else) transfers, the Tandem Talent Production duo befriends me, gives me directions, and teaches me a thing or two about Santa Fe. On the Santa Monica 704 bus, there are 120 people, and 8 are not Latino. 

I arrive at 1901 Avenue of the Stars at 7:45 a.m., only 4 hours late.