For a guy who moved to LA to pursue his dreams, the end of 2006/start of 2007 saw me spending a lot of time out of it.
There’s a few reasons for this. I still don’t have a work or residency visa so I have to leave the country a minimum of every six months. And being from another country, you’ve got to report back to base. And there wasn’t really a lot to report.
It was a pretty annoying time of my life. Coming back from Berlin, I found that all the film traction I’d gained had ground to a halt. I had money again, which is a great thing, but I really felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere. I wanted to return home with great tales of conquering Tinsel-town.
The reality of the situation is that I was just beginning to grasp the marathon that LA was going to be. This could take 2 years, 5 years, 10 years to make it. Or maybe not at all. Was I up for that? I don’t know. I was drunk again on the success and money and highs of advertising and I felt a yearning to go back to something familiar. Something safe.
I keep trying to tell myself that the fact that I’ve moved to LA is a success in itself. Intellectually I could grasp this concept, but I just couldn’t make myself feel it. So with my tail between my legs, I found myself on my way back to Australia for a friend’s birthday and to I guess hang out for a little while.
Which of course means another trip to LAX. Which can always be relied on for a laugh.
I’ve savaged it before in LA Stories, but this airport just defies all explanation. Nothing sinks the heart faster than turning up to that shapeless, grey, life void of a building with 50,000 freeways snaking up to it, like it’s the heart of some obscenely old and crabby beast.
Actually, since I was feeling like I was being ejected from it, another body part comes to mind.
So anyway, I’m there three hours before my flight, three hours being the new two hours on long distance. I join the end of the queue for Air Pacific (it was the cheapest) and watch it move slower than continental drift. One person checking in a whole plane. This is what hell looks like.
I plug into my iPod and drift off, remembering a time when traveling was fun. Living in Singapore, tripping up to the SIA desk, checking in, doing a little shopping, a nice beer at the bar, taking off from Changi, all in a comfortable two-hour stretch.
An hour and ten minutes later, I am sucked away from my tropical dream by a rather large tropical cyclone. All I can say about the check-in chick from Air Pacific was that the palm tree shirt she wore was as bright and happy as she was pan-faced and unamused. I glance at the tagline behind her “Air Pacific, your island in the sky,” and wonder if they mean the Island of Doctor Moreau.
She does the check-in biz and then sends me off to LAX security, where they scan the check in luggage; this takes another hour and ten minutes.
When I return to the desk to give her my bags, I feel the full force of her love. I have decided to call her Smiley.
Smiley: You’re late!
Me: Excuse me?
Smiley: You’re holding up the plane. It says be here three hours before.
Me: I was.
She closes her eyes and begins to shake her head.
Smiley: No, you weren’t.
She is now wagging her finger. One foot in front of my face. Now, if I had been the Register Girl from Popeye’s, I would have had plenty to say at this moment. Like:
Me (channeling Register Girl): Bitch! Nobody waves they finger at me ‘cept my momma! You keep pokin’ round my bi’ness with that, I’m a snap it off, poke you in the eye, drag your sorry ass up to security and show you the playback of me gettin’ here on time like a motherfucker from DHL. Then I’m a slap your ass to sleep!”
Instead, the best I manage is:
Me: Actually I was on time.
Smiley points to some code on my boarding pass.
Me: Ah, no.
Smiley: This tells me you were here two hours before the flight.
Me: Yeah, I was here at your desk two hours before the flight, after I waited in your queue for an hour.
Smiley: (Indignant and shocked) My queue does not take an hour!
Ok, that’s too far. There are many things that I am not in this life. But I know, balls to bone, that I get to airports earlier than old people. Sometimes I get there before the airport’s even been built. She has insulted my anal-ness and that shit will not stand.
I feel the presence of Register Girl. Suddenly, I have lost control of my limbs. One hand goes on my hip, the other takes the form of a pointing finger of rapier sharpness.
I make a circle in the air with my pointed digit, wax-off style. I think I’m about to make a scene at an airport in America.
Me: I WAS here three hours ahead of time. Just like everyone else that’s in your line. And so we’re clear about this, I do not pay $1800 US Dollars so that you can wave your finger at me and talk to me like I’m a three-year old. I’m an adult, I’ve had more flights in my life than I care to remember, so you can stop talking to me like I’ve never set foot on an aircraft.
I think I have Smiley’s attention now. And like I learned from Register Girl, you must pause before delivering the death-blow. Breathe in, breathe out.
Me: What’s your name?
I have a beard, I look nerdy in my glasses. Just the type of guy that would write a letter.
With that, me and the other three worst behaved kids in school that she’s corralled at the desk, are frog marched away by an assistant she barks an order at. Then she foolishly goes for the last word.
Smiley: The plane is boarding now so you’ll have to be taken there personally.
Tsk, tsk. Should have left it Smiley.
Me: They’re not boarding yet. You know that and I know that and so does everyone else here, there’s still 40 minutes to go.
Smiley takes one last look at me as I disappear with the chaperone and I envisage her typing a special request into the computer. Seat 41G, no dessert.
And what do you know, the gate is full of waiting passengers. Why these small everyday victories feel so good is beyond me, but we have a girl at a Popeye’s register to thank for this one. She should be doing the speaker circuit.
MC: And now, our illustrious guest, Register Girl….
Applause from audience.
Register Girl: What ya’ll doing here?! You paid all this money, when I’m a just tell you to call a bitch a bitch. Whatchall lookin’ at? I don’t know your lives…