Getting back

Remember how I went to LA one time for four days and then I talked about it for the rest of my life? Yeah. That's still going on. Sorry. Sometimes it takes two weeks to tell a story. This is the final exciting installment! (I am anxious about the summer when I will be gone for two whole weeks. It will take me six months to tell you about it. I am not a person with much in the way of "mobile devices." I can't imagine typing anything significant on an iPod touch, though I'm sure half of America is thumb-typing novels on their smart phones even as we speak.)

My friend lives comparatively close to LAX, so we left her house at 6pm for my 8:20 flight. All was well. By the time I got through security, I had about an hour before boarding which gave me plenty of time to hem and haw about what, if anything, I might want and/or need to eat. I finally decided I would spend too much on pizza, only to be told that it would take about thirty minutes to be prepared. I guess it's kind of a fancy airport. I feared the pizza preparedness and boarding times risked being simultaneous, so I got a $17 yogurt instead.

Waiting to board? Fine.
Boarding? Fine.
Waiting to actually leave the ground? Fine.
At first.

We sat on the ground for about an hour. When we finally made our first hesitant backwards progress from the gate, we were immediately met with a very loud CLUNK. The sort of CLUNK that makes you look to your neighbor and widen your eyes. Then we did some more sitting. Then the captain came on and said, "When we began taxiing, you might have heard a noise. We don't feel good about that noise at all, so we're headed on back to the gate to have it checked out."

Now, I'm all for having loud CLUNKS about which the captain has no good feelings checked out while we are still safely on the ground, but it was at about this time that I began to feel quite bitter about that pizza that could have been. It was also at this point that I discovered that my seatmate was one of a large group who were traveling from Colombia and for whom LA marked their third layover of the day. I am sorry, Colombians. We didn't mean it. There is something extra vexing about sitting on an unmoving airplane for longer than the duration of the flight. I don't enjoy the drive from Los Angeles, but I enjoy it more than sitting on an unmoving airplane. Mainly because when you get really hungry, you can just get out of the car and eat something. It's very empowering.

We took flight around 11pm, which is a perfect time to leave LA if your goal is to juuuussst miss the last BART train which, as it happens, is the means by which you get home from the airport. I arrived at the station at exactly midnight, to be met with a sign that said the last train had departed at 11:55. The next train would be at 4:30am. Remember that whole shuttle-bus to Beverly Hills thing? And how I don't like to spend fifty bucks on a taxi? Yeah. I like spending fifty bucks on a taxi even less when I'm in my own town. I was not delighted. I considered a dubious city bus. I considered a hotel shuttle to downtown and a cheaper taxi home. However, I was A) tired and B) hungry and concluded that sometimes grownups just have to take the damn taxi. Fine.

The BART station at the airport is in the same zone as the parking garage, which is to say, nowhere very useful if you need a taxi. I needed to get back on the Airtrain and back to any ol' terminal. I turned back to the very train I'd just gotten off, only to be informed that the Red Line was going out of service and that I needed to take the Blue Line, which, allegedly, also would go to the terminals, despite the signage to the contrary.

There were three other BART refugees. We shuffled over to the Blue Line and waited. I boarded an empty car and marveled as we went farther and farther from what I might call the airport part of the airport. We were running alongside the freeway at one point--the same freeway that, had I been in a damn car, would have led me home. The first stop called was actually a street name as though we were on some less specialized form of public transport. The next stop was Car Rental Kingdom--a place I didn't even know existed because I have no reason to rent a car in San Francisco. That is where the Blue Line went out of service. I did some swearing, I'll admit it. I wondered if some family of vacationers might be willing to give me a ride home in their rental car if I pitched it as a "true San Francisco experience" or if, ultimately, I would have to just rent a car myself. It was explained that--no, no-- there would be another Blue Line train if we just waited. It was only the perfectly good Blue Line train that we had just been on that was now mysteriously dead to us.

I began bonding with two other refugees. They had agreed to split a taxi into the city and suggested I could get in on that action. Finally, after a full 30 minutes on the Air Train, we were set free at the International Terminal and eventually convinced a taxi driver that he would love to take three strangers to three completely different neighborhoods for one fare.

I did feel bad that I horned in on the other refugees' plan at the last minute and yet was the first one to be dropped off, but as I walked into my house at 1am, I didn't feel that bad. Plus, I got out of that cab for twenty-two bucks. Thanks, strangers.