I convinced Humberto to drive with me to LA last weekend. My sister was flying in from Fiji with her friend for a brief stop in the US before they continued to Santiago, Chile. They are going to spend a month or so backpacking in South America before they return to Canada for Christmas. My sister needed a backpack and she also needed to unload some stuff before going.

I was excited–as usual–to be able to see my sister. I hadn’t talked to her in months. And usually, especially the last few years, I talk to her quite frequently. I get excited and I talk a lot (if you know me, you now know that my nickname is Princess Donkey and why). Well. Actually, I should explain that too. One day, as I’m taking the dogs for a walk, the Humberto sees me coming over the hill. He decides to call me Princess (as in Princess Fiona from the movie Shrek). My family has already deemed Alan the Ogre (and he’s not–it’s just that at one time–he appeared to be a bit of an ogre). Me? I think. I’m no princess. At least, I don’t want to be a princess. So I laugh awkwardly and say that since I talk so much, I should be Donkey. He continues to call me Princess though. Later as I realized I really was talking too much, I said out loud: “Oh. I should just shut up. I talk too much.” He laughed and quoted: “Two words Donkey: Shut. Up.” Now, I have been christened Princess Donkey.

Anyway. All the way to LA–we just talk and laugh and talk and laugh. AND TALK. About the state of affairs in his home province, about religion and believing in something greater, about believing in yourself, about living in different cultures, religions, countries and how that experience makes you a richer person. About finding truth in life. About living in truth. About how Democracy is the new religion of the United States and it is still the opiate of the masses. And how I think that the Constitution was written over 200 years ago and that it needs to be updated. And the same for the Bible–it’s the simple fact that somebody wrote something down and over 2000 years later, people still believe in what is written. And there is something to be said for evolution and progress. At one point, he says: What can I say? I’ve spent six years working by myself on the mountain. I think. That is what I do. I work and I think. Sometimes, I think I am just crazy.”

We have to find LAX and my sister. All I know is that she’ll be arriving at 1h05 pm on Air Pacific. I was too busy to plan for this trip and I even forgot to look at maps.google.com before I left. I did, however, bring my laptop with my cellular internet connection. I figured if I got lost, I could just stop and look. I drive into LA on the I5. At the last moment, I decide to take the 405 south–just a hunch that LAX was in that direction. It is now 1h10 pm. Their flight has landed and I am still trying to find LAX. Scatty. That is what Alan tells me. Scatty, but happy. I call Sumeet (a former colleague from Turin who now lives in LA doing his MBA studies). I’m in luck because he answers the phone. “Hi Sumeet. It’s Jennifer. I know this is an odd question, but I’ve just got on the 405 and I need to find LAX.” He is good. He gave me exact directions and we arrived at the airport by about 1h30.

Except, now I must drive around the arrival circle looking for my sister–who I think should be waiting for me. We drove the arrival circle five times before we decide to park and find el banyo. I’m also making plans because my sister had emailed me the night before saying that she might not be able to leave Fiji due to a hiccup with the Ministry of Labour and the Canadian film crew. I’m thinking: What do I do if she’s not here? I guess I’ll just arrange to leave the backpack in a locker or something. At this point, I was standing just outside the washrooms in the terminal. I was also wearing my retro CBC t-shirt I’d splurged on last summer. All of a sudden, I hear: Jen!! I turned around, it was my sister. Her and her friend had noticed the CBC t-shirt in the airport and thought it was cool that they’d just arrived from Fiji and one of the first things they saw was the CBC logo standing around in LAX. Then, they noticed–it was me.

We all get organized and back to the car–talking all the time about getting out of Fiji, about driving around in circles five times before deciding to park, about time zones, about the luck of wearing my CBC t-shirt. We get to the car (2005 Honda Civic hatchback) and we look at four people and all the luggage and Catherine says: Great. Is this some kind of clown car? As in how many people and bags can you actually get in a Honda Civic hatchback? I say: Not a problem. Hondas are awesome. I tell them that I once got three 17-foot sea kayaks, three people, and enough gear for a three-day weekend in a Honda Civic. Just watch. Four people, backpacks, suitcases, bags, laptops, gear. Phshaw. I have roof racks.

Catherine was right about the clown car. I probably could have done a better job too. I should have put the large suitcase on the roof rack. But whatever-we fit. Everything fit. We drive out of the airport. What’s next? I think we are going to find accommodation–but Catherine and my sister need to find a bank to change their per-diem monies into traveller’s cheques. I decide to head down to Venice Beach area (the only place I know in LA). I start to ask people who look like locals where we can find a Wells Fargo bank. Catherine and Redd are having a fit in the back seat because I just stick my head out my window and ask questions. It’s the fastest way to find information. Really. I don’t know what Humberto is thinking other than: “Muchacha loca–muy loca.”

This is when the elements of my good fortune of randomness and lack of planning for the road trip start to collapse around me. I’m wired from the no sleep the night before. I’m wired from the trip down. I’m wired from being able to meet my sister and her friend before they go off on an exciting backpacking adventure to South America. I’m wired and I’m talking a mile a minute about finding the Wells Fargo and I’m looking one way to do a U-Turn and not looking in the direction that the car is going and–you guessed it–BANG–right into a telephone pole that is sticking out into the parking lot.

Not exactly what I need right now–but there is nothing I can do about it. It’s already done. We get out to examine the damage. I can’t get out my door–it really is a clown car now–everybody piles out the passenger door. To top it off, the bank is closed. We have to pile back into the car and find the next bank–which we do, but the whole tone is subdued because I’ve banged my car. Nothing that stops us though. I’ll deal with it when I get home. Now we have to find a place to eat and a place to sleep. I drive down the main street and we all agree to find a Mexican restaurant. Catherine and my sister have been eating a whole lot of Indian food and craved nachos. We find a cantina place down by the beach. I drop them off and go find a hotel to stay for the night.

Over dinner, the evening gets even more subdued as time zones catch up with us and as the realization of the damage to my car sinks in. When we get back to the hotel I put my head in my hands and say: Ugh. I can’t believe I banged my car. Humberto starts to say something in English, then he finishes in Spanish. I ask him what he just said. He repeats: “Calladito me veo mas bonito.” Then he laughs and shakes his head and translates: “I look better quiet.”

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