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Charlotte & Nona's Most Excellent L.A. Adventure

It all began on a typically cloudless day in Blythe, Arizona, at an unidentified FMC installation. A seemingly innocuous piece of mail was delivered to the Director and to the Worker (commonly known as the Nona and the Charlotte) advertising an apparently harmless little conference to be held in sunny Southern California on what was expected to be another harmless L.A. day sometime in September.

"Oh!" exclaimed our two charming ladies, not knowing what was to lie ahead of them. "This looks extremely fascinating – a conference about renal disease, sponsored by the National Kidney Foundation Affiliate of (sunny) Southern California," was the remark made by these hard working health care professionals, loosely commonly translated as "Oh! A Conference in L.A. We’ve been blithely working (Get it?) in this desert (Get it again?) for so long and so hard. We need a break. There might be free food. There’s sure to be stuff to take away. Like pens, and maybe pen lights. Let’s see if we can get FMC to foot the bill." And so they besought their fairy Godmother, known as Michael (but no known relative of John Travolta the angel of all those who love disco dancing) to grant them their wish of continuing education, loosely commonly translated to send them away, far away, from the Interstate known as 10, the Colorado River, Quartzsite and/or Ehrenberg.

And lo, and behold, all good things came to those who asked for them.

But the short one from Phoenix had fears and said unto the blonde one from Blythe, "It’s a big scary airport. How do we get to the Holy of Holies, the Hilton, where all those who doth seek knowledge and enlightenment shall congregate?" And the Nona reassured her chubby chum, that all would be well if she would call the Holy Hilton and ask for transportation.

And the short one with the tartan temperament did so and was answered with a resounding, "No, we have no bananas transportation for small pocketbooks. We do have a limousine for large pocketbooks or numbers of dollars or persons – 99 or 4," saith the Big H. And the wee one was troubled.

But the Nona had a husband in Blythe who instructed She of the River to call the Big H and question the response to She of the Desert. And it came to pass, there was a vehicle known, quoth the Nona to the Charlotte by telephone, as the Blue Van which circled, she said, the airport all day and all night never ceasing and took the travelers, all travelers, to the hotels of their choice at no charge whatsoever.

This was pleasing to the adventurers, very pleasing – because they had other wants for the transportation plan known as 99. And a plan was formed for the Nona and the Charlotte to meet at the gate known as 80 in the Big Scary Airport and seek together the fabulous Blue Van, which they now knew was also known as "The Shuttle." Sometimes known as "Super."

L.A. Day dawned clear and bright in the Arizona and California Deserts. The Charlotte arrived at the BSA (BgScryAirprt) safely as planned at the gate known as 81 and waited, and waited, and waited for the Nona. She paged the Nona, but there was no reassuring response and no sign from either the Heavens or she who had said the A was not B and neither was it Scary.

But unknown to her companion (not in crime yet) the Nona had flown, although safely, from Palm Springs in a baby airplane to the BSA she had not arrived safely at the gate known as 71. Indeed, the Nona had deplaned. Far, far, away, almost in another galaxy, from the BSA and had been directed to a bus – no kidding, this time, really it was a bus. But the Nona, missed the bus and entered a booth – no kidding – a very small booth, thinking it was the Terminal – I am not making this up – only when she discovered that she could neither stand up nor lie down nor turn around in it (with her overnight bag and her extra bag for Conference loot – we are allowed two bags after all per passenger) did she realize it was a storage locker of some sort for United Airlines and hurriedly made her escape to chase down her people mover to the Terminal.

And when she arrived at 8:05 a.m. she found she was alone. And then for Nona came the belief, built on Charlotte’s testimony that it was, indeed, A BIG SCAREY AIRPORT!!! For the Charlotte had gone. Abandoned the Nona. Lost the faith. Broken the trust. Decided to look after her own worthless self and seek the shelter of the Shuttle, unknown to her as "Super."

Poor Nona. See Nona page the Charlotte. See Nona look around in wonder at the empty chairs where only moments before, unknown to her, a Charlotte had stood also seeking her companion’s presence, listening for her voice, hoping to reach the Big H before all the pens (if not all the really good stuff) were gone from those who dispense all good cheap goodies (but sometimes pretty good stuff) known as The Vendors.

But Nona, as all good leaders do, knew her faithful sidekick would never abandon her – well, depends, but we won’t go there! – and so, as the Nona related later, she asked herself the question asked by all those who follow the spirit, What Would Charlotte Do? (Kinda like WWJD, but it worked better in this situation.) And she received her revelation, which was, "Get on the bus!"

And by great good fortune, possibly (but highly unlikely) as a gift from the assembly of those who rule our lives in magnanimity and splendor, known as Corporate, after many minutes (at least thirty) and from many directions (at least two) and from the four winds of LAX (known as traffic, exhaust fumes, baggage claim and ground transportation) as she was preparing to board a Yellow, not Blue, Shuttle – certainly not Super - (which was going to cost $16 and not $0) the Charlotte turned her head and saw the Nona, casting her eyes anxiously about for God knows what.

Oh, and there was rejoicing in the land. And they thanked the gods of good fortune, or of coincidence, or St Christopher who must really have his work cut out for him at LAX that they were together, together again. And they swore, that as long as they lived, they would never go hungry, never lose each other again. (Sorry, folks, that was Scarlet, not Charlotte, who said that).

And, indeed, they did learn that although there was falsehood in the story about transport costs, there was much truth in the circling the airport all day and all night long. When they passed the same point three times, the Charlotte asked the driver if he really knew what he was doing. And he answered that they were at last "going out of the aeropuerto." But to where? The Eastern European hiker in the front seat did not know the address to where he went. The Asiatic tourist in the back seat, leaning forward on many occasions, asked of the two companions many times over, "Where we go? I am Japanese." And when the Charlotte turned to him to respond in multisyllabic, run on sentences, poly paragraphical form as is her want, to say, "I’m Scottish and I don’t know" something got lost in the translation. And the Nona smiled at the man.

"No more than three stops" had saieth the Yellow Van (on the outside, alongside the 1800 number).

One stop, after three circles round the airport, at the same pick up place to enquire if there were other passengers.

One stop, in sight of the Staple Center (where there were the most recent L.A. riots at the Democratic convention – Charlotte’s tour guide tendencies) for the driver (now he was out of the aeropuerto) to look at the European’s map and consult – for five minutes at least) on where to go.

At least two stops on two different L.A. freeways – one beside the L.A. Zoo - because of accidents and too many people driving too many cars.

At this point, the Charlotte asketh the driver, "When do we get to our destination," and is answered, "We’ll be at a destination in 15 minutes." And the Charlotte and the Nona smiled upon each other.

A fifth stop, after driving past Mulholland Drive (O.J.’s escape route/killing spree street, according to the tour guide, Charlotte) to drop off the Eastern European (not to far from the Scientology Center – where John Travolta sends all his money and when the Nona told the Charlotte she watches too much television; that’s not fair, I also read the Enquirer) to drop the Eastern European off at some Seven Eleven beside a tattoo parlor not too far from the Armenian Center. (By this time, the Charlotte was looking for points of reference because our intrepid pair had no breadcrumbs to drop out of the window to find their way back to the Big Scary Airport – which didn’t seem so scary any more).

And the sixth stop, after seeing close by the Hollywood sign on the mountain, at a Ramada Hotel in a town known as Santa Monica to bid the Japanese a fond farewell.

What’s this? A new passenger, who says to the driver, "I have to be at the airport in one hour for my flight." And the driver answered, "I have these two ladies to take to the Hilton, and we’ll go to the airport."

What’s this again? Another stop? Number 7! The Yellow van, with our two somewhat anxious companions, turns into a gas station. "Are we out of gas now?" asks Charlotte of Nona. "Oh, no, no, no, Nona" adds the Charlotte. "This cannot be." But all is well; the driver only needs to consult his map once more.

And the Charlotte and the Nona sighed in premature relief.

What’s that sound? It’s the crackle of the two-way radio in the Yellow Van. What that next sound? It’s the beep of the pager of the driver of the Yellow Van. What’s that voice saying? It’s the dispatcher who sends out the pages and the two way communication to the driver of the Yellow Van, screaming across the many miles of L.A. airspace – "What do you think you are doing? Why do you have that passenger in your van? You are not supposed to pick him up. The other van is chasing you to get that passenger."

"I cannot stop, " says the driver of the Yellow Van. I have these two ladies to get to their Hotel. And one lady is now saying they are very upset." (That was the Charlotte who felt the time had come to make a statement.)

"I don’t care," quoth the dispatcher. "I think I speak pretty good English." (Well, he did have an accent – but by this time we know everybody in L.A. seems to have one.) "And I am telling you to stop the van right now and go no further."

"Oh, no, no, no, no, " says the Nona. "Not here, near the Santa Monica Ramada, and the Armenian Center, far from the safety of the Big Hilton or the memories of our babies in Blythe or families in Phoenix (get the alliteration? – I think it’s pretty clever).

"I cannot," saieth the driver of the Yellow Van. "I can take these ladies to the Hilton. I can take the man to the (remember it’s big and scary) aeropuerto. And one of the ladies is getting really upset, now." (Guess which one?)

"Stop!" says the dispatcher. "You’ve lost the other driver following you for the passenger. Take him back to the Ramada Hotel in Santa Monica and drop him off there for the other van. And you are on suspension for three days for not following orders."

See the Yellow Van turn around in a small scary alley. See the Yellow Van go down many narrow back streets. See the new passenger begin to look very upset. See the Nona and the Charlotte have visions – visions of all the good stuff, right down to free pens, being gone, gone, gone with nary a note pad remaining. Ah. "Too sad," thought the Nona.

Stop number eight is to wait – poetic, huh? A crackle, a beep, is it the dispatcher again? No, it’s the dispatcher superior who says to the driver of the Yellow Van, "I know you’ve only been on the job three days but you must take care of your first passengers."

See Charlotte look at Nona. See Nona look at Charlotte. Hear Charlotte ask Nona, "You got a pen?" See Nona write down the 1800 complaint number. Hear the dispatcher supervisor say to the driver of the Yellow Van, "The driver following you is lost. Take the ladies to the Hilton, and bring the new passenger back to the airport." Hear Charlotte say to the driver of the Yellow Van, "I hope you’re not expecting us to pay for this trip?" Hear the driver of the Yellow Van say to the loudmouth Charlotte, "I don’t care. I’m quitting."

Watch Charlotte get ready to say to the driver of the Yellow Van, "Well, if you quit, can we have your van with the keys in the engine?"

See the Nona think, almost as she did before, (the WWJD stuff) What Would Our Friend Kathleen Mary do?" And the answer came from far away, in the distant desert, "And your point is? What took you so long? JSMJ (figure that one out!) Here’s what you do – you move up into the driver’s seat, you elbow him out of the way, you take the van up to the Hilton. Problem solved. And now, I’m really upset, so who’s got a cigarette for me?" (The last contribution came from the daughter of the Charlotte, sometimes know as the chip off the old block, or the Stephanie.)

And so, like the hapless tourists who took what they thought was a three hour cruise, this is the tale of how the Nona and the Charlotte took a 2 hour trip – at no charge - from the Big Scary Airport to the Holy Hilton for a day of enlightenment and training.

(They had an upgraded room, from another of the many daughters of the Charlotte who works for the Big H in Phoenix) with a color fax and a color printer and a color copier combo machine, but no computer with them – and so they amused themselves by copying the welcome letter awaiting in their 16th story room, watching the little flower girl and the little ring bearer (at the wedding 16 stories below) getting their little butts roasted for fighting at the wedding, watching the lovers in the Jacuzzi (at least 16 stories down that’s what it looked like) and counting the pens that did await them when they found that place of enlightment and training. But those are other stories of a day in L.A., otherwise known as

Charlotte & Nona's Most Excellent L.A. Adventure

Stop Press

You folks are all my dear friends - and I hope you all got the story of our trip to L.A.  This reply is from my friend in Scotland, who found me on the Internet and remembers me from when we were last saw each other when we were both 12 years old - can you believe that?  Anyhow, there was a Victorian poet from Dundee who wrote truly awful poetry, and so Joy has written a poem in his style - she's done a marvelous job of writing truly horrible poetry!!  (And I hope she takes her full share of credit for that.)  I think you'll enjoy this.

Thank you for your letter from LA.   I laughed so much at it that I thought I'd try a little verse in the McGonigle style.

Hope you'll like this little ditty about
Charlotte and Nona's trip to the city
I wasn't there which was such a great pity
The tale of their journey to Hilton LA
brought tears to the eyes of Dundee's Joy Hay.    (I know it's awful)
They hoped that the "swaree" would be a "freebee"
But found to their disdain that this wasn't to be.
A tour of the city on a trip they'd regret
Was to be the adventure they would never forget.
A trip on the freeways with cab 99
A two hour trip was surely devine
Running too late for the conference "loot"
But with very good company who gives a hoot!
The lesson to be learned from this tale of woe
Don't be so keen to say that you'll go
When a seemingly "inoccous" piece of mail lands in your tray
Which invites to LA for a harmless day!!! 
Well I did warn you.



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