Tag Archives: LA

Cushioning the blow

It’s days like this when you realise just how sodding big the United States is. This time yesterday, I was in Los Angeles soaking up the sun ahead of my long trip east back to The Special One and co. The temperature was in the 80s, and t-shirts and shorts were the only attire necessary.

Twenty four hours later, I’ve traveled two and a half thousand miles or so without leaving the country, and it’s suddenly colder than a PTA meeting that’s just received a surprise visit from Gary GlitterPee Wee Herman. It’s blowing a blizzard outside, and my nasal hair has been frozen rigid by a quick trip outside to postmail some letters.

Clear skies on the trip back from LA meant that I was able to take in the full extent of the American landscape from my window seat, from the glory of the Rockies and the Grand Canyon, through to the madness of Las Vegas and Manhattan. And if there’s one thing that’s clear, it’s that the cities of America – or even the built up areas – represent a tiny fraction of what is an astonishingly beautiful country. Admittedly, parts of the environment roughly resemble what I imagine the surface of the moon to be like, and are probably only ever going to be inhabitable by mountain goats with a penchant for eating gravel. But it’s still a damn impressive sight.

Thankfully my Delta flight proved to be uneventful. Not because I’m scared of flying – after all, I commuted back and forth between New York and London for an eternity (or eighteen months, if you prefer), and you can’t do that if you’ve got a head for heights like BA Baracus.

No, the problem I’ve got is actually with their safety procedures.

I generally don’t listen to the security briefing – I’ve heard it so many times, and despite everybody surviving the recent Heathrow crash, I’m largely of the opinion that if a plane goes down, it’s pretty much game over. But for some reason, I listened this time round. Amidst the “take off your high heels before leaving the plane via the emergency slide” and the “follow the lights at floor level until you reach your closest exit”, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the statement that “in the event of landing in water, most of our seat cushions can be used as flotation devices.”

Now, I think most of you will agree that if your plane has crash landed on water, things aren’t looking good. Especially if you’re – say – in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. But if you’ve landed in a lake, river or a reservoir, that flotation device might just come in handy. So why in hell aren’t all of their seat cushions capable of being used as flotation devices?!

I can just imagine the scene now:

Plane crash survivor 1: We’re so lucky to have survived this horrific crash, aren’t we?
Plane crash survivor 2: We sure are. But will we ever get out of this water alive?
PCS1: Don’t worry, you can use the seat cushion that you so handily remembered to bring with you as a flotation device.
PCS2: We’re saved! We’re saved! OK, here goes…erm, why am I sinking…?

Maybe the airline had budgetary issues when they were having their planes made by Boeing, and had to make cutbacks? But I can tell you one thing – if my plane ever goes down, and I find myself in the water with a seat cushion that doesn’t float, I am going to raise hell on the phone with their customer services team…

We’re flying Delta to Tennessee this weekend, and I’m fully expecting the flight staff to come over the intercom and tell passengers that most of their pilots can fly planes.

That said, if it keeps snowing for a few days, we won’t be flying anywhere. We’ll have to save our game of seat cushion Russian roulette for another week.

At the drive-in

Eating on your own is always a strange experience. And never more so than when you’re in Hollywood on a Friday night. Thankfully, it’s the kind of occasion that diners were invented for. Having walked around for a while (which is Brit Out Of Water code for “made my way to the nearest record shop to buy CDs, plus box sets of TV shows I’ve missed”), I happened upon Mel’s Drive In.

Even though I’ve only been to LA once before, I’ve still managed to go to a Mel’s Drive In before – there’s a few of them around the West Coast, and the outpost on Sunset Boulevard proved useful after a boozy night out on my last trip here. Tonight’s meal showed the Jekyll and Hyde nature of diners in America, with possibly the worst chickenbuffalo wings I’ve ever had (supremely soggy chicken skin, anyone?) and a fantastic cheeseburger that actually tasted of meat.

But it was three other things that particularly drew my attention at Mel’s Drive In.

1. As far as I could make out, it wasn’t a Drive In. You could park your car right next to the restaurant, admittedly, but I guess “Mel’s Drive Up To” wasn’t as compelling a name.

2. Los Angeles may well be the one place on earth where people wear bluetooth headsets on a permanent basis, despite not being on the phone. That they manage to wear the headsets and yet not demonstrate any visible sign of embarrassment or self-awareness speaks volumes for the confidence of these people.

3. There is only one door at Mel’s Drive In, making it the only way that you can get into the restaurant. Inside, above the door, is a sign that reads “This door to remain unlocked during business hours”.

With business insight like that, it’s no wonder that America is the leader of the capitalist world.

Hearing is believing

As if I didn’t feel enough out of water in New York, I’m currently in Los Angeles on work, having only been here once about three years ago. Suffice to say that I walk around with a confused expression that perpetually says “what the hell is going on here?”

Actually, it’s probably the fact that I’m walking that causes half the problem – LA residents only seem to use their legs to hold their torsos up, so even telling my taxi driver that I didn’t mind walking the few yards to the front of the hotel caused furrowed brows.

I knew I was heading somewhere truly different within minutes of taking off from JFK. A Delta flight attendant came over the PA system to inform us that the inflight entertainment system had been turned on and, this being America, we could buy headphones for just $2.

Her unique selling point? That we could spend our hard-earned cash on these aforementioned listening devices, and then take them off the aircraft once we arrived in Los Angeles and use them free of charge.

America really is the land of untold generosity.