Mike's Views

... non-violent, revolutionary, anarchist

Gulliver in the Land of Idiots

A warning light came on in my brain. I felt like I was trapped and tied down with no escape, like Gulliver captured by the Lilliputians. Or like the 90's movie where the insane old judge drops the young couple through a trapdoor into a basement dungeon. It was like I was caught in one of those horrible nightmares, the ones where you wake up in terror unable to move and your feet are tangled in the blankets.

Yesterday I drove to LAX airport for the second time in two weeks. Into the belly of the beast and out again as fast as possible, an 8-hour round trip from central Cal. Traffic was insane. If there is a hell, for me it is being stuck in LA traffic.

I had a headache. It was 8:30 at night. I was a half-hour late from the traffic. Hundreds of cars jammed the airport arrivals lanes. Lanes were closed for construction. I turned where it said Park Here. It took me to the airport exit. I turned right against a no-right-turn sign and found another parking structure. The sidewalk was closed. It was dark. I walked to the terminal in the middle of traffic wearing a black t-shirt.

There they were outside exit B. A hug and a kiss and we pushed the luggage cart through traffic. On the road back we stopped in Thousand Oaks, in the San Fernando Valley. We needed gas. We needed a decent restroom to change clothes. We needed food.

We went to a Baskin Robbins. I thought I remembered they did not have bathrooms. They didn't. We went to IHOP. The kid at the cash register was wearing an IHOP uniform. While Erika was changing, I asked the kid if I could get a vanilla malt. The kid gave me a blank stare.

Do you have malts on the menu? I'm not sure, I have to ask somebody. He left. Minutes passed. He came back. You can get a shake. While he was gone I had read the menu. It said shakes.

Ok, I'd like a vanilla shake. Do you want two? No just one. Another guy came from the kitchen. He was wearing an apron. The first kid said, They want a vanilla shake. The guy asked, Would you like two? No, thank you, just one. We were the only customers. There were four employees.

The apron guy disappeared, presumably to make the shake. I was holding my credit card. The uniform kid started punching buttons on the register. Umm, no that's not it. Just a minute. Umm, no that's not it either.

After another 5 minutes, the guy came back with the shake. I decided to pay with cash. God knows how long it would have taken to use a credit card. I put my card away and handed over a twenty, thinking this should be simpler. The apron guy punched a few buttons on the register. He left. The drawer opened. The uniform kid started making change. $13.78. Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, twenty five, fifty seventy five, seventy six, seventy seven, seventy eight. Whew.

I asked him, What is the best way to get back on the 101 freeway North? He said, Take this street, turn left at the light then turn right onto the freeway. I asked, Isn't that South? I think we drove over the bridge coming in here. He said, Oh you want North? We walked out the door.

I drove to a gas station. I pulled up to the pump. I got out. I swiped my card. Nothing. The screen on the pump said "reserved". I looked around. There was another machine that said "pay here". I swiped my card. Please enter pump number. I punched 4. Sorry, pump 4 is in use.

I walked in the door of the mini mart. There were three kids behind the counter. I asked, Does this system work at all? One of the kids said, Sorry we are changing shifts. The pumps are locked for about 5 minutes. Two guys were walking in the door to ask the same question. Two more guys were at the pumps looking confused. I drove across the street to another gas station. It worked. Whew.

I got back in the car. I found the freeway. I drove home, feeling like I escaped from purgatory. I felt like I had escaped from an alternate universe. I thought there might be infinite alternate realities out there, populated by idiots. I thought maybe, if I close my eyes for a few minutes, I will wake up someplace normal.

I wonder how Gulliver felt.