Yesterday, my sister Michele and I rendezvoused at the Beverly Center in order to buy birthday gifts for our other sister, Sherry, and our mom, who turns 77 today. This does not seem like an unreasonable or Herculean task. Rather, I imagined, it would be a pleasant two-hour diversion. A time for Michele and me to do some serious girl talk, sip cappuccinos, and shop. Can you think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon? (Okay, granted, this particular piece is skewed a little in the feminine direction).

We synchronized our watches for 1:00, Macy’s handbag department.

The first thing I realized, after years of planning such outings, was that I was going to be late. I had a 10:30 hair appointment, and typically, I would not be out of there before 12:30. (This has more to do with my friendship with my hairdresser than with the requirements of coloring my hair, which she could do in her sleep in half an hour). So I called Michele and we agreed to meet at 1:30 instead of 1:00. In this way I would avoid rushing.

As it happens, my husband, Art, needed the car while I was getting my hair done, so he dropped me off, and when he picked me up, he was hungry. He wanted to go out for lunch, but clearly there was no time for that, so we went home and I made him a sandwich. We were done eating by 12:55, and I had it in my head that if I left by 1:00, I would be able to comfortably make my 1:30 ETA. Then I realized that our cat, Henry, was looking longingly at his empty food bowl, so I stopped and fed him before I left.

I got in my car and turned on the radio. The announcer stated that it was 1:13. One thirteen? I was sure my watch was right. It had to be 1:00. I looked at my Timex. One thirteen. I tore out of the driveway, headed down the street, and drove straight into the parking lot on Barham Boulevard, which was usually more like the Indy 500. I crawled all the way down Highland Avenue, behind buses, behind trucks. Meanwhile, I remembered that my sister had begged me to keep my cell phone on and handy (just in case of a delay).

Now, you have to understand that there is a philosophical difference between my sisters’ view of cell phones and my own. My sisters treat their cell phones more or less as extensions of themselves. The cells appear to be on and functioning 24/7. I have often had long, heartfelt conversations with both my sisters while they were negotiating their way through traffic. To them, this is the logical use of a cell phone, and the logical way to use what would otherwise be wasted time in traffic. My own cell phone use is restricted to emergencies and situations where I just find it much more convenient than walking to the nearest pay phone. I don’t know my cell phone number. I never call it. I don’t keep my cell phone on when I’m not using it. Nobody ever calls me, anyway because they know I won’t pick up. I am rattled on the rare occasions that the cell phone does ring, because it sounds so alien. I am just getting used to the fact that in order to “pick up” on a cell phone you have to press the “Send” button. In order to turn it on you have to press the “End” button. (???). Furthermore, like Spiro Agnew (may he rest in peace), I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, so my attempts at driving and using the cell phone have been almost nil, and on the rare occasions when I thought, “Okay. How hard can this be?”, I have nearly wrecked the car.

But there I was at Fountain and La Cienega, still a good ten minutes from the Bev Center and maybe fifteen minutes from Macy’s handbags, and still slogging my way through a maze of red lights, jay-walking pedestrians, double-parked Rolls-Royces, and large, cumbersome buses. I had prepared for this by deliberately turning on my cell and putting the ear piece in my ear so that I wouldn’t have to risk the microwaves next to my head or hold the phone while trying to steer. I waited until there was a dead stop – that didn’t take long – and I squinted to look at the miniature numbers and dial Michele’s cell number. Suddenly, I went blank. Was it 2-7-3 or 2-7-8 or 4-7-3 or 4-7-8? I tried all of them. No Michele. I kept getting some guy’s voice mail. If he has caller ID he’s going to wonder who was calling and hanging up time after time. You see, in my panic, I couldn’t remember which numbers I had tried. When I looked up, cars were honking at me, and the traffic had begun to move. I abandoned all cell phone activity and decided to just drive and hope for forgiveness.

I made the parking lot by 1:43. There was a long, long line of traffic wending its way up the spiraling platforms looking for open spots. Thank God for fifteen years of training from Art. I knew what to do. I looked for the sign marked “Valet Parking”. I followed the arrows. I stopped where it said “Stop”. I was practically hysterical by this time, so I wasn’t too concerned about the price. (It clearly stated, “$5.00 for the first three hours, $3.00 an hour after). “Oh, what the hell” I reasoned. I could still taste the bitter gall in my mouth from the last time I had lost my car in the maze of a similar parking structure. It was worth every penny.

I got my ticket for the car, shoved my keys into my purse, and began running. The attendant ran after me, “Miss! Miss! What about the keys?!”. I ran back and gave him the keys and ran into the elevator like a maniac. It was now 1:45. The elevator landed me at the Macy’s Men’s Department. “Perfect”, I thought. “At last something that works!” You would have to have a fairly intimate knowledge of the Beverly Center to know that having arrived at Macy’s Men’s Department does not mean that you have arrived at Macy’s. I quickly determined that and began running down the nearest corridor craning my neck for signs. I finally found Macy’s. I got on the escalator which carried me down to the first floor, and I ran toward the smell of leather. The handbag department. At last!

Michele was there, browsing in the handbags, not seeming to be in the least bit bothered by my tardiness. I was sweating by now, hot flashes coming fast and furious. I meant to apologize, but the first thing out of my mouth was, “I hate cell phones!”. She said, “I love them!”. Then I apologized, and she was gracious and unfazed. I took a deep breath.

“Okay, let’s shop”.

(To be continued.)

 Category: Robin's Nest

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