06 September 2010

I Went to the O.C. and I Didn’t Even Get a Lousy T-Shirt

Nor did I get any exercise. These people really love their cars! I stayed in Costa Mesa, exactly two miles (but one town) away from my concert. The weather was nearly perfect for walking, but there generally were not sidewalks. Well, sometimes sidewalks would exist along one side of one street, but then they would dead end at a pile of dirt and broken glass. Occasionally a sidewalk would take me all the way to a busy intersection, but with no crosswalk and light to defend me, I lost the courage to attempt to cross. And often sidewalks would end in very stern-looking signs that said NO PEDESTRIANS ALLOWED. I got the feeling that pedestrians were not welcome.

All of the areas I experienced in Orange County were situated off of the busy freeway; even town streets acted and felt like an interstate road. I could drive for five minutes on I-405 and see three different town signs with no other clue that I had changed city limits except for the slightly different color scheme of the strip malls. But this highway-loving culture doesn’t love you if you don’t own a car, so there is also virtually no public transportation available. And so, to travel the two miles to my gig, I had to take a taxi. If you are from California and you are reading this, that probably seems normal and you are asking, “Why have you written two paragraphs about this very commonplace situation?” But I assure you, the majority of the country thinks you’re weird.

Oh, and you people are beautiful. Not a chubby, awkward, or overly hairy one in the bunch. I would enter a restaurant with my wild, wavy mop of mousy brown hair (and yes, those silver highlights are natural, thank you very much) and people would look around to see whose driver had arrived for them. Although you clearly must be spending thousands of dollars to look like that, since you must have a gym membership to get any exercise. And I refuse to believe that I am the only one with chin hair and eyebrow hair growing down onto my eyelids. Yes, I am sure that’s perfectly normal.

But while you may be the Mecca of cars here in Southern California, the flying thing doesn’t seem to have quite gotten figured out. With all of the fabulously rich people in this area, I expected a functional, adult-sized airport. What I got was the John Wayne Orange County Airport. Perhaps there was another one that was better, but I certainly wasn’t going to pay cab fare for the 40 mile drive from LAX.

The airport is a long hallway of sorts with a small collection of ticketing counters and a weird little space for security tacked onto the front of the building like an embarrassing sports bra-induced uniboob. I was flying a slightly smaller airline, and so when I arrived no one was working the counter. There was a sign saying that a representative would show up 90 minutes before the next flight. There was also no self check-in kiosk anywhere, but surely, I thought, there was another flight before mine going out, so I’d just check back shortly and it would be fine. (I’ll save you the shock: there was no other flight going out before mine.)

My plan, post-hotel check-out, was to get to the airport early (where else did I have to go—on a walk?), grab an overpriced lunch, and wait. Or maybe shop—isn’t it about time I started collecting cheesy souvenirs from my trips? Maybe something classy like spoons?

Sadly, all of the (four + Starbucks) eateries were on the other side of security, that magical land impossible to penetrate without a boarding pass. So I wandered along the narrow corridor that made up the non-secure side and found a few benches. Well, it’s a small airport, so I can tell you that I found exactly six benches. Not surprisingly, they were all filled, as several (all but one) airline counters were taking a noontime siesta at 10am. So, I found a cozy spot on the concrete floor and curled up with my magazine, Food + Wine. Big mistake, because I was a HUNGRY HIPPO! HUNGRY HUNGRY!!!! Even the airport food was starting to smell good to me from my sparse side of the hall.

The desk finally opened exactly 90 minutes before my flight. I obtained my ticket and stumbled the three feet to the quaint little security line. I figured this could go one of two ways: small airport filled with tourists = not so much action, ∴ laid back security. OR, rather few people to secure + lots-o-time before shift ends = overly fussy security. Guess which one it was?

I willingly admit that I invite aggravation by trying to stuff everything I need into a carry-on rather than spending $250,000 to check a bag. So, I have tweezers in my carry-on (with eyebrows like these, I’m doing SoCal a favor). I have deodorant in there. Is that legal? One never knows from one airport to the next, or from one day to the next, what is necessary to keep us safe from terrorists. But I did not expect to get stopped for a tampon—that was a first for me. Really, guys? Were you not taught to identify these in your hour of training? Have you never lived with a woman before? Actually, from the looks of these three, that was a possibility; at the very least, I will venture to guess that they hadn’t gotten laid in a very, very long time.

This would have mortified me a decade ago, but I am now 36 and I could care less if people know I am currently in the process of shedding my uterine lining. So, after explaining an abridged version of the Birds and the Bees for my middle-aged interrogator and repacking my bag because he seemed rather baffled by it (and how did all of my dirty underwear end up strewn along the table, anyway?), I struck out to the Other Side in search of FOOD.

Here are your options, should you wish to visit, when you are spending time in the John Wayne airport: McDonald’s, something called Creative Croissants (and they didn’t look too creative, folks), the “Sports Page Pub”, a Wolfgang Puck’s Express kiosk (wrapped sandwiches and boxed salads that cost more because they say Wolfgang Puck), and another something called “Oasis Bar and Grill” where there are four booths and the salads start at $14. So, I paid $9 for a little cup of salad. But it was a designer salad.

For your shopping pleasure, you may choose from a vast array of two Hudson News stands, a nameless magazine/ newspaper kiosk, and South Coast News, a Hudson News with neck pillows and slippers. So much for my new spoon collection, but I will say, these people like their reading material.