After my life-affirming experience at Celine Dion's Vegas concert, I had a couchsurfing host cancel on me last minute and was suddenly stranded in Los Angeles for two nights. Of course, it's hard to literally be stranded in America because there are always hostels and hotels but for my cheap self, I was stranded. I was able to secure a last minute host for the first night who was very kind to let me stay, but I had nowhere to stay the second night. So I stayed the night at the airport. This isn't as hobo as it sounds because I was on one of the first flights out in the morning. Except it is as hobo as it sounds because the woman sleeping closest to me in the terminal was almost certainly homeless. The night itself actually wasn't so bad. LAX is famous for being one of the worst airports in the world for long layovers but there was carpet and outlets so what more do you need? I did some writing then went to the 7-Eleven to buy dinner. I used a twenty dollar note to buy some pizza and skittles (I'm a big fan of Dr Libby) then returned to my spot on the floor. When I sat down, some coins fell out of my pocket and I realised I had just put all my change in my pocket and not in my wallet. Silly me. So I collected all my change (about $15) and put it in my wallet. If this were a movie, me putting my change in my wallet would be slowed way down so you'd know it's important but you wouldn't know why.
At 2am I made a pillow out of clothes and promptly fell asleep on my bags. At 5:30am I woke up to a very busy terminal and immediately checked to make sure my wallet, phone, and bags were all with me. They were. My flight was open for check-in but the line was super long so I thought I'd nap for just a little longer. When I woke up fifteen minutes later my wallet was gone. And so was the homeless looking woman from the night before. What followed was perhaps the most uneventful breakdown in history. I registered that my wallet was stolen but still checked all my pockets and bags a bunch of times just in case. The next thing I registered was that I had to check in my bag for my flight. Trouble was, US airlines are sad guys and make you pay extra to check even one bag but I now didn't have any money. I briefly wondered if I could just leave my bag and go to Boston/New York with only a backpack. This wonder ended very quickly when I realised that would mean abandoning 75% of my current worldly belongings. So I just sat there for a while and came up with no solutions. I didn't get angry. I didn't cry. I felt the same way I felt at ten years old when Nick kicked a rugby ball through our garage window. A weird sense of calm; calm in the certainty that I was about to get a hiding. Once this wave of helplessness passed through me (it took about ninety seconds), I remembered that you can check in online with a credit card. I obviously didn't have mine but cousin Katie did. I called her and thankfully she is a working citizen of the world so was awake and answered. She kindly sent me her info and I got to work on it while waiting in line at the actual check-in counter. Before I could finish the process online, I was called up to the counter to check in. I told the very nice young woman behind the counter what had just happened and she immediately offered to check my bag in for free. I didn't even think she would believe me because I wasn't crying or hysterical or even changing the pitch of my voice. In reality, if you have just spent the night on the floor, are wearing the same clothes as the morning before, and speak in a sort of dead monotone like I always do, it is possible to give off an aura that makes kind human beings think you are in a state of shock and they will subsequently help you if they can.
So I was off to Boston with $4.03 and a bag of skittles that I hadn't eaten the night before. My flight was to land in Boston at 4:40pm which would give me just enough time to walk into town and to a Wells Fargo bank before they closed at 6pm. I rang them just to confirm and was told
“There are no Wells Fargo branches in the state of Massachusetts.”
Of course there aren't. Why would the bank with “the most branches in America” have a branch in Boston? Silly.
My bus to New York was leaving at 1:00am the next morning so I figured I could last eight hours without a wallet. But I still had to get from the airport to the bus station. I was preparing myself for an entire day of walking when I saw that Boston Logan International Airport is on an island. It is literally impossible to walk away from the airport in any direction. Once again I was transported back to the backyard, looking at the broken window in silence. Then suddenly, a shuttle bus! It was going in the wrong direction but it only cost $3 so I didn't care. I just had to get off this Lost island. I ran up, climbed aboard so relieved, held out my coins and was told
“You can't pay with cash. We only accept credit cards.”
Of course you can't. Why would a bus accept cash? Silly.
Now where was I? Oh yeah, stranded on an island in Boston. I had thankfully not thought to immediately cancel my card and through a weird stroke of luck had just days earlier set up an uber account on my phone. I wouldn't need anything but the app on my phone (which I had) and it would just charge to my card online. I had my solution. So I found a power outlet, charged my phone, walked out to where there was reception (bad reception on islands) and fired up the app. Nothing came up so I researched it. Turns out uber drivers aren't allowed to make pick-ups from airports.
Of course they aren't. Why would a global driving service pick people up from airports? Silly.
But wait, if you choose the upgraded car that it twice as expensive, you might be able to get a pick up. I figured this was as good a time as any to splash out so I upgraded. And I sat for two hours monitoring my screen while I waited for an uber to get within range so I could request a ride. Luckily for me, time was not of the essence, money was. After many missed calls and yelling into the phone (bad island reception) I was finally able to catch the uber but not before sprinting across the entire airport to get to the specific, obscure pickup place for ubers that was never mentioned before.
Of course. Why would a car service make pick ups from the arrivals pick up area of an airport? Silly.
After being dropped off at the bus station (which was easily within walking distance if it weren't for the large body of water), I now had eight hours to kill and had eaten only a small bag of skittles since the night before. Now for the fun part. I found an empty seat and made myself comfortable. After two hours I wasn't that comfortable anymore and figured it would be a good time to spend my $4.03. Decisions, decisions.
After a lot of walking around and finding no large supermarkets and no cheap bread (sometimes when you're poor you have to eat carbs), I bought some pringles for $1.99. Now it was time to find something dense for $2.04. And that is when I walked past a 7-Eleven and saw a sign advertising a hot dog and huge drink for $2. Dreams do come true! I went in, filled up a cooler-sized cup, picked out the biggest hot dog, and proudly approached the counter only to be told
“That'll be $2.14.”
Of course. Why would a $2 deal actually end up being $2? Silly.
Have you ever had to leave a 7-Eleven because you couldn't afford the $2 hotdog deal? You should try it, it's great fun.
I now just wanted sympathy food so disregarded my actual hunger and spent my last dollars on Subway cookies because Subway cookies are always great. Except these subway cookies were a little undercooked which meant the eggs were more evident so I started to get an allergic reaction on the walk back to the bus station. Of course.
Back at the station I stood outside the bars of the station tavern and watched Serena Williams beat Venus in the US Open quarterfinals. A couple of guys who also couldn't afford to buy a drink came and watched with me and we had a nice chat about the Williams sisters. They were pretty funny and seemed nice enough. Then a phone rang and one of them answered it. After hanging up he announced that they had to go.
“What was that about?”
“Oh that was my probation officer. I have to go find an outlet to charge my ankle bracelet.”
And off they went.
Another four hours of sitting around and moving when dodgy people tried to saunter over and finally I was on the Greyhound set for New York City. We passed through New Hampshire and Connecticut which are truly beautiful at four in the morning, I tell you. At 5:20am, I arrived in New York City feeling very tired, very hungry, and very not in the mood for New York City. Emerging from the depths of the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Times Square, I was immediately approached by a flamboyant looking man wearing an all white outfit.
“Sister, I'm coming to you because you look the least dangerous.”
I looked around at all the homeless people loitering and had agree. He then proceeded to introduce himself as a designer from LA who was in town for the New York Fashion Week and whose collection had just been lost when his driver drove off without him. I wasn't inclined to believe him but he had me google his name and sure enough, there he was with some models modelling his dresses. I asked him what he needed and he said
“$17 for a cab so I can collect what's left of my collection and take it to the venue.”
I told him I had 30 cents on me but that I could offer him an uber and even help carry all his crap around (I wasn't allowed to show up to my host's place until 8am so just wanted something to do). He kept bringing up reasons why he couldn't do that and just needed the $17 which I found a little suspicious. To this day I can't figure out if he was performing a very elaborate scam to get $17 or if he truly was just trying to get his collection back. Either way, he declined my offer of an uber (rude) and went on his way which left me with over two hours to kill before I could drop my bags off at my host's place. Having two hours in NYC sounds like a great idea. Having two hours in NYC at 6am with no money and three hours sleep in three days is less enticing. So I walked up to where my host's place was, found a bench on the footpath and tried not to fall asleep as rich jewish kids got out of their taxis and made their way to the nearby jewish high school. Finally 8am rolled around and I was able to be let into my host's place which was an amazing apartment on the Upper West Side. After having a much-needed shower, I headed right back out to find a Wells Fargo bank. An hour later and I had myself a brand new card with brand new money and suddenly I started to see the allure of New York City. The smell of rubbish had been replaced by the smell of coffee and baking. The sun had come out and the streets were filled with people that had purpose. Everyone had somewhere to go. And so did I. I went straight back to the apartment and fell asleep on the floor.