I feel very fortunate to live in Southern California. We have plenty of sunshine and warm weather. When I moved from the Central Coast to Los Angeles for college, I remember feeling like I would never need to buy another jacket or coat because the temperatures rarely dropped below 68. Now that I’ve been here for 25 years (am I that old???) 68 degrees makes me run for my favorite fleece hoodie.
Another fabulous thing about Southern California is all the options we have for hobbies and work. I have friends who work at large companies, small companies, in retail, as personal trainers, in “the business” above the line and below the line jobs or who are entrepreneurs. We all zip around this city in our cars and meet at places like the beach for surfing or the LA Phil for classical music or an indie comic book shop for reading material or a taco truck for Ono grinds. The diversity of activities and people in So Cal keeps my easily distracted brain stimulated and prepped for new life experiences.
Today, I’m thumb typing this post from a large charter bus that is taking me to the Los Angeles Convention Center in Downtown. The Special Olympics World Games kicked off on Saturday and my company is a major sponsor. We have been given the opportunity to volunteer for two and half days, with pay. I feel like this is truly a once in a lifetime experience and have been looking forward to it for months. Ok, we just reached the venue and I am going to stash my phone in my very stylish fannt pack and just breathe in the experience.
My assignment? Motor pool driver. (Insert joke about Asian driver here…) Unfortunately, driving in Los Angeles is not an easy task. Thankfully, each vehicle would be equipped with a phone pre-programmed with GPS coordinates for each of our drop locations. In addition, the vehicles that have navigation system would have that as a backup. We received strict instructions to not use our personal phones with GPS apps to avoid dropping off distinguished guests at the wrong side of the LA Coliseum, UCLA or USC campus, or the LA Convention Center. Another location on our lists were both LAX and Long Beach airports. The way traffic runs in LA, these runs could take anywhere from 10 minutes to 120 minutes.
I spent several months of my life driving around Los Angeles when I worked as a production assistant on TV shows like “Vicki” and “Bill Nye the Science Guy”. Keep in mind that my days as a PA occurred pre-GPS in cars and pre-smart phone. I had to use a Thomas Guide to get around Los Angeles County. Because of that work experience, driving in LA is not my favorite pastime. However, this assignment was not my choice and as a volunteer, I just wanted to be helpful and support the Special Olympics where they needed it.
Let me go back to the beginning of the day because the experience ended in an unexpected way for me. My morning began boarding the second chartered bus from work. I shared it with three other employees, one who I had known for over 10 years and the other two I just met that morning. Three of us wandered through the LA Convention Center together, checked in, bought coffee and looked for our assigned area, “Motorpool”. We took escalators down in search of Kentia Hall. Although the walls and signs featured prominent labels pointed us toward Kentia Hall, it was not easy to find. We also picked up other stragglers who were searching for the hall, as well.
After several minutes, my new friend Daron found the correct door for us to exit. We walked out to a huge garage area that had been used for one of the “Batman” franchise movies Batcave scenes. There I saw a sea of shiny Camrys and Siennas. Our next set of instructions were to sign our names on a sheet of paper and hurry up and wait. I hung out with my new friend, a new employee who had been with the company for about six months. She introduced me to a colleague from her department, a young English guy who has been working at our company for about three years. Color me a bit superficial but not only was he tall, intelligent and charming, but his accent was like chopped almonds and whipped cream on top of a caramel fudge vanilla bean ice cream sundae! What is it about accents? But I digress, this was a work event.
It always surprises me when I meet people who I have never interacted with at work. We proceeded to spend the next four and half hours in lively conversation together. Topics ranged from work, the move, TV, movies, podcasts, on-line dating, worst dates of our lives, best restaurants for first dates, first date attire for men and women, on-line dating strategies for men and women, generational differences in on-line dating perspectives, books, gay marriage, running half marathons, and moving to another state for the company. The conversation made me laugh and think and laugh some more. My cheeks were in a perpetual smile.
Honestly, we talked for four hours and a half hours, which included a weak brown bag sandwich consisting of a Tarragon chicken sandwich and potato chips with all we could drink bottles of water, soda, orange juice and iced tea. I despise sandwiches and elected not to eat it. Luckily, the conversation sustained me through the morning. None of us had been called to make a run with any distinguished guests at all.
So, we realized that we moved into hour five of talking and decided to go upstairs to watch some of the events. A handball game between India and Egypt was on one court. The English guy asked if I was familiar with the game and proceeded to announce that I may enjoy watching it because it is similar to basketball. At some point in our four and a half hour long conversation, I must have mentioned playing basketball in high school. We had covered so much ground I had forgotten that I had mentioned that! Handball looked like a combination of soccer and basketball, the objective was to throw a rubber ball into a goal that was similar to one from soccer. Rules appeared to be similar, each team member had to dribble and pass. But I counted five players on the court and one goalie. It was definitely heart-warming to see the game and to hear the fans cheering for each team.
We moved on to watch roller skating warm-ups. These athletes wore in-line skates and were warming up in a circle. I still don’t know what the competition actually would be, perhaps speed skating? Badminton was happening when we first arrived at 9:00am, power weight lifting was in a hall that we couldn’t find. The activities were happening everywhere and we had fun wandering around and cheering.
However, when we returned to the holding area for Motorpool, we saw no evidence that we would be called to transport any distinguished guests. Instead, we realized that a shuttle would be returning volunteers to our place of employment in 30 minutes and elected to return home early. We boarded together, English guy asked to sit next to me, even though the bus was only ¼ full. He proceeded to talk about an interesting book he was reading, “The Third Chimpanzee” or something about a chimpanzee. During the bus ride back, he also mentioned a bottomless mimosas brunch place that he had recommended during a funny story about the last time he went to work with a hangover and said, “Let’s pick a date and make that happen.” When he had mentioned it six hours earlier, I didn’t think he meant he wanted to go with ME. But I think somewhere between hour one and hour six, he did. So although I didn’t have an opportunity to actually drive one of the distinguished guests anywhere, I did make a couple of new friends and will be enjoying bottomless mimosas with the English guy soon.