We had to go to Los Angeles today. Hushby took a half day off and I co-pilot the drive. We bought McDonald's breakfast on the go and venture out of O.C. only to get stuck in the jam as we approach LA downtown. It was so stressful, not to mention, anxious to stop intermittently in the busy freeway. Hushby started stressing out too being the driver. There were just too many vehicles on the road, too much carbon monoxide and I noted the rubbish surrounding us, laying on each sides of the 6 lanes road as soon as we drove pass Disneyland in Santa Ana. As always, it's never a pretty sight driving down the profanity, graffiti-filled walls and broken bottles besides the freeways of Los Angeles. Despite being known for its entertainment business, rich and famous celebrities, and all that glamor talk of Beverly Hills, I never like LA, even just looking at its congested airport. Plastic bags floating by the police cars parked in the corner where vandalised street and exit signs were just another common thing to the locals. And here we are, two anxious and stress Malaysian in this foreign and filthy town, in search of the 4th Street in downtown Los Angeles.
JC: "No no noooo... turn right here! Turn now... Oh damn you missed it!!"
Hushby: "It's ok, it's ok... we're still safe. I can take the next exit."
GPS: Recalculating... turn right on 6th street.
JC: "Don't listen to her already. GRRRRrr You didn't look at the exit sign! If you could just listen to me..."
Hushby: "It's ok, it's ok. We'll take 8th Street exit... We're ok. This stupid GPS is so stupid"
JC: "She is a computer! UGh grrrrr.... turn now. Wait, car car car... ok, go"
GPS: Recalculating. Keep right onto California one one zero.
Hushby: "Where now?"
JC: "Er.. Keep right here... yup, right. RIGHT! This is not right, mister!"
Hushby: "No.... correct, we're on the right lane"
JC: "No, you're on the left lane!"
GPS: Keep right on California one one zero...
Hushby: "Ok Wait, I see 6th street. We're getting there... Shhh"
JC: "How do we know where to park?"
GPS: "Turn left and arrived at 550 South Hope Street"
JC: "You are going to turn left, keep left now... now, faster, no car behind you"
Hushby: "Wait, I see parking"
Saw a billboard that says "Park All Day $20.00. Every 20 mins for $3.00".
Hushby: "Do you think it's OK if we park here? Can you walk?"
JC: "Well... if it's not 10 miles away..." *rolling the eyes*
Hushby: "OK, I'll park here. I don't want to go too far"
So Hushby drove into the plaza after the $3.00 sign. I reeled my window down and a clean-shaven parking attendant, clad in white shirt, a neck tie and a black khakis walked towards our car, already ready to open the door for me.
Attendant: "Hello ma'am, welcome"
JC: "Hi" *Reaching the hand out to grab the ticket"
Attendant looking at JC, JC looking at attendant.
JC: *Puzzle* "No more space?"
Attendant: "I can park for you."
JC looked at Hushby, "Duh"
Attendant finally get to open the door for me. I had to admit as much as I was feeling bad that we were going to spend more for this parking ticket than we going to do for lunch, I was feeling a tad gorgeous to arrive in style, a little like Queen Elizabeth sans the hat fashion as I stepped out of the car, grabbing my oversize tote. Then the OCD in me knew I had to throw something when I arrived LA and so, I quickly caught the McD paper bag laying down on the leg compartment, reminding me to throw our stale coffee away before anyone would notice it. In this case, the valet person. Oh well, not that glamorous anymore.
Attendant: "Parking all day, sir?"
Hushby: "No no, just an hour the max."
Attendant: "No problem sir."
Attendant drove the car, and we walked out of the parking plaza.
JC whispers: "Hey, not bad... first class service."
Hushby: "I didn't know it was a valet parking"
JC: "Yeah, me neither. I don't see the sign says that"
Hushby: "Yeah, what a rip off"
JC: "It's OK, we don't know our way here. Couldn't have known better"
Hushby: "I could have drove around somemore and look"
JC: "It's Okayy, the building it's just opposite us... let's not fret about it. Good thing it's convenient"
Hushby: "Is it opposite us?"
JC: "Yes, look. I think it is. Let's go. It's just 3 bucks"
Hushby: "Oh great, now I have to tip them"
JC: "How much are you going to give them? 10 bucks?"
Hushby: "OK ok, let's go..."
Look at us bickering, early in the morning.
So we walked into the sky-high brown shiny building located on 5th street, just in time for the Malaysian Embassy to open their suite 400 for us to visit. Luckily for us, it was one of those Sunday afternoon when we had too much free time on hand, we took our passport out just to laugh at one another faces, and only to find out, Mr. Tham's passport has expired! Hushby called the Malaysian Embassy the very next day and set a time for himself to get an emergency travel document for us to enter Penang without hassle.
Taking the elevator up to the 4th floor of the office-like building, we felt the presence of the Malaysian air immediately. Fine Malaysian pewter wares were display left side of the entrace and on the right, crude ceramic jar painted in brown and green color reminisce of our 'kampung' (village) way to cool water. Immediately after, a long strawberry blonde American lady murmurs on the phone with another Malaysian I presumed, also dealing with an expired passport cause' I eavesdrop, as usual. She told us to go into the room next door and wait until our turn is called.
We walked into the room next door and there's three other counters all separating the visitors and the employees with a glass wall. On the other side, I see the consulates offices. A Malay lady at present to talk to a Chinese visitor. Now I see some Malaysians, walking around, working and talking in the Manglish (Malaysian+English) way. I love it. Sounds like home already. The smell of Kari Ayam (Chicken Curry) and warm rice sitting on the rattan mat waiting for me is pleasantly welcoming. Then, OH snap!
Why is Pak Lah's (Malaysia's former Prime Minster) face still on the wall? As his picture hang high on the wall, presented along with Agung and the Pemaisuri (King and Queen) in their traditional royal outfit. Wouldn't the consulate care to replace Pak Lah's with Najib's photo now? Maybe they don't really care about the current politic chaos... but it has been a month. Maybe Najib didn't get a chance to go to the photo studio yet.
My thoughts were scattered everywhere as we waited for our turn to be called out. I looked around, being nosy and eavedrops too much. Hushby as usual, calm and effortlessly handsome, living in the moment kind of gent. I, on the other hand, was self-conscious with my 2-dollar yellow batik top I snatched out of a Wet Seal sales rack (I know it's embarassing that I still shop there), pairing it with my three quarter funky jeans, and the famous canary pointy flats.... which turns out to be a bit too picnic-like for this formal place! I can't tell you how embarass I was expecting to feel if they ever spot my Wet Seal top secret hole just on the right armpit and possibly my silver bra strap that always peep out from the neck boat collar. I should have overdress! And put some mascara on... but I was too sleepy this morning after a gruesome 2 hour dentist visit the day before.
Then a young, darker-skin Malay guy whom I like to call Ahmad, smiled at us with an approval nod for our turn. Ahmad greeted us and gave us the warm Malaysian smile. The now seem to be quite rare Malaysian hospitality was much needed, just enough to throw all insecurities out the door. He went through the fill-out forms carefully scanning them and continue to smile. We exhanged a brief chat about the weather being a little hot today, then Hushby printed his thumb and we were all set to pick the emergency travel document next week. Just as easy as that. How I wish back home, all government sector would work this way. Fast, easy and classy!
We walked out of that sky-high building located on 5th street, feeling very, very satisfied to get a glimpse of other Malaysian lives who reside in the US. I almost wanted to ask Ahmad, "can we come over for ketupat? Boleh? Teh tarik boleh?" (Rice dumpling? Can? Milk tea then?) Now that would have been way too much but seriously, if only he would invite us over for Raya, I'll be no. 1 on the bandwagon.
An hour drive later, we arrived to Laguna Niguel's sparkling clean town with of that famous sight of swaying palm trees and thoughtful landscaping at every corner, completely in absent of broken glasses, graffiti on the wall and homeless people on the street. My anxiety level came down and even Hushby voice seem to soothe me over.
Hushby quickly say "Ahh... Back to reality!" Yep, home it is. I was in Malaysia for 20 minutes.