Panda Eyes by Robyn Boswell
From the friend who, in San Francisco, didn’t want to ride the cable cars or go to Fisherman’s Wharf, to the one who’s terrified of escalators, I’ve found that travelling with friends can be fraught with difficulties.
Shelley and I hadn’t known each other long when we shared a hotel room in Los Angeles for a few days. Shelley likes to plan ahead and be in control, whilst I’m more of a ‘what will we do now….what’s down that road?’ traveller. Having made a number of trips by myself, I was happy for her to take charge so she spent the first evening poring over city maps and local bus timetables as she planned our days.
The first day was the Holocaust Museum. Having been to Dachau, I wasn’t convinced, but finding our way there through Beverly Hills on a local bus sounded like an adventure. We got ourselves organised for the day and sat on our beds chatting and taking our morning medications.
Suddenly Shelley glanced at me with a look of horror, clutching a small white pill bottle.
“Oh no. I’ve taken the wrong pills – I’ve just taken two sleeping tablets!”
She rushed to the bathroom to try and dislodge them, but it was too late. Thank goodness she’d discovered it before we set out for the day.
We quickly formulated plan B and ordered room service breakfast. Shelley figured that if I came back around 3 pm she might be ready to surface.
As we ate our bacon and eggs I noticed that Shelley’s eating was getting slower and slower. Suddenly she missed her mouth altogether, the forkful of eggs tumbling down the front of her clean shirt. Before I could react, she was sound asleep, clutching another forkful of food neatly poised between her plate and her mouth. I disentangled her from her tray, pulled the covers over her and left her to it.
Unfortunately the hotel neighborhood wasn’t conducive to foot exploration. The park across the road looked very pleasant, but the cars I had seen pulling up there at all hours of the day and night didn't fill me with enthusiasm to take a walk. There wasn’t much else around the neighbourhood and none of it felt particularly safe or interesting. I didn’t want to stray too far from the hotel until Shelley woke up.
The only shop nearby was a supermarket. It’s amazing how much time you can spend cruising the shelves of a supermarket full of unfamiliar products when you have more time than you need on your hands. It was like a museum of modernity. I read labels, perused products I had never seen before and bought a rather ghastly striped mixture of jam and peanut butter to squeeze into my suitcase. That filled an hour or so….there was still a lot of day to go.
At least the hotel had a pool. It was early in the season and no one was foolish enough to try it but me. It was chilly but I persuaded myself to do a few laps and pretend I was in a tropical paradise….. one more hour gone.
Unfortunately I’d finished reading the one book I had as I intended to buy one at the airport for my flight. Back in the supermarket I managed to find a not particularly entertaining magazine that was about the lives of people I didn’t recognise……one more hour….
At the café next to the hotel I managed to linger over my lunch…….another hour……
Eventually the clock dragged its hands reluctantly around to 3pm and I went to our room and found Shelley trying desperately to shake herself awake. She woke up enough to drag herself to the mirror and burst into gales of laughter. The black circles under her eyes gave her the guise of a half-awake panda!
She was worried that she had wasted one of our days together and wanted to make amends, so suggested we take a taxi to Santa Monica a little way away. Walking down Third Street Promenade I felt like I was accompanied by a zombie. Shelley stumbled along, to all intents and purposes sleepwalking. I enjoyed poking around in the shops and watching the passing parade, which is always entertaining along the promenade. Shelley finally headed for the nearest seat and snoozed until I came back and moved her on to the next one.
Eventually we decided an early dinner and a taxi back to the hotel was necessary, so we sat outside in the sunshine at a pleasant little Italian restaurant and I, at least, enjoyed the flavoursome, aromatic meal. Shelley tried her best to enjoy it with little success. She kept getting slightly strange looks from the wait staff and passing pedestrians. I realised later they were probably used to seeing people who had ingested various substances, but probably not a somewhat conservative, middle-aged lady!
The next day we made it to the Holocaust Museum. The local bus was fascinating and took us through streets we would never have visited on a tour. The museum? Well, we stayed ten minutes – it wasn’t what we wanted to do on a fun holiday, that’s for sure. The problem was that Shelley with all her organisation had planned for us to take a bus back much later in the afternoon and hadn’t considered any contingency plans. We had no idea how to call for a taxi – in my experience that’s something that people in Los Angeles can’t help you with. Luckily as we sat and contemplated our fate a taxi pulled into a restaurant up the road. I’ve never seen Shelley move as fast as she did then! It was a very expensive ride back to our hotel after a day of nothing, really.
Fortunately our last day at my favourite Los Angeles destination, the Getty Centre, made up for everything.
Shelley and I became good friends. We share a sense of humour and have told our story many times over the years.