A few times each year we make the big schlep down the west coast to LA to visit the southern branch of the family, and especially the grandkids. June is an especially fun trip, mostly because there is so much going on. And 2015 was no exception! This trip had all the hallmarks of a real MuddScape adventure, so we thought we’d share.
Of course, booking all your tickets in advance is frugal advice. And, along with that, booking a car on one of the billions of websites available for this is also a good idea. Priceline did us a solid on this, getting us a car for $17.99 per day at PayLess Car Rental. Sounds like a pretty good deal, until you see the taxes and fees that Burbank airport piggybacks onto the deal. It ended up costing us almost twice that. Sigh. But, it came with some entertainment, so I shouldn’t complain.
At first, we couldn’t even FIND the Payless counter, although there were plenty of signs pointing us in the right direction. It turns out that Avis and Budget co-own Payless (sounds like part of a global evil mastermind), and 6” of the end of the Avis counter has the Payless check-in and return desk, accompanied by a small vertical cardboard sign announcing this, and a young college student as a clerk. When we finally found it, 2 elderly women were in-process with their rental, and at the same time barraging the youngster with every imaginable question they could think of about Burbank, mostly about driving and weather. As it turns out, they are staying at the hotel across the street, and will likely put about ½ mile on the odometer, but who knew? Anyway, when they finish it’s our turn (at last!). But wait, there has been a call on hold and our plucky clerk needs to take that call before he can help us. By now being more than a little frustrated, we listen in on the call to anticipate how long it will last. Mr. Clerk listens diligently for almost a minute, then responds “Gosh, I’m sorry to hear that.” Then he listens again for another very long minute, and this time his response really gets our attention: “Ma’am, just how does you getting asked to take a sobriety test become our problem?” The call went progressively downhill from there, but Mr. Clerk handled it very politely and resolved it by extending the caller’s rental period by 2 more days, presumably until she could get dried out and bailed out. And he even offered to extend it at the same $10.99 discounted daily rate! Not done yet, Ms. DUI squawks on for another minute, to which Mr. Clerk replies, “No Ma’am, we can’t discount that rate by another $3 per day just because you won’t be using the car.” I have to admin, I admire her pluck. With that call ended, we finally take a full 30 seconds to complete our transaction and head to our car, much to the relief of the long line that has formed behind us.
This experience in itself would have made this a memorable trip. But there are 3 other highlights to the trip worth mentioning. The first, and the primary reason for the timing of our trip, was the birthday party for Dylan, our nearly 6 year old grandson. Mom and Dad set it up at a new party place called the Glow Zone, and let me tell you, this place parties down for young kids! One room had 2 banks of Nerf ball cannons for a 15 minute 6,000 decibel non-lethal war. Other rooms had laser tag, miniature golf, an elevated beam trail (with safety harnesses, of course), and a laser maze, all illuminated by black lights and painted in bright fluorescent colors. Pump the kids up with pizza and cake, and turn them loose, and you will have a good idea what a prison riot looks like. We had a ton of fun.
A very memorable highlight, from a grandparent’s point of view, was attending the Mathletes Award Ceremony. Our 12 year old grandson, Brandon, has been a Mathlete for the last 2 years, and this year he really took away the bling! There are a number of contests each Mathlete can enter each year, and the granddaddy of them all is the Mathlete Olympiad (appropriately named I think). Along with all his other certificates and merit badges, Brandon was called up to accept a certificate for placing in the top 5% of all national Olympiad participants. Before he could make it back to his seat, he was called back to accept a small trophy for placing in the top 1% nationally for his age group. But wait, there’s more! He was asked to stay up at the podium, and then presented with a larger, prettier trophy for placing #1, the TOP student in his grade, in the nation. Nobody was aware of any of the results in advance, and his entire family was stunned. And very, very proud. Who knew we had an uber-Nerd in our midst? Congratulations Brandon!
Speaking of uber, the last highlight was my sudden revelation about that new global cab-killing sensation. I imagined a new uber category that, if I can get a small slice of the multi-trillion dollar value of the whole thing, will indeed make me rich and important. Let me explain.
On our recent trip to New York City, we used uberX, the very affordable smart-phone-summoned car service that features comfy, regular cars with English speaking drivers that don’t smell like a slaughterhouse from Karachi, to get from JFK airport to our hotel in Greenwich Village. Quick, cheap, clean, and slick.
We were also introduced to uber Black, only because an uber Black driver happened to pick us up as an uberX fare since he wasn’t busy. He smelled faintly of Old Spice, nice! And picked us up in a shiny black Escalade.
But while we were in LA, particularly when we were in West Hollywood for dinner, I had a brainchild that was born out of nearly getting run over in a crosswalk by a local. When uber-cool is called for, how about uber Low?
If you aren’t in a hurry, and you’re looking to be looked at, nothing tops low riding. I’m thinking this just may be the perfect ride to take a Mathlete to his prom, right Homes?