The car watched me with suspicion. I watched the car with silver terror. The rental car person watched us both with benevolent disgust. My plan was to be honest: Sir, this is my first rental. Please understand this animal. In a well brought up action movie I would kick the silver door with my high heel sandal, slip in through the narrow path of light and drive focused to the place of exchange goods versus money. In this movie I breathe slow to expose perfect control and become one with the deep disbelief that I’m supposed to catch the key in the air and simply go.
We are at Burbank Airport, practically Hollywood. Cast and crew are busy with other lucrative things, but I am here anyway, and the finger of the rental car person is pointing the answer to the question screamed in my eyes. There? Yes, he shows me the left corner of the parking lot. The silver one. I try to explain my life circumstances. Where I am coming from. Where I am going. How I plan to bridge the gap using their vehicle. Sir, do I have to take the ramp down? He gives away the last trace of benevolence and makes a sign with his hand. Ok. I approach the booth full of positive thinking and reiterate.
Unlock? This key. Gas? Where? I had this potential nightmare where I fumble with mysteries in a gas station in Southern California and Police comes to say good day and how come you cannot find the unlocking device. I don’t know if it helps to say that I was brought up in a communist country until the age of 14 and a half and after I drove only my soulmate Nissan which, by the way, left behind the majority of other brands while we raced through Paso Robles. I knew how the finger works for the gas tank, where is the air conditioning and how to power radio to put in vein life.
Sir, this is my first rental. Can you please help bring the car to the booth? So we can study? I’m looking at the key in my hand and I understand that I will move the car first. I move to the left corner of the parking lot, cross myself and proceed. The car feels big. I fantasize that I am swallowed. I play the right foot gingerly and expect to hear the director gesture Cut to the crew. They say pain is the root of growth. It is. We roll a silver roll to the booth. There I park and refuse to take the stress no more. Sir, you have to help me! This is my first rental. Sharp. Professional. Gas tank? There. AC? There. My hip hop and R&B station? You have to play with the radio lady. Sir, I will. Don’t give me slow lyricism after Lil Wayne hooked me with Started From The Bottom Now We Here. Ah, how we screamed the tune along the Pacific Highway when drove from Santa Barbara to LA.
I don’t know what I did but I found my music. The world came slowly into focus. Lady now move the car away! People who call me lady find a special echo in my heart because someone important used to call me that way. And if we can make it down the ramp to street level we winners. The anatomy of having absolutely no idea where you are and being completely in the hands of a global device is priceless. I rolled with the flow of people who knew exactly what they were doing. Serious people, Hollywood people, deal people. My fancy was taken with the elbow of a magnate controlling an impeccable black shinny BMV and how the arch of his arm told a powerful story. I crave seeing men in shirts. Style is style.
For a brief second I forgot we are not traveling to the same place of business. I took a different exit but the feeling stayed. After putting trust in an intricate pattern of highways I made it into US 101 where I breathed recognition. The car was still too big for me in the sense that it was me and a lot of space but things got nicer and taking Sunset Boulevard I made my way to UCLA. I excused myself to the class that I am late because I rented a car. I rented about 6 cars after, one every week of the journalism class I took at UCLA. Two more things happened: one time I waited 2 hours at the car rental to bring me from somewhere a small car because my idea of small and their idea of small doesn’t seem to match. But I stayed put and I left with a red beauty I didn’t want to return. The other time I simply insisted to open in the morning an orange car which wasn’t mine. Rental car is easy. You go, you pay, you ask when you get the deposit back, take the key and do business. One night I had a cocktail at Estrella Sunset to celebrate things feared and conquered.
The damn trust you build when you run smooth in places where you bumped high is priceless.