I’ve travelled enough to know that getting around in a foreign land isn’t always easy, especially if I don’t speak the language. Still, I’ve always felt the rewards outweigh the hardships, until I visited Anaheim.
I was there to explore while Bob attended a conference. I wasn’t interested in riding flying elephants or spinning teacup, so I sought out Anaheim’s lesser attractions, like a hair salon. I was overdue for my highlights, anyway; astronauts could see my roots from the International Space Station.
Because the shop’s sign and price list were in English, I assumed the owner knew the language. It didn’t occur to me that we had a language barrier even when she acted surprised by my request for highlights. I realized too late that I would have been surprised too, if I’d known her idea of highlights.
At some point, while my head was covered with goop, she must have realized something had gone wrong and secretly summoned an accomplice. Soon as she put me in front of a mirror, when any other customer would have screamed, I found myself being fawned over by a newcomer in the adjacent chair. She gushed so much over my hair that in no time I was convinced orange, black and platinum stripes were gorgeous. As if I weren’t sold yet, she told me the style made me look 10 years younger. I was so dazzled I gave the stylist a 30 percent tip. Only when I looked in another mirror, a half mile from the salon, did I realize I looked like an emaciated, two-legged tiger.
After the salon fiasco, I figured negotiating the purchase of a veggie bowl at a fast-food joint would be a breeze, even if the clerk knew only two words in English. Wrong again. He gave me a chicken bowl. I guess I was still so thrown off by the highlights that I took the bowl to my seat and doused it with hot sauce before realizing chicken is not a vegetable.
The next day, I decided to take the county bus to Seal Beach. I’d ridden county buses the two previous days and thought I knew the system. So I was baffled when the bus driver stuck my all-day ticket in his side window frame.
“Don’t I get my ticket back?” I asked.
He just smiled, so I tried again.
“It’s an all-day ticket.”
He returned the ticket and laughed. I still don’t know why.
The next day, I was confounded once again by a bus driver. This time, he was doing me a favor. I was just too leery to listen.
I told him I was going to the Muzeo museum.
“You’re going to the Muzeo area, right?” he asked. “Not specifically to Muzeo.”
His tone suggested I’d asked to go to the city dump. Still, I persisted. I’d spent most of the three previous days in stores, restaurants and the city library. I was itching for some culture.
Near the museum entrance was a compact display of signs and artifacts depicting Anaheim’s history. I lingered ten minutes, then walked to the museum’s newer building, where a clerk was collecting $10 admission fees. I asked if the building had any free displays. She said no and handed me a flyer describing artist Geoff Mitchell’s exhibit, which had been extended “by popular demand.” A quick look at three or four of his paintings made me wonder just who did the demanding. Maybe I’d appreciate his silent, black-and-white movie. I endured five minutes. I figured the rest of the museum had to be an improvement, until I learned from the clerk that there was nothing more.
I wouldn’t wish a communication failure on anyone, but seeing my husband fail the next day gave me some satisfaction. He’d made reservations for us on the 6 a.m. SuperShuttle to the airport. When Bob gave driver Luz our last name, she looked at her iPad and said we weren’t on her list. Bob repeated “Washam.” I spelled it. Luz looked at the list again and asked, “Johnson?” When Bob said no, she handed him the iPad. If we hadn’t realized our name was Johnson when we heard it, she must have thought we would when we saw it. Luz kept us waiting several more minutes, then without explanation, waved us inside.
The drive went swimmingly until she asked the passengers their destination, airline and terminal. Everyone’s answer was agreeable, except ours. She told us we couldn’t fly to Miami from Terminal B because B serves international flights. Bob checked his cell phone. It said our flight would depart from Terminal B. We ignored Luz’s advice and entered Terminal B, where the departures sign listed our flight to Miami below flights to Manila, Melbourne and Mexico City. I’d just settled down with a cup of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal when the announcement came that our flight had been moved to Terminal 4. Naturally, four was the domestic terminal Luz said we needed. If only we’d listened.