We have many opportunities to take advantage of shuttle rides here in the Los Angeles area. It seems like many of our most popular venues are otherwise inaccessible. Some are perched high in the hills where parking is nonexistent; others are just so mobbed by locals and tourists that shuttles are the only possible way to accommodate everybody.
I avoid shuttles because I like to keep parking simple. When I don’t have a choice, I suck it up and deal with the inconvenience of transferring myself, my children and our miscellaneous belongings to a second vehicle after I’ve parked my own perfectly good transportation.
The stress of the process – on arrival and departure – is the main reason I dislike shuttles, but there’s also the discomfort of knowing my getaway car is not going to be easily accessible if there is some kind of emergency involving either earthquake, earache or poopy diaper.
Recently, my husband and I went to see the talented and hilarious Harry Connick Jr. at the Hollywood Bowl. I think of the Hollywood Bowl as an iconic American landmark. It’s in more movies than I can count, and it’s an experience I highly recommend. It’s a bit farther than our usual excursions, and parking is seriously hairy, so we decided to take the shuttle.
The Hollywood Bowl shuttle costs $8 per person round trip and starts at a park near our home. We parked at the park and boarded for a 20-mile journey into the heart of Los Angeles and then out to the end of a major artery in the Hollywood Hills. Dodger Stadium is up there, too, and David Hasselhoff’s mansion, which isn’t so far from a huge flashing beacon that keeps small planes from running right into the mountain.
The bus on our way to the concert was the plush variety with air conditioning and a bathroom. The whole thing felt like an adventure, like going to summer camp with a bunch of other rowdy kids, except this bunch of kids had ultra-hip titanium coolers packed with fancy cheese, prosciutto and all kinds of liquor.
About an hour into the ride, the novelty had worn off, and I sat irritably listening to the cell phone conversation carried on by the woman behind me. Her husband must be a dull guy, because she talked on the phone for a very long time and hardly said a word to him beyond complaining about all the trash on the side of the road.
This is the trash we could see in minutest detail, because the shuttle was crawling along at about 5 miles an hour. That we were not driving in this ant trail ourselves was our only consolation. And if you are tired of Californians griping about traffic, stop reading right now. It might look like everybody in the state is on the freeway at rush hour, but truthfully, many of us avoid the smoggy conga line at all costs – so we are not used to it.
The shuttle bus pulled in as close to the Hollywood Bowl as you can get without $100 million in the bank or a platinum handicapped parking pass. No kidding, I doubt the police could get any closer than we did without wielding their weapons.
Our “hostess” called out a list of directions I could only pretend to hear – something about over the river and through the woods and be back 20 minutes after the show or we leave you behind. So we set out, and after a series of tunnels, moving walkways, stairs, escalators and ramps found ourselves at the top of the gorgeous amphitheater, where our cheap seats provided us with an unobstructed view of a 2-inch-tall Harry Connick and a beautiful starry night.
The evening was great, and at 10:30 p.m. sharp, when the residents near the Bowl require silence and curfew is imposed, Connick left the stage, and we dashed to catch the shuttle so pivotal to our return to our sleeping children and their expensive babysitter.
Our return shuttle was not so luxurious – no bathroom and uncertain ventilation. But all was well as we hurtled along the late-night highway. Then we came to an unexpected and complete stop. From the inside of a well-lighted bus, we could not make out the reason for our lack of progress, until the ambulances, police cars and fire trucks began to approach from all directions. Cars stacked up behind us, and there we sat, just a few hundred feet from an accident involving at least four vehicles.
When none of the ambulances sped off like rockets, I guessed none of the injured was in terrible danger. That’s when I thought about the hourly rate we were paying our sitter and the amount these extra two hours were adding to the total. I really missed my car, but I knew it would not have got me to or from the concert any faster than the shuttle. There was nothing to do but wait, so I took a little nap.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is an Amateur Parker and PT’s proofreader. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.