Lost in Los Angeles

Noemi Rabina looks back with humor on what became an exhausting ordeal as she and her husband  tried to drive home after paying their property tax in person. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center.  Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns December 10 is the deadline for paying property tax.  But where is the bill?  We don’t remember if we have received one.  If we are late in our payment, we will have to pay the penalty.  My husband decided to go to Los Angeles to pay our bill in person.

He tried to figure out how to take the bus because neither of us drive on the freeway.  I won’t let him go alone to Los Angeles and get lost, so I studied the map and figured out how I could drive on surface streets.  Even at turtle speed, it would be better to get there rather than stay at home and worry about him.  We left about 11 a.m., got to the Tax Collector’s office downtown with no problem, and we paid our bill.

Now, how do we go back home? With me at the wheel, how do I take the same streets back that we have traveled? My husband said, “I am already familiar with this place. You be careful not to take the lane going to the freeway which is close by.”

“Okay, tell me which lane I have to take,” I said.  And he said, “This way, this way.”

Okay, I followed his “this way” instruction.  See, I am very good following directions. But his “this way” became an entrance to I-5 North, and it was too late to change lanes. We held our breath, not knowing what to do or say.

Finally, I broke the silence and said, “Sacramento! Here we come!”

He said, “No, no. Make an exit and re-enter the opposite direction.”  I followed as directed. But it branched to the I-10 East, and we were going the wrong way again.

I said to my partner, “Hang on, we will be in New Orleans in three days!”

Far beyond I could see tall buildings. He told me to make an exit again.  After a while, familiar streets were in sight. We were in downtown again along Main Street, Hill Street, and Broadway – the place where we came from in the very beginning.  There was the Tax Collector’s office again.  We have to be careful now, to trace back to the streets that we traversed earlier in coming to LA.

Drive, drive, drive; round, round, and round in downtown Los Angeles.  Finally we saw Imperial Highway and we were excited.  We were sure it would then lead us home. But we could not figure out if we were going east or west.  I know that the sun sets in the west and told him to look where the sun was setting.  We needed to go eastward to get back to Downey.  He opened the window, looked out, but did not say a word.

“Well, did you see the sun?”

“There is no sun,” he replied.  “The sky is cloudy and it is already dark.”

“Oh…..”  Following Imperial Highway was the safe thing to do.  Drive, drive, drive.  Miles and miles of sight-seeing.

Finally he said, “I think you are going in the opposite direction.  We have to go the other way.”

“Do you think so?” I replied.

“I am positive.”  So I made a U-turn, and drove in the direction from which we had just come.  It was a long, long way.  As we crossed Sepulveda Street, he was excited.

“This is a familiar street. We are on the right track,” he told me. A little further and we were at the beach, facing the Pacific Ocean! I stopped because I was already tired and we were going nowhere.

He said, “Just keep on driving.”

“Where? “ I answered.  “To the ocean?”

“No, wherever you think is right,” he said.

“I think what is right is that we get help.” So I drove round and round again, looking for a gas station to ask for directions. We had already lost Imperial Highway.  At the Arco filing station, I asked a gentleman for the way to Downey.  He pointed in the direction that we came from.

“The other way is toward the beach,” he said.  I knew that.  Hopefully, we were on our way homeward now.  Instead of Imperial Highway, I now turned on Slauson – another street that I knew would lead us to Pico Rivera.  Then we could turn on Paramount and drive into Downey.  It was a long way also, but it was the right way.

My navigator had fallen asleep. Good for him.  I kept singing and I knew that the Lord would lead us home. Finally, familiar streets came in to view.  Home at last.

I was hungry, not having eaten since breakfast. We stopped by Pop-Eye Fried Chicken and were satisfied. It was already dark in the evening. We reached home about 7:00 PM, and decided not to tell anyone about our adventure. It was exciting, though, like chasing the rainbow in winter time.  So immediately I was on the phone telling my friend that we got lost in Los Angeles.

That was a lesson for us not to ever again lose an important bill such as the Property Tax bill.  My husband said, “If you were not with me, maybe I would not have gotten home until morning.”



Published: Dec. 11, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 35