I may consider myself a mass transit expert, but you wouldn't know it from my bus ride to the California Science Center. All of the research in the world, doesn't help this wanna-be Silver Line commuter, if I don't stand on that exact slab of concrete that will catapult me into the open mouth of the bus. Like the flying spoon on a trajectory to feed a petulant child, hit that mouth or be left contemplating your next attack. I make it inside the bus doors only to face the money eating gatekeeper. Armed with only soggy dollar bills, the fare monster refuses to be appeased. I become “that guy” who can't get the vending machine to accept their crumbled currency. I humbly present my George Washington and the machine just spits it back in disgust. It doesn't help that the back of my head is now smoldering from the laser stares from the other riders. Seeing my struggle, the driver finally grants me passage and I sulk off to find a seat. Nestled safely in the belly of the beast, it races up the 110 freeway stopping at the first 4 stops. We reach the 37th Street stop and the bus barely slows down. I jump up just as we are about to reenter the freeway, “Is this the USC exit?” “Yes” says the driver and proceeds to lecture me as he awkwardly backs up the bus. The back of my head is now on fire. The doors finally open and I leap out escaping the death ray glares from the back of the bus. Into a sea of maroon and gold I dive. It is USC game day and already alumni are setting up tents, crock pots, cozy chairs, and satellite dishes for their big screen, High Definition, TVs. Why watch the game at home when you can join thousands of Trojans and cheer in the dirt. I come across a huddle of USC fans, which can only mean one thing, “free beer” or the Endeavor. Actually that's two things and it turned out to be the latter. Precariously balancing on tippy toes, cell phones held high, these pigskin fanatics were performing this sobriety acrobatic feat just to get a glimpse of the latest celebrity in town, the Space Shuttle. Earlier that week, in a Roman triumph, Endeavor completed its majestic procession through the streets of Los Angeles. How fitting that Endeavor's journey ended at the Coliseum. But I was here to see a different lodestone. A woman, who also had the stank of Romans, Cleopatra.
I joined my fellow Red Hats, thankful we are donning that color as we were far outnumbered by the battalion from USC, and entered the exhibition becoming part of the coterie of Cleopatra admirers. Walking among the ancient artifacts, it's hard to believe that they were only recently freed from their Mediterranean's grasp. Having just read Stacy Schiff's Cleopatra biography, I actually recognized “the players” and places. I stifled a cry of glee when I realized I was looking at Cleopatra's dad and I actually knew that just from his name, Auletes. Like a preppy student who has done her homework, I smugly told myself “I knew that” as I read various descriptions and beheld the statues, coins, and jewelry. Our immersion into Egyptian culture ended too soon and we spilled into the gift shop. I purchased a cartouche of my last name. “Never pass up an opportunity to get a good cartouche” I always say and it was off to lunch. Lunch…now this is where the Red Hat ladies rumble…let the bragging begin. Various travel stories were lobbed at the newer members who counter with their own anecdotes. “Riding a camel in Egypt” is quickly trumped by “riding an Arabian stallion in Egypt” bareback no less. Temple comparisons quickly follow with questions about the exact size of your travel group, nationality of your guide, and hotel ranking. Each Red Hat tries to propel herself further up the imaginary travel totem pole of status. My Rome story only gets me a chuckle with an insider's joke about the brothels of Pompeii. Those lucky enough to have visited Egypt clearly win this travel tussle. Over lunch, I learn our tardy Red Hat was also a Silver Line rider but she missed the stop completely and had to walk from several stations away. We immediately commiserate over how difficult riding the bus has become. At least now I have a partner to ride home with. Up the station stairs we fly and line up diligently by the official Silver Line sign. Immediately a Silver Line bus pulls in and stops about 10 feet away. “What luck” we say and then watch as the bus pulls away and leaves us. We may have been under the sign, but not on that magic slab of concrete (as mentioned earlier in this story). Channeling the next driver's intentions, we are ready to dash anywhere along the entire platform. When the next bus pulls in, we make our football play, Red Hats a flappin,' we board like professionals casually tossing our exact fare in coins. We rejoice that our stop is the last stop (hard to mess that one up) and thirteen minutes later we climb into our cars and wave our good-byes. What an adventure it has been. I can't wait until the Endeavor expo opens. Once more my silver streaks will be a ridin' the Silver Line. I better start saving my quarters.