I’m on the fourth month of my Los Angeles adventure and I have to admit it has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride. Change is hard, no matter who you are. Our brains simply don’t like it and they tend to freak out as soon as we leave the safe and secure zone of “but I’ve always done it this way!”
The process so far has been: “Ooh, ahh this is amazing” followed by “Oh my God, this place is insane, what am I doing here? then on to “I guess it’s not so bad, and the Mexican food is great.”
It’s always disconcerting when you change hemispheres (for me South to North) because the moon is upside down and the sun is in the south instead of the north. If you haven’t experienced this, it totally screws with your sense of direction, so I spend a lot of time going the wrong way. It’s even worse when Uber commands you to meet your driver on the NW corner of a nearby street. To an omnipotent observer I must look like a deranged pigeon, pacing back and forth as I try various directions until it seems to match the small blue dot on the app map.
I mentioned my upside-down moon problem recently to a dinner companion, who stared at me for some time before asking me what the hell I was talking about. He didn’t believe me, even after what I thought was a clear explanation involving the salt and pepper shakers, our plates and a great deal of pantomime. And therein lies the problem – you don’t know what you don’t know – everyone thinks what they know is the way it has always been. To partially quote the wonderful, late and very lamented Douglas Adams (who was talking about a good cup of tea), many things in Los Angeles “are not quite but not entirely unlike” what I’m used to, but they are different enough that my brain is constantly discombobulated.
The left hand, right hand drive thing is the most obvious, and I have startled many an Uber driver by trying to jump into the driver’s seat with them, but it’s the little things that trip me up. Light switches work the opposite way to home – you push down to turn off, up to turn on, requiring me to flick them up and down at least five times until I get it right. My Kiwi accent is a constant source of amusement to Angelinos, and I’ve had to abandon several words completely (deck being the most obvious). No one know what queue means – just the word because from the moment you land, you hit the most horrendous lines! And no one knows how to make a really good cup of tea. I think cream is actually milk, but I’m not sure.
I spend a lot of time giving geography lessons – that I’m not British or Australian, but a New Zealander, (which somehow became the Netherlands on one occasion with Jesus the Cuban Uber driver), and explaining that Australia and New Zealand are two different countries, separated by a large body of water, that you can’t drive around New Zealand in an afternoon, and yes, it is a lot like Lord of the Rings, but we have amazing beaches as well. I also made the horrendous discovery that they don’t have chicken flavoured chips in the US! Heathens!
But I think we all have a problem with the upside-down moon – we think everyone experiences the world in the same way as we do and fail to appreciate how difficult change can be. I’m slowly adapting to the madness of Los Angeles: the brightness of the light, the heat and dust, insane traffic, and the tremendous amount of loose change one acquires.
The upside-down moon is gradually becoming right-side up, and maybe, just maybe, leaving behind who you were is a way to find out who you could be, so I’m learning to embrace the strangeness and appreciate it is all part of the journey and adventure.
I wish we could all change places, walk a mile in everyone else’s shoes, understand everyone’s story is different, everyone’s story is the same, and teach everyone how to make a really good cup of tea.