Unemployment Diaries: California Edition Part V

By the second night, I was an expert on how to achieve sleep on a train. It also helped we were allowed to spread out, and I got the seat next to me back.

And a word to the wise: The train car attendants are there to do their job. If you want to spread out, just ask if it’s okay to move seats. They’ll more than likely oblige if there’s enough room and they aren’t expecting anymore passengers to board.

Smiley, and a few other passengers, thought it was appropriate to argue and raise their voices when the female attendant asked them to go back to their assigned seats. A majority of the unruly passengers were male, and I assume weren’t pleased about a female telling them what to do. 

I made sure to express my gratitude and that God bless her for keeping her cool. As a waitress, I know the public can be rough. 

***

I got almost four straight hours of sleep and then dozed off for another two hours. I felt like I won the sleep battle. I woke with a little over 45-minutes left of my trip, I was almost finished with my 36-hour Christopher Columbus-esque trip, and I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

As the train pulled into Union Station in Los Angeles, I almost leaped off the platform. I had a busy day ahead of me and a lot of unchartered waters to sail through. I was here to find a job, I was here to take a chance and make a change, and I was here to escape the continent (my couch) of postgrad depression.

***

Getting the star treatment with the FIL <3
Getting the star treatment with the FIL ❤
I had about four-five hours of down time before it was time to get ready for Habitat for Humanity’s Builders Ball.

It would be a great opportunity to network and put my name out in a sea of people who all had jobs and knew people who needed to hire, and that somebody could be me!

It was held at The Wilshire Hotel, also known as the hotel in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts stays with the handsome Richard Gere. Swoon. 

I got to walk the infamous Rodeo Drive in search of a Starbucks. We had been up since 3:30 a.m. and were going to need liquid energy to make it until 10:00 p.m.

Before guests arrived.
Before guests arrived.

The room filled.
The room filled.
It was gorgeous.

The ball was a first for Habitat, and its main purpose was to highlight the work it does for the community, the organization’s biggest donors/contributors and to raise money to continue the work it does for the greater Los Angeles area.

Oh yeah, and Magic Johnson was there.

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No big deal, right?

My first night in California I went to a ball, met some awesome Habitat for Humanity peeps and listened to Magic Johnson hustle people during his personal auction of two Laker tickets (floor seats), a signed basketball and jersey…

I have to say, not a bad start.

Unemployment Diaries: California Edition Part IV

I had the the whole day on the train, but it felt nice to know I was halfway done with the trip. Traveling by train is interesting and definitely something I can check off my bucket list, but I’d suggest traveling by train would be more enjoyable with a friend.

I went to the cafe car and bought some milk for my breakfast. I had brought my granola cereal and a few bananas to mimic my normal morning routine. The price of food is equivalent to eating at any arena events. To cut some costs, especially if traveling long distances, I would recommend bringing your own snacks and bottled water.

After I finished my breakfast I hung out in the observation car. The windows are larger and the seats are roomier, plus it’s an awesome way to break up the time sitting in your paid seat. I was still in Texas, but the landscape began to show we were headed closer to New Mexico.

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As the train stopped in El Paso, I was shocked to see what the real border between Mexico and the U.S. looked like….

I had traveled to Cozumel a few years ago and understood it was the touristy part of the country, but I had never seen the vast differences of the two countries side-by-side.

As I gazed down the rusted barbed-wire fence, it was apparent which country was which, even though the landscaping was the same, the way it was used was vastly different. Our roads were paved, cut into the mountains and rocky environment. Mexico’s houses were plopped on uneven surfaces up steep rocky roads. It looked miserable, homes barley had roofs or windows.

The fence was a physical representation of where dreams began and ended; a literal and concrete meaning of the “American Dream.” It was humbling to see it with my own eyes, and a reminder to not take what I have for granted. Not a single soul gets to pick what country they’re born in, and I should be forever grateful for my homeland luck.

***

The time zone changes were starving my stomach, because dinner kept getting pushed back later and later. I had also ran out of snacks. When my reservation number (you must reserve a dinner seat earlier in the afternoon with a train attendant) was called over the speakers, I flew quicker than The Flash to the dining car.

The waitresses assign you a place to sit and if you’re a party of one, you’ll be dining with four other strangers. It was a bit odd at first because I sat with three other older gentlemen. One was from England while the other two were Americans.

Halfway through my meal, the man sitting in front of me asked why I was on the train and where I was headed (a normal conversation starter while traveling by train). I gave an edited version of my reasons and of hopes to find a job in California. After learning of my recent graduation he asked what I got my degree in and what I wanted to do.

I expressed my passion for nonprofits, how I had worked for the American Red Cross over the summer and enjoyed every minute assisting during disaster relief efforts and writing blogs for the organization. His response, I kid you not was:

“Man, you sound like the perfect politician. A writer and spin doctor who enjoys working for crooks,” said Mr. Arrogant American.

My other two dining car buddies immediately shoveled more rice and salad into their stomachs. A zillion remarks zipped through my head in the matter of milliseconds. Instead of educating him or throwing my plate at his head, I resorted to a sarcastic quip about how it’s a shame so many people are uninformed.

#winning

Dinner was okay, I questioned how much of the chicken was chicken, but I was too hungry to truly care. I had one more night’s sleep in a coach seat, a few more movies to watch, and then I’d be greeted by my in-laws on the platform where my journey to what opportunities I could create in California would begin.

Unemployment Diaries: California Edition Part III

The past few hours have been interesting. I finally mustered up the courage to leave my seat and use the restroom. I didn’t fall down the stairs, or up them for that matter and all of my possessions were still sitting where I left them.

When I ventured to the cafe car, I did make a fool of myself, naturally. I couldn’t figure out how the door that separated one train car from the next opened. Mind you, there was a huge button in the middle of the door that said PUSH. When I pushed nothing happened, so I tried to open the contraption like a sliding class door. Nothing. So I tried again and then again. After what felt like forever I finally punched the button that said push and it opened …..

A crew member was on the other side watching me struggle and I muttered, “sorry, apparently I can’t read,” as I walked by. I could do nothing but laugh, typical Shannon move.

My train, and I couldn't help but get a picture of a guy taking a picture of what I was taking a picture of ...
My train, and I couldn’t help but get a picture of a guy taking a picture of what I was taking a picture of …

The train stopped in Austin, Texas, by far the biggest city we’ve trucked through, and I soon found out a bigger city means more people waiting to board the train. I lost the seat next to me and am now making friends with an older women who’s headed up to San Fransisco.

She takes the train every time she travels to Oklahoma to see her sister. And even with my fear of flying, I tell myself she’s nuts for taking this long of a trip twice a year. I realize I might have to suck it up and fly if I can’t find a job in California. There’s no way I’d want to wait two days to see my Hubs again. 

I figure my passenger buddy lottery lucked out and at least I didn’t get stuck with someone creepy. After all, I will be sleeping next to this person for the rest of the night. We are now parked in San Antonio waiting for another train to arrive that we’ll hook up to, to make the rest of the trip west.

It’s there, standing outside of my temporary home for the next two nights, I get my first whiff of home sickness. I want my bed, I want my puppies and I want my husband. When did I turn into such a big baby? I used to pride myself on my independance and my ability to step out of my comfort zone. Now, I couldn’t be more anxious to get home.

After a long chat with my mother-in-law and a few crocodile tears later, I felt a bit better about what I was doing. And a few hours later I realized why I was feeling so overwhelmed and emotional. It comes every month and I’m not sure why it still surprises me, duh.

Because the layover in San Antonio was long, many passengers left the station to visit a bar and stretch their legs. And if you’re thinking what I’m thinking, you’d be correct. I thought I was going to have a rumble at 2:30 a.m. when they all showed back up to make the departure. Smiley stomped up to the second level and shouting about how he couldn’t find his seat.

When the train hooked up to the other train, the crew members came on board and turned the seats around, so the passengers would be sitting forward when it began moving again. Yes, slightly confusing for the sober person, but impossible to navigate for the drunk.

He stopped by my seat twice to ask loudly what the f**k happened to his seat. I was huddled under my blanket and snuggled into my pillow trying to figure out the most least comfortable position to fall asleep in. The last time Smiley stopped to bark, I ripped the covers off my head and gave him the meanest stink eye I could muster.

It must’ve worked. I didn’t hear a peep from him for the rest of the night. I wish I could say that about the other members of his drunken party. It’s funny, people say New Yorkers are the biggest arseholes of the country, yet I had enough common sense to not stomp around, talk on my cellphone (who the hell is up to talking at 2:00 a.m. any ways?) or chat with my passenger buddy like it was 2 p.m. in the afternoon…..

Overall, I got about thresh hours of sleep my first night. I had planned ahead and brought my own blanket and pillows, so my head wouldn’t be trying to find a comfortable resting place on the arm rest. I also brought Wet Wipes to mimic a shower before bed. I didn’t have to use the mace I kept tucked in my jacket pocket and I did manage to get some uninterrupted sleep.

PS: When you sleep on a train it’s almost impossible to not accidentally bump your seat buddy. Do your best to focus on counting sheep.

Unemployment Diaries: California Edition

Welp. This past Monday I was on a train headed to Los Angeles. A 36-hour tour (in my Gilligan’s voice) from North Texas to the West Coast.

****

Last week I blogged about not being able to ignite my spark. I had forgotten that my spark was in the shape of a 5’8 good looking, former Californian – my husband. A few days prior to my Columbus Day voyage, my husband got home from work to announce he had pulled the trigger. I was leaving to see what opportunities lie out west.

I spent the majority of the rest of that day bawling my eyes out, and it shocked me I was taking such good news, terribly.

But duh, it’s the fear of the unknown, and I’ve always hated when people would use the cliché. My life has changed so many times I refused to believe I was afraid of the unknown. Hell, in four years I’ve moved to two different states with a possible third move on the way. How could I be afraid of the unknown?

It’s simple when you have a clear mind to think about it. I’m worried this trip will end in heartache. I’m afraid I won’t land a job in my field, the trip would be for nothing and a waste of money. I’m not sure when I’ll see my husband or puppies again and the same nagging question of if I could afford living in California, remains.

Knowing I don’t have a definite date of when I’ll be reunited with my tiny family is the hardest. I don’t think I realized how much of my stability, saneness and homey feelings resided in the Hubs. He had been deployed a few times, gone for weeks during work-ups and were used to the normal goodbye exchanges.

But I had never left him.

I had always done the dropping off and picking up.

In each goodbye, I would think how easy it was to be the one leaving and how hard it was to do the sitting and waiting. Ha. On the drive to the train station the Hubs and I had a great laugh about my ignorance. It ain’t easier leaving, it’s friggin’ harder.

I felt uneasy for the rest of the week, but was surprised to hear well wishes from coworkers and managers after I explained what I was going to be doing.

“That’s great you’re taking a chance!”

“Good for you! I think this is going to work out, I can feel it!”

“The best part about this is you’re getting out of your comfort zone to make a change. Many people wouldn’t and simply sit content, or accept it. You’re going out to grab it!”

It gave me an extra pep in my step the rest of the weekend, they were right, everyone I had told was right. This was an adventure and I should enjoy it. How many people are lucky enough to have in-laws who invite you into their home AND offer to help you find a job? I’m going to guess not many, or even if they wanted to, couldn’t.

The pep talks carried me as far as the platform out front of my locomotive. The Hubs had helped load my luggage onto the train and get me settled in a seat. We hugged, kissed and began to walk our separate ways, but I had to sneak one last hug before I could leave (I always need the extra freebie).  

Awhile back I kept the mantra, why not me singing in my head while writing and submitting my personal narrative to a writing competition. And I won. I can only hope past mojo can get me the same result.