On the Ground in LA
No one awaited me when American Airlines Flight 1310 landed at the Los Angeles International Airport. My wrinkled khaki slacks and black sports shirt blended me into the crowd as just another traveler hurrying to the baggage claim area. On the way, I saw a Hudson Gift Store and went inside to check out the newspaper section.
Stacks of newspapers lined a bottom shelf. I sorted through them and picked up a Los Angeles Times. As I turned toward the cash register, I came face to face with paperback copies of 100Fold Churches on a metal rack. I instinctively picked one up.
A man next to me whispered, “That’s a great book. You’ll enjoy it.”
“Thanks,” I said.
The man smiled and moved on.
For a moment, I thought about purchasing it just so nobody else could buy it, but I put it back.
What a great businessman I am, I thought. If I purchase all of the existing copies of the book, guess what the publisher will do? Print more. Not a very lucrative business plan on my part. Guess I’d better try car sales.
After paying, I took the escalator to the lower level and the baggage claim area. There I realized why LAX was the fifth busiest airport in the world. Crowds of people stood everywhere, waiting for their luggage.
Welcome to California, I thought, what’s next.
The taxi driver had a thick Brooklyn accent and a dark blue Yankee baseball cap pulled down low on his forehead. He looked over the seat at me and asked the question which had been bugging me for days.
“Hey, bud, where do you want to go?”
“Just a moment.”
I opened the Times and scanned through the classifieds. A big advertisement at the bottom of the help-wanted section captured my attention:
Sales people needed – no experience necessary. Annual incomes of $100,000 or more can be expected after our thorough training program. We may be the answer you are looking for! Apply today at Maxi Toyota in Pasadena.
I blew out a deep breath and looked upward, hoping to see an answer written in the sky. Nothing appeared, but an inner peace encouraged me.
“Take me to Pasadena,” I said.
The man with a two day beard and baggy eyes looked up into the rearview mirror as he drove the orange taxi onto the entrance ramp leading to the 405 Expressway.
“Hey, bud, work with me, help me out a little, okay? Do we have an address in Pasadena? Or do I just toss you out at the city limits sign?”
“Hmm. I’ll let you know before we get to Pasadena,” I said, stalling for time. “By the way, how did a man with a thick New York accent like yours end up in California?”
“Well, bud, her name is Mona.”
“A woman, huh?”
“More than just a woman, bud, she’s an exotic beauty. If she would’ve moved to an igloo at the North Pole, I would’ve packed up a dogsled and followed her with my tongue hanging out, all the way there, do you hear me? Say, what’s the story with that twang of yours? Are you a country music singer or something?”
His smile beamed in the mirror as he handed the conversation back to me like a baton in a relay race.
Back and forth, the banter continued for the thirty minute ride to Pasadena with one thing leading to another until I finally mentioned my need for an apartment in Pasadena. The cabbie, like thousands of taxi drivers the world over, knew somebody who knew somebody. And that is how I ended up at the Pasadena Hills Apartments on Colorado Boulevard, two blocks west of Maxi Toyota.
Later that day, Ted Hopkins, the sales manager at Maxi Toyota, interviewed me for a sales position.
“Son, with your blond hair, blue eyes, and that great southern accent of yours, you’ll be a killer success selling cars here. Our next training class starts on Monday. Can you start then?”
Thus, within four hours of landing in Southern California, I had an apartment and a job. Everything seemed to be on the fast track, propelling me forward. It made me hope that the worst part of my wilderness days were behind me.
Who knows, I thought, God may send Jamie out here and our marriage may work out after all.
Yet, I did not hear the clanging of the door as it slammed behind me. You see, I had walked into God’s iron furnace and He was ready to stoke the hot coals, beginning on Monday, at Maxi Toyota.
(The above is Chapter 3 for a new novel I’m writing, The Day LA Died, © Larry Nevenhoven, 2012.)
(Continued in Part 9)