Monday, January 09, 2006

Here In Santa Monica

Santa Monica Pier from the end
Welcome to Santa Monica!

I’ve traveled more in the past three weeks than I have in the past three years. I find myself in Santa Monica for work reasons, but I got here last night. So today, Sunday, is a day of rest and relaxation.

Of course that means I’ve got to travel!

Before that, though, I’m going to rant a little. Traveling today is an exercise in frustration – not the waiting, or the security checks or any of that stuff. The frustration comes from incomplete or incorrect information.

Now, this may be because as I get older I am more and more bewildered with the world in general, but I don’t think so.

Also, it might be because access to information is so immediate with wireless connections and devices that we get used to immediate gratification. That may be true when we’re on the web looking for a restaurant or flight or the meaning of ‘antidisestablishment’ but not in human interactions. Once again, I don’t think so.

I mentioned Heathrow Airport in London a while ago – this frustration was apparent in the lack of information around the gate area and the huge distances needed to be traversed back and forth to get to a connecting flight. I didn’t expect this to happen here in the states.

Let me give you an example or three. First, upon arriving at LAX, (Los Angeles), there are signs for baggage claims and car rentals. Easy enough. I followed them to get my baggage, also easy enough. After getting my baggage I’m looking for the car rental whatever. Any indication at all about where I might get to my car. Nothing. No signs, no arrows, nothing. To LAX’s plusses, they have ‘Airport Ambassadors’. Like greeters at Walmart, except they have information. Like how to get to your car rental company. You wait outside for a bus to take you there.

Ok, fine. At Hertz to rent a car. Once off the bus, the driver indicates with a vague wave you should enter a building at its corner. But upon walking there, it looks like it’s dark and no one is home. No signs again. The glass is tinted so you really can’t see in. It’s open. Once I got to the counter, I asked how to get to my hotel. Told to go to the kiosk for directions only to find it isn’t working. Back to the desk. Given a map. Ok, fine. Told to get my car, and that I’d get a ride to it outside. Back outside. No ride. No people, and no idea where the car is. Back inside to ask. The customer service lady asks this very nice old man to give me a ride to the car. I get outside with him shuffling along, and ask where is the car – He actually indicates it’s about 300 feet away. I thank him and walk to it.

At the car, I find the only way out is to try to squeeze between two busses. But I really don’t want to scratch the car. Eventually, a driver comes along and moves the bus. I find the exit. But guess what? I have to get the contract out and show the gatekeeper. Of course – I’ve packed it away. How about some warning from the desk people, like “You’ll need this to get out of the lot”.

Then, the directions to get to my hotel. With pink highlighter, the desk person indicates I make a right, a right, a left and there’s the entrance to the road I need to get to my hotel. So I dutifully follow the directions. Guess what? They’re almost correct – almost in the sense that the entrance is not just around the corner – it’s two miles down the road.

Now you may say I’m nitpicking. But all of these things and more add up to a bad customer experience (mine) and the idea that all of these services are run by nincompoops. Look, if you’re going to give someone information, give it all to them and be damn sure it’s correct. A vague wave in one direction or another doesn’t constitute ‘all the information’.

End of Rant.

Ok. Now Santa Monica. Very clean. Even the dirty parts of town are clean. Certainly cleaner than New York.

I walked down to the beach Sunday morning, and it is long and wide and there are some spectacular views – and stairs and bridges and very interesting trees lining Ocean Blvd.

Down on the beach, there’s a nice road that runs along a couple of hundred yards inland from the water. Nice white sand, and the Pacific is a beautiful blue. I arrived in sunlight about 9:30am, and walked up and down the Santa Monica pier with its amusement park and restaurant and so on. Pretty cool! The natives were all bundled up like it was winter, the tourists like myself in shorts.

I walked south to the end of Venice past the original Muscle Beach where a quite nicely shaped woman was swinging along a ring set. There are lots of runners and bikers and inline skaters. Lot’s of activity.

Venice is not so very different from Soho, in New York. Sure, it’s warmer and sunnier. But pretty much the same stuff. I’ve been told summer is the time to see it in all it’s glory. Frankly, there weren’t many strange people there.

The Pacific is surprisingly cold. You wouldn’t really want to swim very long in it – although a few brave souls were. I suspect they were tourists! But there’s a point to the observation. When I got to walking along the beach, it was bright and sunny with a breeze off the ocean. In a matter of seconds, you could not see 200 feet because of fog. I’ve never seen a fog roll in so quickly, even around Nantucket or Buzzards Bay, both of which are famous for that sort of thing.

Once the fog sort of lifted you could see sailboats plying the waters up and down the coast – the wind was probably 10 to 12 Kts. out of the west – perfect for sailing.

I spent then next few hours exploring and getting blisters on my feet, then repaired to my room for a nap before dinner, followed soon after by dinner and to sleep. A perfect day.

I’ve been keeping track of the weather in New York, and I’m missing some great winter sailing weather – I hope it holds up for my return!

Then, maybe I’ll see you on the water!

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