Before I get started on my life-threatening ride to Rose Parade glory, I would like to give a shout out to Brenda in San Diego who asked where my coat was from. I got it from Zara, a lovely Spanish chain that specializes in affordable fashions. And I got it recently, so it might still be available in the store. Good luck!
Ok, so you all know that I am not the BEST driver in the world. I mean, come on. I grew up driving in LA, and then moved to Hollywood. All I do is defensive driving. That is all well and good though. But when I am a passenger in a 15-passanger van, being driven from about 8 float barns all around the Los Angeles area by a man named Tom, an official driver for the parade, I assume I am in good hands. Well my friends, although I expected to come back alive, nothing prepared me for a ride that made me thank god I my underwear was clean that day.
So get this. I get to the hotel in Pasadena at 7 am, where we are supposed to meet. And the first thing I hear is we are behind schedule because one of the van drivers has hit a car – in the valet roundabout. Wow. I tell the producer, I hope I’m not riding in that van! And he says, ‘Oh but you are.’ Something told me I should have known.
As soon as we all load into the van, we meet Tom. He’s an older man with kind eyes and a happy smile. He’s dressed well in his official Rose Parade blazer, and comes around to introduce himself to all of us – lovely gesture. And as soon as he saddles up in the driver’s seat, with his 5 happy-go-lucky passengers, he asks nonchalantly if it would be ok to make a quick stop at his house. He says, ‘I want to pick up my prescription glasses.’ This is AFTER the guy hit a car in a valet roundabout that is all of 50 meters long, and a semi-circle, where no one can reach more than 5 mph while taking the turn. All the passengers look at each other with a huge smile, like, are you serious? Next thing I hear is Jann Carl, lovely co-host of Rose Parade 2008 and just and extraordinary human being, say quickly ‘YES! Anything you need to see.’ We then all bust out laughing. Is this for real? I swear this was an episode of Candid Camera.
We get under way to Tom’s house and drive out of Pasadena to neighboring San Marino, where his home is located. Now it’s probably all of 3 miles to his home, not far at all, but before we reach our destination, the passengers are all chatting, excited for the day, when all of a sudden, screech! Holy crap. We all jolt forward coffees in hand, wondering WTF. This is TF. The van pulls up behind a car at a 4-stop intersection. The car in front drives off, and it’s the other cars’ turns. Well not in Tom’s driving book. He starts putting the pedal to the metal and as the two other cars are about to crash into either sides of the van, his quick actions step on the brakes and stop us. At this point, my eyes grow so big with worry and the ENTIRE van is silent. We just don’t know how to handle the situation.
Now that was a deal, but not a huge deal. So we mosey along our way to visit all the barns, find out all the secret decorating materials and the big shows planned for the big day. It was totally fun. Until….dun, dun, dun. We’re back in Pasadena and are lost looking for the last float barn of the day. We are driving back and forth on Grevalia Street, I believe, and cannot figure out where the address is. We stop at a train track crossing, and as we start to pull out slowly, the track lights start flashing. I think, of course, we’re already late as it is, so this is just fitting. It’s like Alanis Morissette’s grammatically incorrect song, ‘Isn’t it Ironic’, when it isn’t ironic at all, but just an inconvenience. But hey, I guess we can all take artistic license if we’re playing God in a Kevin Smith movie. But I digress. As the lights start flashing, for some insane reason, Tom leaves his foots firmly on the brake. All of a sudden I notice the arm of the crossings drop onto the car and yell ‘The arm is gonna hit us!’. Not a lovely instance in my life. And as the rest of the car reacts with ‘Oh My God!’, Tom, a pro driver, decides to pull forward. Now if you’re reading this story, you probably realize that we are half in and half out of the railroad crossings, so if the arm is coming down, why on earth would you pull into the danger zone? Well, I wanted to ask Tom, but I was too concerned with the fact that as he pulled forward, the tracks ran diagonally underneath our large 15-person van, and he just stopped once he thought he had pulled past one of the tracks. So I start saying, pull up! Pull up! You don’t know what direction the train is coming from and our rear is still over the second set of tracks! Pull up! So as a man who uses his mind on a bi-weekly basis at least, Tom pulls the van up so the front of the van is meeting oncoming traffic. The only thing keeping our car’s headlights from kissing the oncoming traffic’s headlights is, of course, the railroad crossing arm. This situation is honestly soooo crazy insane, we all in the car laugh throughout the entire thing. I start forming the claw with my hand and drive it deep into my Executive Producer’s leg to let him know I blame him for my death, as I laugh uproariously at the fact that my life is in the hands of a man who forgot his prescription glasses the morning he is meant to chauffeur a bunch of media people. This was pretty surreal. And the best part, as we’re sitting in our van waiting for the train to come by, the metro with 4 cars comes by, actually slows down and comes to a complete stop at the intersection to look at the idiots who are inside the crossing. The train STOPPED to mock us, as to say, what dumb-asses! And we were!
To top off the chauffeur trip, we make the most illegal u-turn in front of two police cars that look like Transformers. It was two of those new Charger models. I thought, oh no. Now not only have we just risked our lives living fast and furious on train tracks, we’re so getting tickets! But surprisingly, they didn’t stop us. And we finally ended up getting back to the hotel, where we all had a very stiff drink. Stiffer than a rocket – to celebrate ‘Surviving Tom.’ And after getting out of the car from hell, I get into my car with a drink in me. Safety first! ;) And realize, this was the funniest near-death experience I have ever had. Well played Tom. Well played.
Oh, and did you all see the rose parade coverage? Did you see the morphing truck float from Honda spew too big flames and then singe itself? And what about the parade running behind so they made the Akashikita High School from Japan run around the corner! The commentary from the booth was ‘I don’t think I’ve ever seen marching bands run so fast!’ I swear to god, I love this parade! I am a complete float nerd! If there were a pin that read so, I’d sport it all day long. Float on, brothers and sisters, float on!