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April 08, 2009

Shopping day in LA

April 8. Day 282.

So, I'm in LA now, since I had to get my passport renewed. I decided when I set out that I'd try to ask for something at every transaction, to stay on my toes. Here goes:

1. Passport agency in the Federal Building. I am told to return Friday to pick it up. Easy question: "Can you please have it ready later today? So I don't have to spend 4 hours driving again?"

Answer: "We're not allowed to do that." He explains that would mean prioritizing people's applications by hometown rather than departure date. My take: That still doesn't answer if you're under or over capacity; if you are not overloaded, why not help a sista?

Verdict: Drive to LA twice in three days for an errand? Cruel and Unusual Punishment. I am so renewing by mail next time, a year ahead.

2. I head to Westwood, an area near the Federal Building. The plan -- hang out until this afternoon, and drop by the passport agency again. Maybe by some miracle it's ready?

First stop, Kaitlyn, a clothing boutique. Full of name brand jeans that subsidize all the other smart-priced, stylish duds. I spot a table full of cute shades. The problem: need a second opinion. "Can you be my shopping buddy for like 30 seconds?" I ask the cashier.

She tells me the first are yuck, the second and third are so-so -- and the fourth. "Wow, that color looks great on you!"

They're a smokey gray, $6 -- I pay up and wear them out the door.

3. SKYLA, a few doors down. I see SALE and dash in. Right in the front, all leather Italian strappy sandals in a succulent grapefruit sorbet color -- $45. I ask if I can have them for $40 since they were the display pair and their last pair in my size. The cashier checks a book (of discounts? customer service guidelines?) and says she's sorry. $45 is the lowest they can go, after dropping from $110 to $55 to $45. I ask if we could skip the sales tax. She says sorry again.

I pretend to hesitate, to try to get her to budge. Then I buy them anyway. Summer's a-comin. And I clearly, obviously need those shoes.

4. Peet's coffee, where I plunk down to do some writing. As I pay, I ask the barista: "Can you please not put tons of foam on my cappuccino? I always throw it away, and it's just a waste."

He replies "Of course," and then makes me a cappuccino with mountains of foam. WTF.

5. Peet's coffee, two hours later. A girl is sitting next to me, studying anatomy or neurology or something. Pictures of brains and bodies. "Excuse me, can I ask you a question? I was wondering if you could model these for me, since I'd like to feature them on my website."


I hand her my new sunglasses, she puts them on and strikes a pose.

6. The passport pick-up window is closed when I go back, around 4. Time to head back to San Diego. Only, now there's horrible traffic. Back to Westwood. At South Street, I order a 6 inch cheesesteak for lunch/dinner and eventually they bring me a 9 incher. The woman is about to take it back to the kitchen when I ask, a bit exasperated by now, "Could I just have that? So I don't have to keep waiting?" She gives it to me. I earn about $1 of a soggy, nasty sandwich. But I actually I only eat half, wasting $3.50. Come on, Zagat. How could you give these people a sticker???

Gained: Shoes, shades and plenty o' coffee foam, all at full price. And a discounted overpriced "cheesesteak." Grrr. Still... it was a lovely day. And looks like I'll be back Friday!

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