Almost five seconds of fame


 Leaving a talk on meditation in downtown Los Angeles one afternoon, I was lucky enough to spot a free taxi near the front, at an intersection with rush-hour traffic tailing back in all directions. Is it better to sit in traffic than to walk? Yes, I thought, if you don’t know where you’re going and are heading the wrong way. Also, I was sure the traffic lights would soon turn green. Plus, everyone seemed relaxed. The sidewalks were full of people, but I was the only one in a hurry. Everyone else – from police officers to passersby – just stood around chatting and polishing their sunglasses. After weaving my way through the waiting cars, I finally reached the taxi, opened the passenger door, swung myself into the seat and told the driver the address. The man, a lean, friendly-looking guy of around 40, gave me an astonished look. “This isn’t a real cab, Sir,” he said, “this is a movie set.”

I love America. I love L.A. And here, security, that separator of worlds, had evidently failed. So I exited the car and had just made it to the sidewalk when somebody yelled “Action!” and all hell broke loose.

A classic car chase ensued, with all the usual horn honking and dented bodywork. Mowing a path through the slowly moving traffic as it headed for the intersection, a green Chevy suddenly swerved right, my taxi momentarily in its path. That’s luck for you! Just imagine if the on-set driver had taken me for an on-set passenger and let me get comfortable in his cab without saying a word. I could have been in a film with audiences admiring how authentically I played an adrenaline rush.

Our columnist, Helge Timmerberg, an irrepressible globetrotter since 1969, writes travel books and contributes monthly to our magazine.