Dom Joly: Small is beautiful, except when it's a car in LA

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The Independent Online

I'm in LA. I managed to take the last plane out of Europe before it was covered in metres of volcanic ash and everyone ran screaming into the sea. I've been watching Fox News, so I'm totally up on what's been happening. I can't believe that the Icelandic commies had this volcano power all the time and never declared it. Never trust an Eskimo. That's what Bill O'Reilly says anyway, and he's in a "no-spin" zone.

Upon arrival here, I got paparazzied at the airport. It was all very exciting until I realised that they were waiting for Kimberley from Girls Aloud, and were just getting some token shots in case I got run over by a bus while I was here. I was quite chuffed as I had my brand new "retro-style" suitcases and felt quite the refined traveller. This look was slightly ruined by my having to hoof them on to the Alamo rental courtesy bus. One smart snapper spotted this and got some pictures.

Very sure that Kimberley from Girls Aloud didn't have to go through this kind of indignity, I sat nursing my wounded pride. Then, just as the bus was about to pull off, a gaggle of young Brit Music industry types – all silly hair and huge sunglasses – hopped on. It's the Coachella festival this weekend, and LA is full of fashion- victim Brits in big shades and baggy shorts. I sat trying to look as dignified as is humanly possible on an Alamo courtesy bus as they swapped stories about Lily Allen and somebody from Westlife. Then one of them spotted me, and soon there were giggles and muffled cries of "HELLO I'm on the courtesy bus!!!"

This would also never happen to Kimberley from Girls Aloud.

After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived at the rental depot and I was released from my humiliation. I rushed inside and dealt with the refreshingly easy process that is renting a car in the USA. Unlike the UK, where you have to produce all living great-grandparents, I was out in five minutes and headed for the lot, keys in hand.

The gaggle of music youth was all slouched in a heap in the sun while one of their group was off getting their transport. I looked for my allocated car. There were huge signs saying "Luxury cars" then "SUVs" then "Mid-range" then "Compact" and then, finally, in what looked like a mock-up of a Bronx slum, the "Economy" section. Nobody drives tiny cars in LA, and the assistant approached me and asked me if I was sure that I didn't want to upgrade.

I ignored him in a "You won't rip me off, buddy" kind of way and heaved my lovely new suitcases into the boot. I set my satnav for Sunset and drove out slowly past the hair-bear bunch. They could barely suppress their squeals of amusement at the sheer embarrassment of the car that I was driving. In my rear-view mirror I saw a huge black SUV pull up next to them.

This would never happen to Kimberley from Girls Aloud.

I drove into town and arrived at the Chateau Marmont – the coolest hotel in the world. Last time I was here, Johnny Depp was nursing a sophisticated-looking drink in the garden bar and Coldplay were by the pool.

The valet literally laughed in my face when he saw my car – "Are you staying with us, sir?" The tone in his voice indicated that he rather hoped I wasn't. I threw him the keys and made my way up the dark stairs to the reception desk. I needed a drink and a shower.

I flopped out on my bed and turned on the telly. Fox News was predicting that there would be no flights to Europe for months.

This would never happen to Kimberley from Girls Aloud.

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