Long ago and far away, I found the highways and bi-ways of California intoxicating – part of the promise of the technological world, a means to freedom from the confines of the past and birth. Basically, I thought all of Southern California was Disneyland and Northern California was entirely the San Francisco Bay.
Then I moved to Los Angeles.
I have come to hate driving. That might not be completely fair though, it’s not like we so much drive in L.A. as inch our way over pavement with weeds growing on the side of the road. One comes to identify these militant, resilient plants plowing up through pavement cracks by genus and measure the growth over time – which is considerably faster than the average speed of traffic.
As oft said, there is no distance in L.A., only time. “I’m about an hour from LAX, depending on time of day.” 4:00 AM is a good time for driving, if the 405 isn’t shut down for repairs. I average less than 7500 miles per year on my Honda Civic. It’s not that I don’t spend the same time in my car as people from other cities; I just don’t get very far. There is the one great measure of quality of life in Los Angeles: do you live close to work or not? The rest is details.
L.A.’s lack of reliable public transportation and just its sprawl create unique driving dilemmas. Public transportation has improved in the last twenty years, but still lacks the facility and flexibility of cities like Chicago or New York. For some reason, City Council thinks no one is drunk after midnight and the trains stop running. And there is the ritual grief stages one goes through “driving” on the 101 or 405 or an alternate canyon drive:
Denial: It’s not that bad, it’ll break up, and it’s always busy here…
Anger: Oh for God’s sake! Didn’t any one of these expensive cars come with a turn signal? Why do we put up with this? I’m writing a strongly worded letter to City Council and the Governor. – Then the ritual yelling and cursing with the windows rolled up while wishing for a giant asteroid to just come and wipe out humanity already.
Bargaining: If I go down Melrose to Vermont then pick up Figueroa, go north to go south, I might be able to shave five minutes off, but why is SIRI taking me to Chinatown?
Depression: My life is being wasted sitting in traffic. It’s bad for the car, the environment, me, society in general. I should have just stayed in bed this morning. Why can’t we telecommute doctor’s appointments, I’d be happy to send in the urine sample, if the Post Office allows that, and finally:
Acceptance: This is L.A. Being angry about traffic is like being angry about tectonic plate drift. Try tilting windmills instead.
And by the time passive acceptance of that which you cannot change settles in, you’re probably at your destination, but trying to remember why you were going there in the first place.
It’s kind of like moving to Los Angeles. I know I moved here for a reason; wait, it’ll come to me…