For those of you on the east coast who traverse two-lane roads, this speaks to the reality for those of us who rarely see such a gentle lane, beyond the street outside the garage. For my neighbors who struggle and curse the insanity on a nearly daily basis, well, you’ve got company, and unhappily, altogether too much of it. Hence, for the record, my own bitch about L.A. freeways.
When I was a kid and dreaming of living in Los Angeles, those far away superhighways seemed Xanadu in asphalt. I could hardly wait to cruise blithely in the brilliant sunshine with the top down and gorgeous starlets as near as the next lane. Instead of boring elms, the sides of the road would be lined with palm trees. I’d be wearing shades from the minute I emerged from the front door in the morning.
Don’t get me wrong: in accord with Randy Newman, I love L.A. It’s just that in recent years, the bloom on the rose has gone elsewhere, and I credit — or assign blame to — the horrific L.A. traffic. The stories you’ve seen and heard are absolutely true. You can look up the numbers yourself, but for a sense of scale, consider an area the size of Connecticut trying to handle six to eight-million cars, plus drivers with major attitude problems.
Somebody described it like this: the only time in a 24-hour span that there isn’t near-gridlock on many of the freeways in metropolitan L.A. is between the hours of 2:00 and 5:00…a.m. If you want to go from Orange County to the northern border of the city — as I have done — in, say 40 minutes, you must depart no later than 5:00 a.m. Otherwise, you could end up taking double the time in the company of hundreds of thousands of people who clearly would rather be anywhere else and are ready to demonstrate their displeasure at your expense.
Since I moved to southern California many years ago I’ve had it both ways.
When it’s good, you fly. When you don’t have to go far, you fly. And at the very best, you can ignore the freeways completely, which I did in the 20 years when I worked right in my own neighborhood for the rocket guys. For half of that time, I was actually able to walk to work when the spirit moved me to do so.
Those days are gone. Lots of fun working out of the house, but when the cabin fever reaches, well, fever pitch, my only option (see the Tuesday post) is to hit the road, which means it’s out into the morass.
An example: On Saturday night I talked Kris into a trip to an old hangout in the Valley, some 60 miles to the north. Turns out, it was bad idea, in spades. Now with light traffic you’re talking slightly less than an hour. But leaving at 6:00 p.m., we immediately got into a two-hour snarl (the traffic), averaging for much of it at about 7-miles-per-hour — on a four-lane freeway that was designed for 65-plus. Kris was positively saint-like, while I was cursing and gesturing, and generally going nuts. (The smallish dance-floor at the hangout — when we finally arrived — was like the freeway, minus lights and tires. More fun.)
The point — if there is one — might be to be careful of what you hope or ask for (my youthful aspirations); or to avoid all major thoroughfares in all major cities; or to sell your car, committing your life to public transportation; or get into stress management in a very big way.
Final thought and then I’ll shut up: Years ago, during times when my dad would be riding with me as I thrashed my way through heavy traffic, he would say, “Now Sonny (“Sonny” always meant that serious parental guidance was on the way), getting upset doesn’t help. Just relax. There’s nothing you can do about it anyway.”