Driving in LA

This post was migrated from my Lifeblog.

LA traffic is legendary, and the longer I live here the more I understand why.

I didn’t used to drive much. In fact, I was one of those wives who tried to wheedle her husband into driving her everywhere. I just didn’t like it behind the wheel. After we moved to LA, necessity dictated that I learn to cart myself places; so I reluctantly picked up the car keys and headed out into the mayhem.

Learning LA traffic was harrowing to be sure, but actually easier than I’d anticipated. Thanks to low-carbing, my concentration was greatly improved – and not a moment too soon! It took every bit I could muster to get into driving, but eventually I got the hang of it. My husband even called me a good driver! Not bad, eh?

It might just be my imagination, but it seems like traffic is getting worse as the summer months approach. Until recently, the worse that happened was I would get lost. I might get beeped at once or twice a week, which may sound like a lot for you town-dwellers, but when you’re trying to juggle four lanes packed with cars, a thick crowd of pedestrians, and a large bus blocking half the road, you just make mistakes. By and large, I find most LA drivers to be generous and forgiving. People understand that everyone’s in the same boat and try to be kind.

These days, however, I’ve been encountering what seems like a rash of nasty drivers. They’re aggressive and unyielding. They’re also brittle: If you offend them in the least, they whiz by you honking and waving their arms at you like you’re stupid. I notice they’re all Hispanic, which surprises me because they’ve always struck me as a mellow and amiable bunch. I don’t know why so many are a terror on the road! Anyway, it’s been pretty hard on me. Yesterday, I arrived at the supermarket in tears! When I’m tired and stressed at the end of the day, it’s just too much to have someone not only honking at you but making rude gestures as well. For the first time in my life, I find myself getting road rage, shouting and honking back. I’m quite ashamed of myself! On top of it all, the hurt tends to stay with me the rest of the day — every time I picture their jeering faces, I get upset again.

Now I know I’m by no means a great driver; I make plenty of mistakes. But that’s the way things go around here. I get cut off all the time by some poor fellow getting around a stopped bus; I just step on the brake and try to be generous. Certainly many drivers have been generous to me. I don’t understand why some people feel the need to express their every emotional nuance on the horn. But that’s city life for you: It only takes a few obnoxious people to ruin it for the many.

In any case, my brief episodes of road rage scare me because there’s too much at stake when you’re behind the wheel to get angry. Hopefully I can get that under control and get over my newfound paranoia for driving through the Hispanic sector of town, especially since I shop at a great little Mexican grocery that I’d hate to give up!

A few other thoughts about driving in Los Angeles:

  1. Always take the freeway. In town roads are not all they’re cracked up to be. On an in town road, you average barely 10 mph what with all the stoplights. The freeway would have to be crawling before you do that badly.

  2. That said, make liberal use of Sigalert. It’s a live map of LA freeways, and it can save your rear!

  3. Nothing is a rectangle. Roads here are more crooked than politicians. Also, every other street is named Glendale; don’t get your hopes up that they’re actually connected!

  4. Tune into KUSC, FM 91.5, the classical station here. It’ll keep you sane. Plus they have an anti-road rage “car tune” every day at 5 PM. Maybe they have one in the mornings too, but I’m never awake to hear it. :)

  5. Try not to get road rage. Speaking from experience, it’s really not worth it! But if you do, don’t beat yourself up too much. It happens to the best of us. Just try to do better next time.

  6. Take a deep breath, and good luck!