Sunday, March 20, 2011


An inescapable part of living in Los Angeles, is the traffic.  Driving in it, avoiding it, being stuck in it, bemoaning the ochre-tinted sky and smog-laden air it causes.  A city built for cars, not people, LA is all about traffic.  If Martians landed in this city, they would think its citizens were cars and attack them, or they'd ask the nearest Honda to take them to its leader.  LA addresses are so far-flung and so poorly served by buses and subways that, if you want to get where you’re going on time, you’re obliged to drive everywhere.  If you walk, not only do you get all sweaty and blistered, but you choke on exhaust fumes and smog and people give you funny looks and think you’re a hooker.
    Sometimes, in the spring after a heavy downpour, if you get up early enough, you can safely put the top down and race along Burton Way with the wind in your hair and the scent of night-blooming jasmine in your nostrils.  You can also, in the autumn after an early morning rainstorm, drive along Sunset Boulevard to the Pacific Coast Highway with The Blue Danube flying music from Space Odyssey on full blast and the top down.  

    But usually not.
    Usually you’re sitting in an immobile car, cursing the long line of stationary vehicles throbbing and fuming ahead of you, inhaling exhaust fumes.  I’m convinced that being strapped down in car that’s not moving, is the principal cause of road rage.  But, you have to be careful with your mouth and your fingers in LA, as a driver might get out and punch you, maybe even shoot you.
    If you drive a low-slung sports car like me, your view and way is always, yes always, obstructed by gigantic SUVs driven by tiny, lone drivers.  The smaller the driver, the bigger the vehicle and, the bigger the vehicle, the emptier it is.     
Haven’t SUV drivers heard of Global Warming?  Climate Change?  Al Gore?  Haven’t they noticed the price of gas?  Don’t they care about the planet?  Don’t they want to be Green?
    Obviously not.
    Recently, in acknowledgment of the global financial crisis, new slightly smaller SUVs have appeared.  Not small enough.  There’s no need for these gratuitously gigantic vehicles, really.  They roll over and don’t protect you and your children in a crash and are driven by inept gnomes wearing fancy driving gloves and often have flags fluttering from their rear windows and rude, arrogant bumper-stickers.
    Sometimes, during rainy season, it rains so hard you can’t see where you’re driving.  Often you can’t pull over and just have to continue as best you can.  Once, on the way to work, I drove up a usually, smooth, dry innocuous hill in a monsoon rain.  Vast torrents of mud cascaded toward me, rain blinded me, rocks and stones tumbled down the road, crashing against the windshield and bouncing up underneath the car.  I felt like Indiana Jones making his way up the Amazon.
    But mostly, LA traffic is about bad drivers.  This city has big wide, beautiful boulevards and there’s no excuse for traffic jams, except badly-timed traffic lights and those drivers who wander around, unaware that the thing under their right foot is an accelerator.
    Tomorrow, after today’s cleansing rainfall, will be an ideal day to drop the top and race off to the beach at the crack of dawn with the last of the jasmine scenting the air.                        


No comments: