Monday, October 10, 2011

How To Move To Los Angeles: Regarding Road Rage

Now that I've lived in L.A. for 1+ years I feel wise enough to switch my "L.A. ____ Month's In" series to a regular "How To Move To Los Angeles" feature. The main difference will be a title, but if I've learned one thing in my 1+ years in this city it's that you can never underestimate the importance of a title (cough-BitchinApartment23-cough).
And so we begin. New series, new title, same over-dramatic stories about life in the land that aging forgot.

Notes on Road Rage
Hi. My name is Jessie and I have road rage.

It took me a little over six months to finally come to terms with the truth. For the longest time I thought everyone wanted to ram their car into the cars front, left, right and back of them in a fit of overwhelming frustration at how slow traffic could possible move at 6pm on a Thursday. Turns out some people in this city have learned to "accept" the traffic. I am not one of them.

I will confess that I feared my reaction to the traffic long before I followed in Fivel's footsteps. When people would ask what I was nervous about in L.A. I'd say becoming so consumed with my career that I live for nothing else; not knowing when it's time to pack up and admit I've failed, and the traffic. Given that line-up who could have predicted that I'd shed more tears on item number three than either of the others?

They told me I'd get used to it after a few months. They told me I'd developed special routes to avoid the worst of the grid lock. They told me it's sometimes nice to have long patches of alone time during both legs of your commute and en route to any lunches or mid-day errands.

They were wrong.

I pride myself on being a person who adapts well to change. In the 7th grade when my entire hair went from poker straight to Lisa Turtle curly, I didn't cry myself to sleep every night of the week. When I recently learned the best and therefore my favorite New Kid (John Knight, duh) is a gay man, I didn't question my entire childhood plus most of my teens and twenties. I welcome change. That's why you'll find me at the Forever21 at least once-a-month stocking up on the very latest trends for the very lowest prices (quantity over quality my friends!).

But it is where you'll find me minutes before I enter the F21 - namely the public parking garage on 4th Street between Broadway and Santa Monica - which proves there are some categories of change that I cannot overcome. For it is in that parking lot where the cars crawl like hardened honey out the bear-shaped tube that I broke the road-rage seal. See, in Los Angeles you have to take a ticket when you enter the parking garage and then pay that ticket at a ticket paying machine before you exit. Some garages let you pay for the parking at the exit gate, but some do not. And do you know what happens if you do not pay for your parking at the ticket paying machine when that is the only payment option? AALLLL the cars behind you in line have to WAIT for your INCONSIDERATE rear-end while you get the man inside the parking garage building to come bail you out. AND DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG THAT CAN TAKE?!

I yelled. I yelled and screamed and honked my horn and shook my finger in a fit of powerless rage at the white BMW convertible-driving vixen who held me up at the 3rd Street promenade parking lot for 18.5 minutes. And I have never been the same. It was like some Hulk inside of me was released that afternoon.

6+ months later I've tried everything to control myself from screaming ridiculously unproductive things out my closed car windows at people who can barely see me. "NICE BLINKER!" I cry. "MAKE THE TURN!!" I scream. "SO HELP ME GOD IF YOU DO NOT GUN IT WHEN THAT GREEN ARROW TURNS ON!!!" I warn. And then if those road fools do not comply I speed by them and stink-eye glance in their general direction so they know what they've done.

I'm getting help. R has me on a cocktail of NPR shows and calming podcasts. He encourages me to call him when it's really bad, but I'm too concerned he'll break up with me if he experiences me in Hulk-mode.

And so I think the most logical solution is a bit of L.A. driving wisdom a family friend gave me a few months ago. "I drive 8 miles of out my way to get to and from work just to avoid the traffic," he said, "takes me ten extra minutes, but I have yet to kill a fellow driver and I still have all my hair."

Thank god it's sunny every single day.


  1. I'm the same way -- I actually start stressing out when I approach certain roads/intersections that always cause problems. I'm getting better about just accepting that I can't do anything about it. And I have found that a stress ball helps....

  2. Oh dear god, I feel your pain. I recently moved to Boston, after a year in DC and originally being from the south. I foolishly believed DC traffic had prepared me. The things people believe they can get away with (both drivers & pedestrians) shock me on a daily basis and I literally fear for my life every single commute. The over-the-top rage started to cause me shame, even. Yoga helps, but there are still days I go hoarse yelling at people who can't hear me and don't care. at. all.