On Traffic and Related Novelities

My current living situation following my departure from Santa Barbara has enabled me to have my first taste of constantly being on the road. As a resident of a city that is 20 miles away from the festive mothercity, which is itself another 10 or so from filmland, I have come to know something that I haven’t really had to experience since my days at Fairmont: the commute. Growing up in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, albeit in the upper-class echelon of its vicinity more commonly known to Fox-watchers as “The OC,” I learned to accept the inevitability of the necessity of commuting. For the first chunk of my time at Fairmont I rode the aptly named school bus, which meant that I had to be at the stop in Whittier a good hour before school began. This was greatly shortened to 20 minutes with my acquiring of more Southern Californian method of transport, a car, in my sophomore year. Yet with the deregulation of my morning schedule came my first experience with the intricacies and complicated nature of rush hour travel. Leaving at 7:35 became my prime departure time due to the nature of the 5 freeway at the time I arrived there, however on times that I left earlier I discovered that I was met with significantly less traffic.

These slight inconsistencies later paved the way for my acceptance of the common Los Angeles description of time between any two places within the city as “20 minutes.” Indeed, in my head I am 20 minutes away from Fairmont, Jon’s house, Julia’s old dorm, Angel Stadium, the Block, the Fullerton train station, Birch street (on a bad day), and even downtown Los Angeles (on a good day), despite the fact that the distance of these locations from my residence vary widely. Another important thing that I incorporated into my figures of distance was the “-with traffic” suffix which denotes my estimated arrival time (of 20 minutes) with the added exception of more time should I be “caught in traffic.” Traffic in Los Angeles, as you know if you’ve ever lived here, varies exceedingly wildly depending on time of day, time of year, time on Tom Cruise’s Scientology clock, and the positioning of the harvest moon in the sky. Thus, traffic is an every day occurrence and only rarely does it not occur. In my frequent trips to and from Santa Barbara I have attempted to establish a reliable time to travel when I do not get stuck in traffic. I have failed in most of my attempts, thus it takes me anywhere from 1 hour and 50 minutes to 5 and a half hours to make the journey. Even at 10 o’ clock on a Sunday I managed to encounter traffic in Hollywood. Where are people going at 10 o’ clock on a Sunday? I guess I’m not “in” the industry deep enough to understand.

This discussion of traffic, while longer than I intended, leads into my intended topic. A little while ago I made the journey from The Orange County to Santa Barbara with a stopover in Century City for a job interview. My interview was at the unorthodox time of 5 o’ clock on a Friday, so naturally assuming there would be traffic, I left my house at 3. To my surprise, I found that no traffic awaited me on the 5, despite the fact that two weeks prior I had left my house at the exact same time in the exact same direction and experienced traffic from Norwalk to San Fernando (about 35 miles). This unexplainable difference led me to arrive at my destination a full hour early, thus enabling me some time to cruise around Beverly Hills (looking for, admittedly, a Jamba Juice). Having reach Santa Monica Boulevard I invariably entered into the most traffic I had experienced all day. Somewhat bewildered, I remained in traffic until I decided that I should forgo the smoothie for after the interview. At the point when I was about to turn, however, I discovered that the cause of the traffic was the reduction of lanes to accommodate a funeral procession that was about to start. No sooner was I turning than a casket, accompanied by mourners, flash bulbs, and policemen came out of a church and headed towards the street. Only later did I discover this to be the funeral of producer Merv Griffin, accompanied by a plethora of famous people, including the governor, Pat Sajak, Alex Trebek, and Nancy Reagan (who I recognized as someone famous but didn’t identify who immediately). Only in Los Angeles would a funeral cause such a commotion, and only there would I drive by and think, “oh, famous person died,” and continue on my way.

Following my interview I once again departed on the road, taking the treacherous 405 out into the valley. Again, I was confounded at the lack of traffic. This did not last, however, and I ran into traffic upon my approach to Camarillo, of all places (long time readers of this blog will know of my affectation for the city). This traffic lasted for quite some time, and I became eager to know the cause of it. Eventually I discovered that the cause was not an accident, as I predicted, but instead a lone stalled car, in the center divider. The car itself did not appear to be in any sort of condition that would encourage rubbernecking, instead it’s two attractive female passengers, straight up from LA and perched on the divider with arms folded and blonde hair flowing in the breeze, were enough to cause a traffic backup for a good 10 miles.

God Bless America.

I do look forward to experiencing more of the quirks that makes Los Angeles’ mass freeway system so amazing, and hopefully in my commuting travels between home and my new job in Century City will provide me with more fodder for reflection on the state of this great city. That, or I’ll end up going nuts and taking the metrolink.