Rush Hour In LA & My Faith In Humanity

To be blunt, the former doesn’t do much for the latter.

Driving down to Irvine this morning in rush hour traffic gives a good example. I’m sure folks see this in every city. I’m sure that there are hot spots in every metropolitan area in the world that are a living nightmare on a daily basis. I’m sure that there are places that are worse. (Shanghai comes to mind…) But this morning was startling in how typical it is, at least here in Los Angeles, to nearly die in traffic every single day.

A mere one hundred yards from my house, at a four-way stop, I came within a foot or two of almost certain death. As I stopped, checked for cross traffic, and then started through the intersection, some pin-headed mental midget doing at least fifty MPH came barreling in from my left. He never even slowed down as he blew through the stop sign. FREAKIN’ IDIOT! If I hadn’t seen him at the last second and stomped on the brakes he would have hit me square in the driver’s door and I wouldn’t be here to write this. The only consolation is that his pulped carcass would have been accompanying mine to Valhalla, like a mini honor guard.

For two seconds it was tempting to hang a hard right turn and chase his ass down, or at least get the license plate on the car, but I didn’t have the time. Next time, maybe.

Two miles later, stopped at a red light behind two other cars, it was someone else’s turn to almost die at the hand of some freakin’ idiot. At least this brain-dead cretin had the manners to be honking his horn like crazy as he ran the red light a good three or four seconds after the light had turned. I guess that’s the new international signal for, “Look out! My shoe size is bigger than my IQ and I’m in a hurry! I don’t give a rat’s ass if we both die so I have the de facto right of way!” Driving a full-sized pick-up truck doing about forty, he could have done a lot of damage to a bunch of other cars, not to mention the three or four pedestrians already in the crosswalk.

Once I get on the freeway, the fun continues. On the 405 southbound at the intersection with the 101, the two far right lanes exit onto the 101 transition. The four left lanes are packed and crawling. (Someone about ten miles ahead, at Sunset, had flipped and was blocking a couple of lanes.) So at the gore point where the lanes split, we see dozens and dozens of cars racing along in the nearly empty transition lanes, only to stop (and block the lane) at the last second and then force there way into traffic. Freakin’ idiots!

The first smiley-faced balloon-head to try this was doing it while blow drying her hair. None of this simple “texting and driving” for her, no sir! She’s obviously a very, very important person who can’t be bothered with all of those petty, stupid little traffic rules that only the peons have to obey. So she’ll pass by a mile or more of gridlocked traffic to block a lane before she forces someone to either let her in or get hit by her. Doing her hair while endangering multiple lives? That’s just the icing on the cake.

The second SFBH was a young kid who I got to know as “The Little Drummer Boy”. He also bypassed all of the gridlock, blocked a lane, and played chicken with someone’s bumper to get into the through lane. He then cut straight over another lane to pull in behind me, earning him an extensive horn sonata and a one-finger salute from the guy behind me who got cut off by him. The Little Drummer Boy then proceeded to stick behind me for another ten miles or so, without ever touching the steering wheel with either hand. How could I tell? I could clearly see in my rear-view mirror that he had a pair of drum sticks and was playing along on the dashboard, windshield, mirror, door, and steering wheel. (I’m guessing that it was the drum solo from “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”.) FREAKIN’ IDIOT! At least he didn’t have the music turned up so loud that it was rattling my windows — he was wearing a full-sized pair of headphones (also illegal while driving, but who’s counting).

While traffic was crawling for us mere mortals, those in the carpool lane were zipping right along. Especially the ones who very obviously did not have two people in the car and weren’t driving a hybrid or alternate fuel vehicle. I don’t have precise data, but I would be surprised if less than 10% of those using the carpool lane were using it illegally. I guess the “$371 minimum fine” signs aren’t much of a deterrent. At least, not any more of a deterrent than those double-double yellow lane markers that would seem to indicate that it’s illegal to get into or out of the carpool lane except where allowed. I couldn’t even guess how many folks I saw crossing back and forth illegally.

Using the phone while driving? (Illegal in California for years if you’re not using a hands-free device.) Texting while driving? (Illegal, period, and incredibly dangerous and stupid to boot.) Probably close to 1 in 20, if not more.

Lest you think that I’ve become my father or some old coot fixated on every little scofflaw (“Rotten kids, get off my lawn!”), I really do understand that it’s a “Not My Float!” moment. Yeah, there’s a tiny little Catholic school voice in my head who wants to punish and get self-righteous, but forty years of LA traffic has pretty much beaten it into submission. I’m much better than I was in my younger days at just watching out for the freakin’ idiots and making sure they don’t hit me than I am wanting to go all vigilante on them. (Except for that little shit who almost killed me at the four-way stop. That’s personal.)

But three hours of driving in those conditions will not do anything to help your belief that people are good, decent, intelligent people.

More accurately, it serves to remind me that probably 98% of the people out there are good, decent, and intelligent — but it only takes that 2% to completely screw it up for everyone. And it sure looks like the 2% are getting away with murder. Watching that right before your eyes for three hours and being so inured to it that you can’t afford to care about it? That’s poison enough to kill your faith in humanity.

P.S. — As I finish writing and editing this, it becomes painfully obvious that a skunk has gotten upset somewhere very close by. As in, “eye-watering, choking, stomach-turning, WTF IS THAT SMELL” close. Perfect.

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Filed under Critters, Distracted Driving, Freakin' Idiots!, Not My Float

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