Living in LA, the road has become an all too important character in my life. It’s the protagonist, the nemesis, the best friend who gives perspective on life, the annoyance that you sometimes just can’t avoid. It’s my routine and my escape. Sometimes it makes me want to scream and other times it allows me to breathe. At the age of 16, it was my “get out of jail free” card when the world was opening up and anything was possible. Now, as a commuter, there are days I fear it could lead to my demise.
Most of my adult life, I’ve had to commute a considerable distance. I figure each year, driving about an hour each way give or take, I spend about 500 hours on the road commuting for work. 500 hours! That’s about 20 days a year! With an average distance of just 25 miles each way, that translates to 4 times across the U.S. or about one and a half times around the earth. And this is a conservative estimate! I’ve had jobs that were 40-50 miles away. 20 days a year! To think of what I could do with that time back in my life.
I found after spending these two hours a day in the car, on a good day, my sanity was slowing slipping away. My regularly, somewhat genteel personality was lapsing into fits of manic combustion. I was not about to let the poor planning of urban developers get the better of me. So, I decided to turn this pent-up frustration into constructive therapy. Yep, I turned it all around for the sake of sanity. I started gaining pleasure in watching people in cars around me try to find a quick way out of gridlock – hopping lanes to see if they could squeeeeeeze an extra car past. The thrill I gained in watching these people interact on the freeway was almost sadistic.
Yet day in and day out I was no better off than anyone else. I was still one of the countless numbers of others caught in this cacophony of asphalt. So I thought and I thought. I thought about my goals, what I want to do with my life, how I could make myself financially secure so I’ll never have to drive in rush hour traffic again. I tried everything to maximize my time in the car and get my mind off traffic. I bought a comfortable car disproportionate to my income level with lots of bells and whistles (the LA thing to do). I listened to music, novels on cassette like “How to Become a Millionaire.” And as my mind would still wander, I saw people’s driving habits form common patterns. Personalities emerged and started to show similarities. Just like we categorize people in society and label them based on their socio-economic status, I found that people’s driving behaviors could be categorized as well. Sure some people are in nicer cars, but this time, income level did not determine how far one could excel before another on the road to nowhere.
As it turns out, the road is a great equalizer. As in life, people behind the wheel are driven by their ambition, frustration, and others who set the pace. I can see it in how they drive and will share with you my insights. I hope you’ll join me on this journey in my bLAuto. I will share with you humor, pathos, tips and tricks, of course the occasional bitch session, and even offer what I hope will be educational information.
Thanks for joining me on this road trip! I welcome your comments.