On Traffic

By: Mikey California, West Coast Correspondent

Upon moving to LA, Benjamin Franklin uttered the famous phrase “In this world nothing can be certain, except death, taxes, and it taking minimum 45 minutes to drive anywhere in this God damned town.” Paraphrased a little I know, but with the amount of time I spend in my car, it should qualify as my second residence. Depending on the time I get out of my apartment in the morning, I spend an average of 1.5-2.5 hours driving roundtrip daily. To put that in perspective, that’s ~10 hours a week, or 520 hours (or 13 work weeks) annually. Horrible. Although inhaling carbon monoxide and constantly doing the WTF hand (Fig. 1 below) aren’t my favorites, traffic can be made reasonable given the correct tools.

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(Fig. 1- WTF Hand)

Not to toot my own horn (toot toot), but I’ve developed quite the menagerie of ways to keep my mind occupied. While it’s always a safe bet popping on Rumours by Fleetwood Mac another time, podcasts are my saving grace. Whether you need to zone out and have a good laugh (WTF and My Favorite Murder are my go-to’s for this), learn about people’s personal stories (The Moth, Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations), listen to sport’s talk (look elsewhere for these- I’m sociopathically unable to feel any emotional connection to sports), or educate yourself (What really happened? With Andrew Jenks, Intelligence Squared US Debates), there’s something for everyone. I used to listen to political podcasts, but this genre has been too doom and gloom as of late. I try my best to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s going on and understand that the ability freely expressing political opinions is an American right, but I’d rather spend my mornings listening to a nice pick me up. In case you haven’t noticed, I mostly flirt by recommending podcasts. There’s also audiobooks for all of those books you were supposed to read in high school but spark noted!

When these don’t hold me over for the full commute, I like to spend time with nothing; just thinking and talking to myself. I’ve been blessed to be the most entertaining person I know. Sometimes talking to myself means trying to perfect another person’s accent that I heard that day (is this weird?). I’ve become quite fluent with British, French, and South African accents. Later in the week, talking to myself usually turns into me singing The Climb by Miley or some other gay-ass song at the top of my lungs and enjoying the looks of other commuter’s stares. I have a solid routine.

When I manage to keep my mouth closed, I sometimes have those zoned-out profound thoughts reserved for the shower. Here are some of them:

  • Traffic is economics in one of its simplest forms. 4 million people within a 480 square mile patch of land are trying (demand) to use a scarce resource (the road) with the goal of getting where they need to go in the most efficient. The fast lane (an even more limited resource) is a premium product that ideally increases efficiency. But when too many use this resource, the premium value of this lane decreases, decreasing demand while supply stays constant, thereby increasing demand to be in other lanes.

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It’s like when you wore a cool shirt in high school but the freshness of it marginally decreases when every other person in your 200 person high school shopped at the same American Eagle. Every morning, I get to see a market constantly shifting, often facilitated by me giving the thumbs down to someone cutting me off in my lane. Side note- I learned from a friend that a thumbs down is a lot more effective way to show disapproval than flipping the bird.

  • Driving, aside from collecting crystals, is religion for Angelinos. Instead of all being behind a pew on Sunday morning, we’re all sitting in fellowship on the 405. You want that sense of community religion provides? I haven’t felt more connected to a group of people than when 12 cars and I simultaneously said “Not today, sweetheart” and didn’t let a Range Rover cut us off at the ramp we were waiting 15 minutes to exit. Driving to work one day on a completely empty 101 was the closest thing to a religious experience I’ve had out here. Not because “I saw God in the open road,” but because I was 99% certain the rapture happened and I was left behind.

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Lastly, there’s no shortage of people yelling “Jesus Christ” on the road, more times than not including his middle name, “Fucking.”

It might be safe to say that after nine months of this situation that I’ve developed a Stockholm syndrome-type relationship with my commutes. Traffic has filled the “small talk” void left by weather I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to plug when moving to a city where it’s always consistent. Midwesterners THRIVE off that shit. I will take complaining about how long it took to get in than how much snow we got 7 days a week. Plus, if you accidentally sleep in and stroll in at 10A.M., it’s totally acceptable as long as you blame the roads.

Drive safely!

-Sent from my iPhone (while driving)

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