Yesterday morning I was headed to a baby shower that took place in Costa Mesa, leaving from my apartment which is just about in the center of Los Angeles. The shower began at 11 AM. According to Google Maps, the drive should take about 54 minutes. Knowing what I know about traffic around these parts, I usually add about 20 minutes on to the suggested travel time because nothing stresses me out more than being late* and I know how crappy the roads can get here. Yes, even on a Sunday.
My morning started out well, but then I had the brilliant idea to curl my hair. This, as always, took longer than I would have expected (I’m Italian, and I have a lot of hair), so I left at about 10:08 rather than 10, already a bad sign. The drive started out easily enough on the 101 through downtown, which is always dicey, so that seemed to bode well. And then, of course, it all fell apart on the 5. I have never been on the 5 and not experienced an unexplained back up almost the moment I hit the absurdly-named City of Commerce. This is also where the Citadel Outlets are, which can be seen from the freeway. Also seen from the freeway – very bright electronic, changing billboards for the Outlets, which I swear transfix people and are the cause for the slowing. Honestly. Everything will stop dead, then everyone speeds up to a normal pace and you would be hard pressed to find any reason for the gridlock of the previous 8 seconds. And then, just when you are lulled into a false sense of hope, it will be gridlocked again. More than once, I have thought horrible things, like, “If this is because there’s an accident, someone better be dead!”
Once I got past the stupidity of the Citadel Outlets, we were free flowing, and then backed up again. This was because the right lane ends and Thru Traffic needs to merge left. Yesterday, this was made worse by the fact that some construction guys were just ambling up to a spot in the left lane to do…work, I guess. They had two trucks, each with those blinking arrows warning people that the lane is closed and that they’ll need to merge right. So, at the same time, you have an overcrowded highway with the folks on the right merging left, and the folks on the left merging right. Traffic was funneled into two middle lanes. When I drove by the guys with the arrows, they were just sitting there, not doing anything. Which led me to think, “Aren’t my tax dollars paying for this? Did I just, in a sense, pay to sit in traffic for no good reason?”
I was about 20 minutes late to the shower, which really wasn’t a big deal, but the most irritating part was that the curls had completely fallen out of my hair, rendering my reason for running late in the first place as ultimately useless and a big, fat waste of time. On the bright side, the shower was lovely, they served Mimosas, and I did not hit nearly the same amount of traffic on my way home (of course not, I didn’t have to be there at a certain time). But if I could have summed up my emotions on my drive down into one word, it would have been: “AAARRRGGGHHH.” Yes, I’m aware that’s not a real word.
* This obsession with punctuality might be a little part of my (undiagnosed but almost certain) OCD. Whenever I am due somewhere at a particular time, I calculate drive time, add a buffer, and then work backwards to determine when that means I should leave my apartment, after I add the requisite amount of time needed to get myself ready. It’s gotten so bad, that when I go to visit one of my closest friends on the other side of town, I cannot be late. Even if I were to try. I’ll say, “Ok, I’ll be there around 2.” And no matter what, I am ringing her doorbell at 2 on the button. It’s uncanny, and she always laughs at me. More than once, I have contemplated driving around the block to kill some time so I’m at least a tad off schedule, so as not to seem freakishly punctual and out myself as the nerd that I am. Then I remember, gas is expensive here, and she already knows I’m a nerd and is my friend anyway, so I may as well just park.