Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Driven to Fail

I wasn’t going to post today. Tanya had a dentist appointment so my morning routine was screwed up. But I was inspired my Mike’s post about the disgruntled postal worker over at the Filthy Scarecrow. Besides, I’ll never pass up an opportunity to bitch about my fellow man. It’s my forte.

As you might remember, I ruined a woman’s morning by calling her a “stupid bitch” in a fit of road rage. An embarrassing and eye-opening incident that prompted me to finally get my driver’s wrath under control.

I’m still working on it.

Admitting that I had a problem was the easy part. It’s not yelling as the moronic, cell phone talking, no-turn-signal-using, SUV driving jerk asses that’s the hard part. But I’ve been doing my best. The frustrating part is that it seems to be a one-sided battle. I’ve been doing my part not to be “stridently honest” with the other people on the road, but they seem to be doing absolutely nothing about their complete lack of intellect.

So, the other day I was driving back from my short-lived job over at Universal. I had already suffered a flat tire earlier in the week and was still a bit rattled by the embarrassment of putting on my donut in the middle of the Universal parking garage. I mean, it’s bad enough that my car is the crappiest – and dirtiest -- car on the whole damned lot but, almost as if my little car was illustrating a point about my neglect issues, it decided to blow a tire right inside the front gates. And then to add insult to injury, I didn’t have a tire iron. It’s not easy to look nonchalant while changing an American tire with a tiny, metric ratchet.

But that was before. The day of my story, I had a new tire. Everything was fine. Except for the fact that I was running out of gas on the 405 in the middle of rush hour. At least that’s what I was guessing. My car’s gas gauge doesn’t work.

I should rephrase that, my car’s gas gauge does kind of work. It’s right at home here in LA. It’s the dramatic type. It sits at “full” all the time – until it gets down to about a gallon and a half, then it starts to plunge to “empty.” And it falls fast. Every inch you drive feels like it could be your last. It’s remarkably stressful.

Anyway, I couldn’t handle the stress of freeway driving with a steadily dropping gas gauge. So I decided to get off the 405 onto Sepulveda and make it the rest of the way home on the surface streets. That way, if I got desperate, I could pull over at the nearest gas station (by the way, there are amazingly few gas stations on Sepulveda).

Of course, there’s a ton of traffic on Sepulveda too. I knew there would be. Somehow, to me, traffic is a little more tolerable on the surface streets. I don’t know why. More escape routes I guess. The freeway can be claustrophobic at times.

I was in my new emotional place. Even though I was running out of gas, I was cool as a cucumber. No road rage. I had accepted the traffic as an unavoidable inevitability of life. My chakra was doing whatever it is that chakra does when it’s doing its “one with everything”…thing.

But I was the only one. The small-minded people around me weren’t appreciating the suffocating beauty of chaos that day. They were in a hurry. People on the road are always in a hurry. So why is traffic so bad you ask? Well, it’s because people are always in a hurry to get home until they’re two blocks from their house. Then, for them, the rush is over. It’s a casual journey to the front door now for them. Unfortunately, we don’t all live at the same address so everyone’s idea of the “end of the road” is different.

That’s why you should race and race until your key enters the front deadbolt, people. Be a pal. Your backyard is my traffic jam.

So I’m sitting on Sepulveda in a mile-long line of people waiting at one stop light. It’s going to take a while. Zen. Finally, after waiting through about 8 turns of the light, I’m the second car in line. It’s not the pole position, but it’s not bad. From my spot in line I can really get a sense of why traffic isn’t moving as well as it should.

There’s a dude selling crap at the intersection. Flowers, oranges, real-estate…everything. And he’s got customers! Seems to me that after spending the last 30 minutes at the same stoplight, the last thing a person would want to do is haggle over the price of citrus fruits…but that’s just me I guess.

So this guy’s making his way through the cars. I’m trying not to make eye contact. But the guy in that car ahead of me – the first car in line – decides that he wants to buy some flowers. Of course, he didn’t make that decision until after the flower/orange guy had passed him.

He made some feeble attempts to get his attention, but nothing was working. The F/O guy was too far down the line to hear him. When the flower dude did finally realize that he had a customer and walked over to the car to make the transaction – the light had turned green.

But the guy in the car wasn’t daunted. He was going to get those damned flowers. No matter that there were 150 cars in line behind him and the drivers were all a little…anxious.

I’m still “the Fonz” at this point.

But the guy behind me was “Mickey Rourke.” He started honking and yelling.

And I got blamed for it.

Now the guy in front of me turned into Mickey Rourke too. He turned around and started yelling at me. And since I couldn’t figure out the universal hand gesture for “I didn’t honk at you, it was the jerk behind me, I’ve been trying to control the impulsive behavior that would cause me to be so impatient” I became the object of his anger.

The guy finally acquiesced to the pressure, gave up on the flowers and pulled into the intersection.

But it didn’t take long before he relented. He stopped in the middle of the street and sat there staring defiantly at me in his rear-view mirror refusing to drive another millimeter.

Now everybody was honking at him. Everybody but me.

It must have been karma. Or a test. I felt those old urges welling up. But I only let out a very quiet string of obscenities when the he finally flipped me off and tore through the intersection…as the light turned yellow.

I’m winning my personal battle.

But people are still dicks.

Fun Fact: I didn’t run out of gas that day. But once, I ran out of gas twice in one week in front of my college – in the exact same spot.

And I ran out of gas twice in one day once in a boat. The first time a nice group of people helped my friends and I get back to the dock. The second time, I felt really stupid. The nice group that helped before were still out on the lake and I couldn’t face their inevitable mockery. So I tried my damndest to hide my stupidity.

It’s hard to keep a low profile when you’re rowing a large motorboat back to shore with a water ski.

That’s a fact.

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