Theory of Los Angeles Traffic and Inner Peace.

When I moved to Los Angeles in 1999, I had been driving for only a few years, and loved it. The freedom of the drive, the openness of the road was glorious. I was an avid reader of the beat poets, and was surely inspired by what they talked about when talking about road trips, and traveling the way they did.

Moving from the country to a big city like LA, was all I ever wanted. The energy, the new people, massive amount of roads to drive. And learning the traffic and the short cuts wasn’t annoying it was educational. This was all before Waze, and Google Maps. We used Thomas Guides, and asked for directions. And once you learned the system, just like driving in Manhattan, once you learn the rules of the road, you are set. So there I was after a couple years of learning the LA way of driving life, and I was good. I had the locations, and the paths all in my mind. New a few short cuts, and when to go or not go to the Airport.

Some people never ever use the public transit in LA, even now with it being a hip thing to do. I however did back in the day. I accepted the fate of it, and tried to make the best of it. Which in turn gave me a glimpse into slow, unorganized, and bizarre ways of navigating around this city. That might have been when I first felt the tinge of judgement towards the driving folk of LA, more of a jealousy perhaps. But when I got another car, I joined the ranks of those who promised to never be a bus person again, and how sorry I felt for them. A little classless on my part I’m sure, but I was young and quick to think I knew everything about everything. I did get a little excited and even prideful upon hearing the news about the Expo Line opening. Which is a train from downtown LA to Santa Monica. However, I live in West Hollywood, and don’t know if I ever will be riding it, unless for just for a fun thing to do one day.

This is car city, the history of how it all went down is something all LA residents learn if they care to understand why we don’t have trains and subways going all over the place. 1930–1950’s The Autotopia explosion happened, and to make a long story short, put an end to the happy dream of great public transit for LA.

LA’ers talk about driving like people elsewhere talk about the weather. We love it, it brings out the best and mostly the worst of us. From finding new ways to deal with the stress of it, to all out raging on everything and everyone. You will hear the age old racial stereotype stories, and the cell phone user’s obliviousness, the “I almost ran over a pedestrian today” comments. It’s never ending. I remember when I first started trying to understand why everyone seems to have a harder time driving here, then other places I have lived. And it came after I knew a guy who died in a motorcycle accident. I thought for years of getting a motorcycle here in LA, I love riding, and I have never done it for the sole reason that it is too dangerous here, because of the other drivers driving. This is an international city without a common way of driving, other than the easiest DMV test ever. 15 minutes driving around the block and here you go, you’re done. Most people learn to drive from their families, and culturally Los Angeles is diverse, the nuances of driving from different countries is noticeable. Try driving in different European, Asian, or South American countries, you will notice differences. My conclusion was those little differences, that all trickled down from all the different forms of driving surely blend and add to the little misses and big crashes.

Now the big contributor. Population. Endless growth, and not enough time to build more roads, let alone fix the broken once. Everything else is just punditry. I’m sure people felt frustrated in every decade of LA’s growth concerning driving and traffic. It happens when you finally notice it for yourself. Then the excuses come into play, “I listen to books on tape”, “I plan my days, weeks, months, years out”, “I meditate”, and my personal favorite “It’s my me time”. Until of course rage and depression come haunt those endless drives. It wasn’t the fact that Postmates gives LA residents cool new foods to eat, it’s the fact people don’t have to get into the car to get them. 
Now the inner truth, it’s a mirror of one’s soul. The feelings that come from the LA driving. We can’t escape ourselves. It doesn’t matter how many Uber’s we take just to not drive ourselves. I know now after years of living here. I want happiness when I drive to the Whole Foods parking lot, and to the Beach. I can have it too, by finding that inner joy of driving again. It doesn’t matter that I don’t own a Tesla. I mean it does, I would like to do more for the environment. But just like we weather the heat in summer, we weather the road all year long. It’s a part of me we can’t deny or pretend doesn’t exist. So I say to myself, acceptance is the key. It’s ok to road rage a little, it’s ok to let people in, it’s ok to not go out, it’s ok to pick that friend, you kind of know up at the airport, it’s all ok it’s all part of it. Just remember who the real enemy is.

-Ben Buschel
A driver in Los Angeles

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