Thursday, September 27, 2012

I Drive In L.A., Therefore I Am

It's time to get all existential. Carmageddon II will commence this weekend, and yesterday, Angelenos learned they will have to get by with only one television traffic helicopter hovering over the empty freeway. What if there were none? If no one is on the freeway, it is completely empty and desolate from the San Fernando Valley to the 10 on the west side, does the freeway exist? Do we, who normally travel said freeway, exist? We will be spared having to answer those questions because there will be at least one helicopter present to prove the 405 is real, if closed for the weekend.

LAObserved detailed how this small but well-traveled strip of freeway may result in a citywide traffic jam:

"The Dodgers will also be playing with the playoffs on the line, Placido Domingo will be singing at the Los Angeles Opera, the Hollywood Bowl will present the Go-Gos and Willco, the West Hollywood Book Fair will take place, and there will be special events at many local museums. Clearly, a lot of people will be driving"

There will also be something called the Herbalife Triathlon running from the beach in Venice to downtown L.A. Get out of the way for 2500 participants swimming, biking, running and whatever else they do in triathlon.

In traffic, the driver exists in a bubble. It is a lonely communal experience, often involving the same people at the same time every morning of the week, and again in the evening when the day is done. I recognize my fellow commuters by their bumper stickers, their personalized license plates, or in one case, by the way the driver flails around in the car playing air drums. I think he is looking for extra attention. There are the assorted nose pickers, ear wax miners, furtive texters, shavers, makeup artists and one guy who seemed to be getting undressed, although I only saw him once, thank God.

Every day of our lives, the traffic inches along. All those minutes leeching off into the void.

I start my commute with NPR, followed by station surfing, but that gets old because radio seems to think that what we really want in the morning drive time is talking. You're not funny people; play some music. I usually end up with silence. I embrace the isolation among the masses yearning to get to work on time.

I had planned to get to a library this weekend to research a piece I'm writing on the personification of death from ancient Greeks through the plague years. One of those uplifting projects that almost writes itself. Instead, I'll stay home and digitally commute to the resources I need. With all this doomsday Carmageddon II talk, I'm afraid the Grim Reaper himself might be stuck in gridlock on his way to his appointed rounds.

Monday morning, we'll all be back on the road, fighting the good fight to get to work and earn a buck. Los Angeles will have survived the end of the world yet again. And those of us on the highways and byways will have plenty of time to ponder the existential question: could I get away with calling in sick today?

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