You think you're blowing your life away navigating Los Angeles traffic. You really begrudge that fact. You jabber about this problem incessantly at parties and in movie lines, and everybody within earshot weighs in about it so they, too, can share that rush of satisfaction that vanishes like a late fall sunset.
But what if, while driving, you were actually gaining insight into others, or learning local cultural lessons — or complicated things about yourself that would normally cost you an arm and a leg at the therapist's? Here, then, are 12 true things you will learn while driving in Los Angeles:
12. L.A. truly is a diverse place.
Your GPS takes you on random jaunts down unfamiliar surface streets instead of a direct route to your destination. You discover beautiful, tree-lined streets in the Valley, Latino families jamming crosswalks on bustling Pico Boulevard near DTLA, the spectacular view from Baldwin Hills. And you were just trying to find the marina.
11. No one touts their college with a sticker.
Except for the insecure folks who graduated from Harvard, here it’s all about the license plate frame, led in popularity by a thick, rhinestone-y job. College stickers are abhorred because people here are wildly relieved to have escaped San Francisco, Boston, New York, Miami and Chicago. And stickers fade in the endless sun, and that, like, totally ruins your car's aesthetic.
10. Everyone driving a Mercedes is an asshole.
Especially people who drive silver ones. We don't know why.
9. Your left arm will be tanner than your right, year-round.
Accept it now. It looks weird, sure, but wear it as a badge of honor. You are an L.A. driver now. But also see your dermatologist yearly, because your left arm is now practically a petri dish for skin cancer.
8. You don't need to know the color of traffic signals.
There are some signals that, inexplicably, are impossible to see until you are right under them. Like in the intersection right under them.
7. Traffic jams hit at weird times.
Driving at 1 p.m. or 1 a.m., and certain you’ll have smooth sailing? Think again. Caltrans sweeper trains, police investigation closures and endless surprise shutdowns of all but one lane of the 405 for “construction,” even though there's no sign of construction equipment or a crew. Before you leave, check Waze or Google Maps.
6. Millions cannot drive in the rain.
Partly due to Angelenos’ rare dealings with precipitation, people slow down to 35 as if it's a blizzard, they brake uphill, they straddle lanes and act like StormWatch is pressing news. Also blame government ineptitude — after a few drops, some traffic signals will go dark. And the road paint here lacks the reflective beads that pick up your headlights, so you don't know where your lane ends, leading to thrilling risk-taking by the very same people who brake uphill.
5. An electromagnetic pulse affects car turn signals
Occam’s Razor says that a mass turn-signal malfunction is more likely than everyone willingly ignoring that helpful, crash-preventing feature. So that must be what’s happening, right?
4. L.A. motorcyclists are terrifying people
Not the ones in criminal biker gangs. The legal ones who zip in between cars on the freeway, roaring up to your open window straight from Hell.
Up next, what you need to know about yellow lights…
3. You’re a heathen if you fail the “two-lefts-per-yellow” rule.
There isn’t a single left turn signal in Los Angeles that’s green long enough to accommodate all of the people who need to turn. So it’s imperative that at least two left-turners make it through as the light switches from yellow to red. Is this technically illegal? Yes. Will you severely piss off everyone behind you, possibly including that cop car, if you don’t do it? Definitely.
2. You will revel in speeding while alone.
If you drive the 110 south through DTLA late at night, you feel like Batman. Where else can you enjoy gliding along at 75 mph, mere feet from skyscrapers? It’s awesome. Just keep an eye out for hidden shoulder areas up ahead, where a CHP unit may be hiding with a radar gun trained on you.
1. You will develop an impassive facial expression.
OH YOU CUT ME OFF IS THAT HOW IT’S GONNA BE okay that’s fine I’m just going to quietly seethe in my car and keep my face purposefully blank because I don’t want to look like this small thing matters or incite road rage even though you’re acting like a total jerk it’s fine it’s fine.