"Angelenos were loners in their cars. That was the point of living in the city, to have a car and drive alone." from The Magician's Assistant
This quote really grabbed me. The character who has this thought is an Angeleno through-and-through and thinks nothing of driving inordinate distances at any time day-or-night in any kind of traffic no matter how hellish. I immediately recognized many of my friends, acquaintances and the not-so-acquainted in this statement.
I did not grow up in Southern California (aka Los Angeles) and do not think of my car as another bodily appendage. I view driving in traffic as one of Dante's special levels of hell, though I'm not sure what I've done to deserve this. I guess just living here is enough to qualify. I do not ... hear me DO NOT ... commute on a daily basis. I've managed to avoid "the daily commute" for 27 years of So-Cal living. I do not leave town on holidays or Friday afternoons and I do not return to town on Sunday afternoons or evenings. Doing this exactly one time told me all I need to know about freeway parking lots.
However ... OK people ... here it comes ... I have lately been required to drive into L.A. in rush hour traffic in order to attend VIMs (very i-m-p-o-r-t-a-n-t meetings). The first few VIMs left me exhausted and swooning for days. The next round found me oddly numb to the driving experience. Lately I've found myself almost looking forward to the commute. I've managed to get into the commuter ZONE. I collect some favorite CDs, make sure I have my XM radio plugged in, get a nice big coffee to go and plug myself into a slot on the freeway. I'm starting to see this as an opportunity to "hang out" for a couple of hours and have coffee with a million or so of my commuter friends (whatever works for ya honey). Quite honestly this is now where some serious thinking gets done. Since I don't carry a cell phone (that's another post) I can't be interrupted. I keep a small recorder with me in the car in case I get writing inspiration -- simply dictate and transcribe later. And of course there is always the alone-in-my-car karaoke event.
I'm still far from becoming "the happy commuter" posterchild, but I've found a way to turn the experience into something positive that doesn't raise my blood pressure and shorten my lifespan. Maybe one day I'll even evolve into an Angeleno.