Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Conventional Wisdom Means Nothing in LA

I've lived in LA for almost 9 years, if you can believe that. I can't; I thought I'd be gone in five years, back to New England to live out my days in pale misery. But no, I'm still here!

When people think of LA, they think smog, earthquakes and traffic. It's true, we have all three of those but there's nothing you can do about the first two. The only one you can really have any control over is the third. So herewith are some driving tips from moi, based on my many years of experience here in this town.

First of all, throw out everything you learned about driving in every other city in this country. As I said above, conventional wisdom just doesn't hold here.

1. The right lane on the freeway is the fastest. I know it feels wrong! Everyone is merging in that lane, it must slow down. But no! People merge in and then immediately move to the next lane to (they think!) zip past everyone. Plus, people move into the right to exit so that frees up space. Trust me on this one.

2. Whenever possible, avoid making a left turn in this town. There are more left turn signals than when I moved here but there aren't enough to keep things moving. If you must make a left turn, know that 2 cars turn after the light turns red. That's just the way it is. In other cities, they jump the light and make the turn before the oncoming traffic moves but not in LA. Just make sure you're inside the intersection or else you could get snagged with a ticket from the cameras.

3. When computing the amount of time you think (or Google maps thinks) it will take you to get to your destination, multiply that by 3. Unless you like getting to movies and shows and dinner parties late, you want to give yourself a lot of time for some major catastrophe like someone getting a flat tire on Laurel Canyon. Which reminds me that...

4. Traffic on the LA roadways is a delicate balancing act. One small change to it (a signal being out, a fender bender, something fun to look at by the side of the road) will have a HUGE impact on your commute. And by the time it works its way out, people have forgotten how it began.

5. Wednesday is the worst day of the week to travel between any 2 points in LA. Again, throw out conventional wisdom which would tell you Friday but actually, Friday is the easiest day to drive. Perhaps people are staying home to make the weekend longer or maybe they're just traveling off-hours on that day but in order of worst to best, it goes like this: Wednesday, Thursday, Tuesday, Monday, Friday. Again, you just have to trust me, not your gut.

6. LA drivers don't use their turn signals out of laziness. They're simply afraid that if they convey to you their desire to move into your lane, you'll speed up and box them out. Why? Because that's what they would do.

7. Traffic at some point will suck like you can't believe. It will take you an hour to drive a mile. Twenty minutes to get out of the Arclight parking garage. You will actually want to drive to the west side for some ungodly reason. Just make sure you keep sufficient tunes or an audio book in your glove compartment; it will save your sanity.

Enjoy driving in LA!