10.08.2005

we're all in this gridlock together

So I'm about to park my car behind Spaceland to go drink beer and see Earlimart (in that exact order) and this black convertible pulls up behind me, and the driver waves for my attention. I roll down my window, pretty sure that this guy is going to berate me somehow for my bad/slow driving. (It's my experience that middle-aged guys in sports cars frequently feel the need to educate you on the fact that the speed limit is merely a guideline, not a rule, and should be matched or exceeded whenever possible because, yknow, they've got places to be) Anyhoo, it wasn't that. He says to me, "Hey! Did you know that there's going to be a law that Priuses can drive in the carpool lane? You could drive alone in the carpool lane!"
...I said, "Oh, really? Great." And he drives on.
...I have heard about this law. It's not setting my world on fire exactly because my daily commute doesn't have a carpool lane, and I already drive pretty slow as I mentioned, so the occasional opportunities to use a carpool lane don't have a big effect on my driving time. But it's fascinating that a total stranger in a sports car felt compelled to tell me about this just because he saw me driving a Prius. At first I paranoically assumed it was, in fact, some sort of veiled criticism on my driving (I'm a little bit self-conscious about the driving, can you tell?) along the lines of, "Y'know, they made it a law that you can have your own lane apart from us normal speeding people, y'damn hippie." But that didn't really make sense, so I then attributed it to the general good nature and community feeling of people in the Silverlake area. But it still didn't explain why a Totally Random Guy would stop me, on the street, at night, just to edify me on a trivial piece of traffic law regarding my car.
....Then it hit me: it's not trivial at all. For many LA people, it's a Major Thing. In this city, most of us spend a good chunk if not half our waking day in our cars. Long, deep and meaningful conversations can be held which entirely consist of giving driving directions (there are a lot of irritating and misleading conversations to be had in LA, but there is nothing sexier than someone giving you EXACTLY the right directions for how to get somewhere). So it's a significant matter, which needs to be communicated. Wouldn't you flag down a stranger to say, "Hey, aliens from space just landed in Echo Park," or "Hey, someone just found a cure for cancer!" For LA people, I think, a free pass to drive in the carpool lane is potentially that important. Because after all, we're talking about MY CAR.

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