Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - June 2, 2006

A thrill a minute

Aunt Kay called me on her cell phone recently. She and Uncle Stan were on a Los Angeles freeway somewhere between Burbank and their home in Chino Hills. At one point she remarked, "the car pool lane seems to be slower than the other ones for some reason."

Usually traffic moves more quickly in the lanes set aside as a sort of reward for car-pooling.

I could vaguely hear Stan mumbling in the background as he guided them home. He's never appeared to be at all fond of driving in LA traffic, despite having done it for six decades.

But he got a break last fall when Art, Mom, my brother Dave and I were in California. Art, who absolutely loves to drive, took over the chauffeur's role for the duration of our visit. Stan enjoyed the reprieve, commenting that he never has a chance to look around since he's always watching traffic.

At least I think he enjoyed it!

"Thanks for driving," he told Art at the end of our stay. "It was a thrill a minute."

Stan has a good sense of humor. He's also the nervous type on the road, so it wasn't clear if he was really saying he enjoyed the respite or if he was saying it didn't make any difference because he was still nervous. Probably both.

Art just laughed in response.

But I know I was not thrilled as we sped along the five-lane freeways going 65 miles an hour. The normal traffic was bad enough, but it was even worse when every now and then another freeway merged - sometimes from the left, sometimes from the right. And that doesn't include the toll lane. Many times, I just closed my eyes and said a silent prayer.

But when I'd open them, Art would just be grinning.

"These are nice. You can get around pretty good on these roads," he said.

Better him than me!

Although we usually were able to travel the speed limit, at other times we were reduced to a crawl. One day, it took us an hour and a half to go less than 30 miles. We assumed there was an accident up ahead, but we never saw one.

Part of our mission on that trip was to help Stan's brother, my Uncle Bob, celebrate his 90th birthday, but Art also had some family history leads that took us all over the city. But although he had never driven in Los Angeles or its suburbs before, he drove like an old pro - shuttling us between Stan and Kay's home and Uncle Bob and Aunt Iris' home in Rancho Palos Verdes.

Art sounded a bit like one of those people who try to visit every state. "I think I"ve managed to drive on almost all of LA's freeways. Let's see, we've been on the 605, 405, 710, 110, 5 . . ."

He didn't even mention driving in congested downtown Los Angeles or on quieter city streets or the Pacific Coast Highway.

As for me, after being in Los Angeles for a few days, I was glad to be back home. I often joke that Manhattan has about a 15-minute "rush hour" twice a day - from about 7:50-8:05 a.m. and again from about 5-5:15 p.m. As much as possible, I avoid those times. Now, with construction on several of the town's major streets, the congestion has doubled the drive time to and from work. So as much as possible, I drive alternate routes so as not to get caught up in it.

But even at its worst, one thing it never is, is a thrill a minute!

2006 Index