Sometimes, when I’m stuck behind an old white woman doing 45 mph on the 405 Freeway, I remember Germany’s Autobahn.
I drove on the Autobahn once, years ago. Heaven. Not just because it’s well-paved and you can go really, really fast. It’s heaven because a) Germans are rule-followers, and b) Everyone follows the same rules. If you’re passing, you’re in the left lane. If you’re slow, you’re in the right lane. If you wind up slow in the fast lane, a righteous German will fly up behind you and flash his lights until you move.
Los Angeles is the opposite of Germany. Our population comes from every continent and our public transportation sucks. Too many of us drive. We’re following multiple cultural rules, with different levels of driving experience.
When Andy and I used to hit the road for dance events, we amused ourselves by guessing the identity of crappy drivers ahead of us. Then, as we passed them, (which we always did when my speed-demon husband drove his muscle car) we’d see if we’d guessed the person’s sex, age, and race correctly. This developed into a less-than-politically correct game where the loser accumulated the most points if their “people” drove slowly or stupidly. I won if my fellow white people weren’t idiots. Andy had the Asian drivers.
When we took the 405 down to Orange County or San Diego, I lost due to rich, white, male assholes in BMWs who changed lanes with inches to spare and no turn signals. According to their dickish mindset, using your turn signal gives information to the enemy. Everyone is the enemy.
When we took the 10 Freeway east, we ran into older Chinese-American drivers in Monterrey Park heading to Vegas. Many of those drivers couldn’t keep a consistent speed, or drove slowly, or straddled lanes. I’d yell, “Yours! That’s 100 points!” and laugh as Andy swore mightily and lost badly. (I’m not a good winner.)
We stay closer to home now, but Andy and I still comment on any shitty driving in our neighborhood.
If you’re coming to the LA area, here are some of our least favorite – but most common – lousy drivers:
- Old white people. They grew up before modern traffic laws and see nothing wrong with making the right turn from the left lane. Their eternal turn signals might mean something – in Morse code. They can’t see or don’t acknowledge pedestrians in crosswalks. As they pass inches from my foot, I long for a handy sticker to slap on their car that reads: “Tell your kids to take away your license!”
Construction Contractors. These guys park their jacked-up, diesel dually truck on the wrong side of the street. Or in the middle of the street. No fire hydrant is safe, and no driveway, either.
- Japanese Mom in a Minivan. She never had to drive until she moved to Los Angeles and it shows. She grew up in the land of fast trains. But now she’s excruciatingly slow, taking every turn at 2 miles an hour. On the plus side, she’s never, ever going to illegally park in my driveway when she collects her kid from school.
- Very Important People. They have movies to make and deals to close. They will cut you off without a second thought or sit at a green light for 30 seconds while they send a text. Honking is futile. They rarely hear peons. If they do, they will merely flip you off because how dare you honk at them they are engaged in a Very Important Thing.
- Confused Tourists. They really want to find the beach, or the Hollywood sign, or maybe just a McDonald’s. And if they have to in across 3 lanes of traffic in 30 feet to get their Big Mac, they will.
- Young males of all races. They have the impulse control of toddlers. They street race. They do donuts in high school parking lot every Saturday night. They go into opposing traffic to get around you if you make a complete stop at a stop sign (which you will probably do to piss them off because they tailgate and honk at you for doing 25 mph in a residential neighborhood with kids). They’ll probably remove themselves from the gene pool soon, but unfortunately they’ll take some law-abiding motorist with them.
- Multitasking Moms in Hybrid SUVs. They’re passing out organic fruit to multiple kids while texting, emailing, and talking on their phones. When her kids heave their probiotic yogurt at each other, this mother is gonna veer into your lane while threatening the backseat with severe timeouts.
You probably recognize some of these drivers, whether you live in LA or not. There are dangerous drivers are everywhere — even in places with minimal traffic. When I first drove Andy around Nowhere, New Hampshire, he laughed as I cursed at someone slamming on the brakes and making an abrupt U-turn in the middle of a two-lane road.
Then he reached over, patted my leg, smiled, and said,
“They’re all yours, honey.”
Who’s the worst driver you ever encountered?