Friday, March 01, 2013

Interstate 5

I usually chuckle to myself whenever out-of-towners say how much they hate driving through L.A. “If you lived here,” I think smugly, “you’d know how to avoid traffic by using surface streets. Savvy Angelenos know their way around.”

Well, the traffic gods certainly had the last laugh on me, yesterday, when I got caught—some might even say I got “trapped”—coming home on the I-5 during rush hour.

I had a morning meeting in San Diego and, even though Tim and I had a 6PM date at Philippe’s in downtown L.A., I decided to have lunch with a friend in Fashion Valley. I didn’t head north again until 3PM. Surely 3 hours was plenty of time to meet Tim at 6PM.

It’s been many years since I’ve taken the I-5 from San Diego. The 405 is much more convenient—a mere two blocks from our house—plus I-5 is old and just basically horrible. However, it is the most direct route from San Diego to downtown L.A.

The freeway was a bit chunky leaving S.D., but smooth sailing until Orange County, just south of Disneyland. A digital traffic sign warned that it would take 90 minutes to get downtown from there.

“90 minutes?!” I said to myself. “That’s twice as long as it takes to get home from Disneyland!” Still, it was only 4PM, so I had plenty of time to pickup Tim before driving over to Philippe’s.

About 30 minutes later I came across another sign, saying it was 70 minutes to downtown L.A., followed by yet another sign, about 25 minutes later, warning that downtown was 50 minutes away! The traffic math was going backward. I called Tim. He convinced me to just keep driving. I was, after all, more than halfway there.

I arrived on the outskirts of downtown L.A. right as the sun was setting, around 5:45PM. I could almost touch the skyscrapers with my hand, but traffic was at a crawl. Tim decided to take the lightrail to Philippe’s. I would meet him there at 6PM. I started making my way over to the righthand lane so I could get off at the next exit: Alameda, a straight shot to Philippe’s, which is located across the street from Union Station. Surface streets at last! But traffic was at a dead stop on Alameda.

Tim was now waiting for me outside the restaurant. I called him at 6:15PM and told him to go inside and eat. I’d meet him there eventually. By now, I was a total wreck and was desperate to just get out of the car. He wisely told me to go home. He would eat and then take the train to Culver City. So I made an illegal U-turn on Alameda and headed west. Unfortunately, there was a basketball game that night—the streets surrounding the stadium were almost as bad as the freeway—but by then I didn’t care. I zig-zagged through town and finally got home at 7:30PM.

I will never take the I-5 again!

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