Monday, February 4, 2013

10 LA traffic rules to live by

Photo by Wikimedia Commons. 

The rumors about LA traffic are true. Seriously, it's the absolute worst. When I drove here for the first time from Vegas I knew I was in LA because traffic came to a deadening halt on the freeway.

"So this is what people are talking about," I said to the Jordan.

Since then I've made it a point to avoid driving my car at all possible. It just didn't seem worth it. I felt like I was risking my life every time I went behind the wheel, people drove like maniacs, horn honking seemed like second nature, and every time I did find a parking spot near my apartment, I didn't want to let go of it. Oh and parallel parking. In North Carolina, parallel parking was NOT a part of our driving test– we just had to reverse in a semi-straight line. I maybe had to parallel park twice ever before LA. But things had changed. Parallel parking is a way of life here. I got pretty decent at it actually– to the point that I would get so excited when I got into a tight spot I would take pictures of it.

And then came the two week wreck. Actually it was technically more like a week and a half. The first time I was with my best friend who visited from home and was pulling out of my parking spot. The guy behind me had just left, so I made sure no one was behind me, and began to reverse to pull out of the spot. Lo and behold, a woman pulled into the spot while I was reversing, and when we collided, immediately said that it was my fault. She made a huge show that I needed to pay for the damage that neither I nor my friend could even see, until she admitted she didn't even own a license. And then pleaded to me not to call the police. Complete bollocks.

Less than two weeks later and I was on my way to Vegas to meet up with another friend. The 101 was backed up, as usual, and it was bumper to bumper traffic. I was at a standstill when a car rammed me from behind (possible "that's what she said" joke here, I know) and I managed to not run into the girl in front of me by an inch. I got out of my car to find that I was the last out of three cars that got hit in a domino effect. Ironically, apparently some guy named Jesus (I found out this later when I got a letter from State Farm Insurance) wasn't paying attention and went full speed into the car in front of him, who hit the car in front of him, and so on and so forth. Luckily, I was the only with the least amount of impact.

So needless to say after that, I had constant traffic terrors of people hitting me from behind, merging into me, stopping suddenly in front, to the point that I had to say a prayer every time I started the engine. I practically had an anxiety attack every time I went on the freeway because those jitters were multiplied by ten. Not to mention the everlasting fear that my car is going to get broken into, stolen, or towed.

However, I have decided to embrace the public transportation, only drive my car when completely necessary, save up on gas and thus improve my life span drastically. I also will be following these rules that I have garnered from my 7 months in LA:

1. Read the signs...carefully. I cannot stress this enough. They sometimes don't make sense, but it is NEVER worth your car getting towed or ticketed, trust me. Sometimes you might night be able to park there during certain hours (because of rush hour), or you can only park on one side of the sign (I'm pretty sure it's the opposite side the arrow points towards), sometimes there's only permit parking, and sometimes you can't park there at all. Actually, that's most of the time. For a breakdown of what the hell these signs mean, you can look here.

2. Never park under bridges or underpasses. This is where the crack addicts reside. And if you look closely, this is also where the cracked glass litters the ground. Do not be fooled– it isn't for decoration. It is because so many car windows have been smashed there that the ground looks like a Kesha music video. Just find another parking spot.

3. Keep in mind street cleaning days and hours. Street cleaning will most of the time happen once every week on that side of the street for the duration of a couple of hours. You need to move your car during that time or it will definitely result in a hefty fine. Sometimes you might not want to get up at 7 in the morning to move your car, but you just need to suck it up. If you want to avoid this, try to park in a place that doesn't have street cleaning at all– like small roads and cul-de-sac.

4. Never leave anything in your car. My car was never this clean until I moved to LA. I make sure I don't even leave so much as an empty shopping bag in there. Why? Because a homeless person might eye it and think that there is something valuable in there. You never know. The first day that I moved into my apartment, my neighbor got a brick thrown into her back window. Just a few weeks ago my roommate had someone break into their car because a laptop cover was in the backseat. Don't tempt people– take everything with you. Or just put it in the trunk like I do so that it is out of sight.

5. Turn your steering wheel when parking on hills. I never knew this until my cousin told me parking enforcement would fine me for not doing this. Then I learned real quick. Basically when you are parked down hill, turn your wheels towards the curb; turn your wheels away from the curb if parked uphill. This makes it so that if your brakes fail it will prevent your car from rolling. Voila!

6. There will always be traffic on the freeway no matter what hour. I'm not exaggerating. There's no rhyme or reason to how many cars are going to be on the road. There will be some random event at some random time that will block off some random street that you always use and you will want to blow your brains out waiting in traffic. Just be prepared for it; there's nothing you can do.

7. Left turns suck. When I first moved here, I drove downtown (which by the way, is the worst traffic because of those stupid one-way streets) and was consequently scared out of my mind by the Metro bus. I was making a left turn and the bus driver thought it was a good idea to honk at me during the entire three-minute light. It was ridiculous. But, as I found out later, you need to be halfway into the intersection when making left turns, to be more "efficient" and so you can run a yellow/red light faster when the light finally changes. Otherwise you will be honked at.

8. Back roads > Freeway. Self-explanatory.

9.  Look up parking at places beforehand. It's infuriating that you have to pay to park everywhere in Los Angeles. I guess I was just spoiled in NC with free parking. But they take advantage of you here. What some people don't know, is that most of the parking lots that have people waving you in them, can be bargained with. They change their rates all the time depending on the day and how busy they are, so if you say you only have this amount of cash, they will most likely let you get away with it. But to avoid haggling over how many dollars your parking space is worth, it never hurts to look up parking structures near where you are going beforehand or what the street parking situation is like.

10. Be aware of everything and everyone on the road. Use your peripherals. Know what your neighbors on the road will do before they do it. Be ready to lay on your horn at all times. Be ready to brake at all times. It's exhausting, I know and I feel you.

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