Eve of Destruction: How to Enjoy Our Commute (12/99)

Of course I’ve complained often, and loudly, about my thirty to forty minute commute back and forth to Burbank.  Before that I complained for the many years I drove even further to Woodland Hills from our valley.  But, after more than fifteen years, I’ve learned how to master it.  For those of you newer residents here’s a list of tried and true rules.

Don’t travel at the busiest times.  I used to run four miles at five PM when I got off work in Woodland Hills before I even thought about attempting the 118 or 170 freeways.  I sometimes planned nights out directly following work, but only with my friends that lived in “the other valley”.  This was before we had so many wonderful restaurants to choose from at home, and, before they moved here too.

Leave plenty of time.  That way you can swing by one of the two Coffee Kiosks before you even get on the 5 or 14.  Read the Signal at all red lights so you don’t even notice a lack in infrastructure if you have to commute through town.  Put on all of your makeup, shave with an electric razor (men only I hope) and check for errant eyebrow and/or mole hairs only once you’ve perused the Opinion page.

Pick up the latest Patricia Cornwell murder mystery cassettes from one of our great libraries featuring the grisly adventures of chief medical examiner Kay Scarpetta.
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  I guarantee it’s the only chance you’ll get to leisurely listen to all 400 odd unabridged pages.  They give you three weeks but if that’s not ample time they will also allow extensions.  When you tire of that try opera, especially if you haven’t before.  Start with the likable Phantom of the Opera and then try working your way through Othello or Madame Butterfly.  Guaranteed to relax the most tense.  I know.

If nothing else works try this: Imagine what everyone else in their car is racing home to.  It’s no more or less important than whatever you are driven to.  I only learned this through experience.
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  When caught taking one hour to get one mile I stopped in North Hollywood at my mother-in-law’s house.  I used her facilities, enjoyed one glass of wine, and visited for an hour.  Ed had picked up Sam and I knew the hour would relax me, and, the flow of traffic.

Another time, the fateful one I learned the most from, I was going to be at least one hour late for a nail appointment.  I knew my gal couldn’t see me but I felt it necessary for me to apologize and explain when I reached for my car phone.

“Mai-Lyn there’s been a fatality on the freeway.”  I chokingly relayed.

“Well, I can’t see you NOW!  I don’t know when I can.  I’ve been waiting already for fifteen minutes.  What do ya want me to do now?”

“I feel so bad that I missed my appointment but really, if you see this in perspective, I hope someone else wasn’t driving too fast to get to some other kind of appointment.  It’s not worth speeding about anymore than it helps to get mad about it.  In fact, to repeat, it’s fatal.
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“Whatever.  When do you want to see me again?
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“I’ll call you.”  Never again would I be able to call Mai-Lyn.  Within a week I had found the upbeat, optimistic, and more importantly, compassionate, Joy at Guys and Gals salon down the street!  I wouldn’t ask her to wait for me if I’m very late but she certainly understands the rules of the roads.  All of them.

Slow down.  Relax.  Nothing is more important than driving safe.  Not even if you can’t manage reading my column at a stoplight.  I’ll understand.  Really.