Last night we were trapped in a nightmare, an LA traffic quagmire of previously unheard of proportions. It wasn’t even this bad after the 1994 Northridge earthquake. President Obama was in town, in an area called Hancock Park, fundraising for his party. For the rest of us it was no party, it was agony. The more than 100 comments in the LA Times tell it like it was.
Mr. Wonderful and I were all dressed up and on our way to an engagement party for the daughter of friends, who happen to live in the Hancock Park. Having been brought up on Louis XVIII's adage that l'exactitude est la politesse des rois, (punctuality is the politeness of kings), we left our home, bearing flowers and chocolates, in plenty of time to arrive at the appointed hour. Traffic going north from Orange County was so smooth and fast that we actually wondered if we would arrive early. That was before we reached our exit off the Santa Monica Freeway.
We soon debated the wisdom of taking the La Brea exit since traffic was backed up all the way to the freeway. Mr. Wonderful zigzagged through side streets, but progress was slow since other drivers had the same idea. Things got worse as we proceeded northward toward Pico, then past Pico into a twilight zone of cars, trucks, and people all seemingly stuck in congealing concrete. Movement was minimal, tempers short. As we squeezed through to the end of one narrow street with cars parked on either side, we got to mighty Olympic Boulevard … which was shut off. The policemen at the barricade made all drivers turn back, which meant executing a multi-point turn in a tiny space and then crawling southward.
At one particularly congested corner near Pico and San Vicente, an enterprising pair of young men stood waiving their stenciled signs: “Detour Party, Hot Chicks Only.” Since we weren’t moving, I rolled down the window to ask if they had any takers on their invitation. Negative. It seems that all the hot chicks were stuck in traffic elsewhere.
After more than two hours of no progress, we crawled west to Beverly Hills to see if there was any chance of getting north to Beverly so we would back track to Hancock Park and our party. No luck. It seems the President’s party had cut the heart of the city in half. As far as we could tell, Olympic, Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards were closed from just west of downtown to Westwood. To make things worse, the ubiquitous usually useful radio traffic reports were no help.
We gave up. We telephoned our friends that we had been near their house but simply couldn’t make it. It was like that nightmare we all have of running away from something but not moving. Eventually we got on the 405 Freeway and headed south. By the time we reached Newport Beach we were exhausted and hungry. Luckily, the restaurant at the Islands Hotel serves dinner until 10:00 p.m. And, on Monday nights everything is half price!
Having calmed down with a bite to eat and a smooth Pommard, we got on the 73 toll road and headed home. Our nightmare had one further hiccough! Part of the southbound 73 was also shut down and we had to detour once more. Thank God for GPS!
I’ve lived in LA most of my life and mediocre traffic conditions are a fact. Once we had superb traffic -- this was during the 1984 summer Olympic Games when intelligent people coordinated traffic patterns. Now it seems that cabbages instead of kings were in charge and wasted the time and patience of a huge city.