“Come on!  Seriously?” I yelled.

Wifesy righted her chair, rubbed her eyes, and said, “What happened?”

“I think I missed the 101.”

“How in the hell did you miss the 101?”

“Well, this HOV lane just magically turned into something else.  That’s how.”

“The what?” she asked.

“The HOV lane.”

“You mean the carpool lane?”

“Yeah, carpool lane/ HOV lane, same diff.”

“No one calls it the HOV lane here,” she said.  “What does that even mean?” she added.

“High Occupancy Vehicle, I believe.”

“Well, don’t call it that.  People won’t understand you.”

“Really?” I exhaled.  “Are they retarded?  Do they not speak English?!”

“Well, no one calls it that here!”

“The ex-New Yorkers do.  I bet there’s a slew of ex-New Yorkers who call it that.”

“What are you gonna do?  Hang out with only New Yorkers now that you’ve moved to California?”

“MAYBE!” I yelled.  “Now, how in the hell do I get back on the 101?”

And that’s the truth of it.  You actually COULD hang out with nothing, but ex-New Yorkers in Los Angeles.  There’s like an express mainline right from the big apple to the beach.  It is all Hollywood’s fault.  As a result of this constant migration, the driving in the Los Angeles is sh*t.  Absolute sh*t.  What yesterday’s urban planners did is they’ve created the most intricately stupid highway and freeway system I have ever encountered and then plunked it down in a land where every year there will be a massive migration of people who haven’t driven a car in 15 years – NEW YORKERS!!!!  Now, how stupid is that?!

Everyone living in New York THINKS they can drive.   We think we can drive because we go on the random weekend trip here and there or the twice a month road gig for long hours at a time.  There are some people who even own cars in New York city.  They spend their mornings moving the vehicle back and forth across the roadway to obey the alternate side of the street parking laws before taking the subway to work.  New Yorkers THINK this means that they drive.  I wouldn’t call it driving like California driving.

The California driving I imagined. My dream was crushed.

California is the Indy 500/ Monster Truck Rally of the daily commute.  It is a b*tch for a myriad of reasons.  Reason 1) A-holes built the roadways.  I really mean this.  I have actually come on to a highway when only 5 feet in front of me people are crossing in front of my car to get off.  Yep, they’ve built an on-ramp and an off-ramp within 50 feet of one another creating a crisscrossing clusterf*ck like I’ve never seen.  Reason 2) The trucks.  Oh, the truck-f*cks.  Semi-trucks racing alongside little teensy weeny VW beetles.  Brilliant idea.  On the east coast we have this system where the cars go on the parkways and the trucks go on the freeways.  (It may be the other way around, but it’s something like that.)  The cars and trucks are separate, but equal.  Here – nope – it’s a daily road race between your little car and the entire Spring inventory of the Target store chain.  It’s ridiculous.  Reason 3)  Too many people.  There are just too many people commuting.  As a result, I’ve seen ever manor of thing in the roadway.  Dozens upon dozens of stripped tires, even an armchair once.  And accident after accident.  To be honest, I have NEVER seen this many car accidents.  As a good ex-New Yorker now California resident friend of mine says, “In Los Angeles it’s not a question of will you get into an accident, it’s a question of WHEN.”

Unbelievable, if you ask me.  I always thought I was a good driver, but I did not realize that in California driving is blood sport.  What I would call a nice, laid back people – the native Californian – typically a people full of good will and smiles due to the nice weather and the free citrus, well, these typically good hearted people become raging a-holes when put behind the wheel of enormous machinery hurtling down the highway.  They tailgate, they weave in and out of cars, they use the off ramp as a third lane, they all ride motorcycles – so they can avoid the laws of the road altogether – and I sit there like a moron seemingly taking my first wagon.  Shocked by it all.

Honestly, I would’ve told you I was an ace driver before moving here.  I have a completely clean driver’s record.  I passed my driving test on the first try, etc.  Yet, here I have been forced to up my game.  I find myself doing things like racing across 4 lanes of oncoming traffic to take a left hand turn on to a road going in the opposite direction with just barely enough space between cars that I’ve coined the move, “threading the needle”.  Wifesy gets proud of me in moments like this.  She screams, “Yes, you’re getting the hang of it now!  That’s it!  Hit the pedal.  Make the left.  Squeeze in there between those two moving death mobiles.”  She loves it.  It scares me.

Wifesy, being a native, is a California driver through and through.  She weaves in and out of cars like a professional football player running through the cones at pre-season.  She can make an off-ramp decision from 4 lanes over with only a few feet to go before missing the exit completely.  And she’s racist, only when she’s in the car.  Wifesy is convinced every single Mexican driving a car in the Southern California area is uninsured.  I, on the other hand, am appalled by this.  I’m just not ready to hand over my liberal viewpoint to this California reality.
“Surely, there must be some with insurance,” I argue meekly, since I’m not from around here and really don’t have anything to back this up other than my high hopes.

“No.  None of them do.  I’ve been hit 5 times by Mexicans and they’ve never had insurance.  They give a fake address and an expired card and they drive off.”

Wifesy is so sure of this, that I fear the day we get into an accident with a fellow Latino.  I picture it constantly.  Wifesy and I in the car, suddenly there’s a strong tap on our back bumper, enough that my neck whips up like a Pez dispenser.  We pull over to the side of the road and get out of the car to exchange information with the driver behind us.

The man gets out of his car.  He is clearly Mexican.  He is also clearly, Cesar Milan.  The man in the passenger seat gets out of the car.  It’s George Lopez.  I had no idea they were friends.  Wifesy is apoplectic.

“Do you have insurance?” Wifesy screams at Cesar.  “You better have insurance or I’ll break your neck.”

“Wifesy, this is Cesar Milan,” I whisper.  “Surely, he has insurance and that’s George Lopez.  He’s American for God’s sake.”

“I don’t care!” she screams.  “You better both have insurance.”

“Wait, why does George need insurance?  He was in the passenger…”

“Shut up!” screams Wifesy.

Cesar takes out his insurance card and hands it to Wifesy.  He gives his buddy, George, a look.  I know what that look means.  It means, “Este puta es loca.”  It’s a universal.

Wifesy gives Cesar the card back after jotting down his information.  She turns and hightails it back to the car with steam escaping her ears.
I tell Cesar, “Hey, I’m a huge fan.  Sorry about all this.”  I look at George and say, “Si Se Puede.”  George gives me the finger.

I get back in the car with Wifesy, furious at my better half.  “Okay, that was embarrassing,” I say.  “Really embarrassing.  In fact, so embarrassing that I don’t want to do this anymore.”

“What?  Be in a relationship with me?” she says all sheepish.

“No, drive.  I don’t want to drive anymore,” I say with a sigh.

Wifesy gets out of the car, and heads back to talk with Cesar and George.  I don’t know what she’s doing, but I hope she’s apologizing.
She comes back and gets in.  “I got you a driver,” she says.

“What?” I say.

“Cesar’s friend.  He’s gonna be your new driver,” she answers.  “He’ll pick you up tomorrow at 830 for work.”

“George Lopez is going be my driver?!!” I yell.

“Yes, anything for my sweetheart,” Wifesy says with a smile.

We looked fantastic driving around in this...

The next day George comes to my house to pick me up.  I’m recalcitrant at first because that’s my role.  I huff and puff that “I don’t need a driver” and “I can drive myself.”  I even walk to the store solo the first day.  George follows me silently in the car.  Truly, I love the attention, but I don’t let George know this at first.  Eventually, I get in the car with him.  As the days go on, we become great friends.  I keep trying to teach him to read.  George keeps telling me that he can read perfectly well and that, in fact, he’s a way more highly paid comedian than me.  I ignore this and ask him to teach me Spanish.  He claims he doesn’t know Spanish, as he was born in New Jersey.  I ignore this too, since it doesn’t gel with my plot-line.

One day, we get pulled over by the California Highway patrol.  I can see the state trooper take one look at my friend and think, “this guy has no insurance or registration because he’s Mexican.”  I’m furious this time.  I’ve grown fond of George.  Truly.  He’s become my best friend.  I get out of the car and I beat the state trooper with my purse and floppy hat.  They put me in jail this time, but I’m willing to take the punishment for true friendship.

Years later, when I die, George gives the eulogy at my funeral.  Other people will say it wasn’t my funeral at all, it was just George holding a concert taping for his next comedy album.  But, I’ll know the truth.  And so will you.  George loved me.  I know because he drove me around.

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Photo creds:  Big Sur driving, lopez album, lopez feature