Driving Sweet Mother

“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

76 thoughts on “Driving Sweet Mother

  1. Sweet Mother,
    You can now add “Le Clown” to your shameless name dropping.
    I’m curious to hear what you think of Montreal drivers when you come and visit us…
    Le Clown

    1. le clown, le clown, le clown…wait till you hear how many times i’m going to say that in your profile, which is coming soooooonnn…. I’ve always walked around montreal or taxied it, so i was clueless as to the traffic sitch…but, momma would love to find out! lol.

  2. I lived in San Diego for 3 years. I think I could have gotten places faster by skateboard than car. And I also called those lanes HOV lanes not that they moved any faster.

    1. some say carpool, some say hov. i just thought it was hilarious that she was adamant that you weren’t allowed to say hov… i think she was just mad that i missed the 101…lol. xo, sm

  3. I call it the HOV lane too. There is no such thing down here in AL, at least where I live. Pisses me off too.

  4. Wow! Now that was a journey. Please send me a sample of whatever it was you were taking when you wrote all that. I mean, I see four plays, three short stories and at least two novels in that post. Goodness, child, take a breath. All joy in laughter and I certainly get a lot of laughs from you. HF

    1. i have a ‘word count’ issue. the good blogger in me says, ‘it should always be in the 800-900 word vicinity’ but the writer in me wants to write longer things sometimes. thank god, i also write shorter things or i’d lose everyone! lol. but, i’m flattered that people read the long stuff at all. or even the short stuff for that matter. like yourself. right now i’m doing a virtual curtsey like a small british girl would do before the queen. so, thank you. ;) sm

      1. Wow! It has been a while since anyone curtsied me. I forgot how good it felt. Now I feel like a little British boy with a wooden bowl in his hands saying, “More, please.” HF

  5. I missed the 101 the first time I drove to LA too. I called to get directions from a friend and they laughed a me saying, “how did you miss the 101? It’s huge!” now I know to stay on the left when I am on the five and stay on the right when I am on the 405. I also hate driving long distances because people drive like jerks here.

    1. if i didn’t have gps i’d be lost every minute. i’m serious. thank god i have it on my phone. i am sure i’m going to miss that 101 again. sure of it! nope, the driving here is no fun at all. thank god the weather makes up for it. xo, sm

      1. I kind of actually miss the weather in Europe. Although I’m sure if I were back in Europe I’d say that I missed the weather in California. Always greener, I suppose.

    1. i’ve been to miami, but i always had a ‘driver’. seriously. lol. did a gig or two there. i try to get a ‘driver’ whenever possible, which is usually never, but i like to think always an option. man, how i wish it were. xo, sm

  6. I call it the HOV lane as well. My boyfriend, being from rural Iowa, just stares at me with that “If you doesn’t have the word tractor in it I don’t understand” look.

    Driving in LA is like taking your life into your own hands, seriously. I firmly believe that everyone is trying to weed out the slow, weak population via high speed traffic accidents.

    Still, nobody is worse than the Bostonians. Those people have nothing to live for.

    1. looool. you’re comments are always gorgeous, jen. always gorgeous. does your boyfriend often look at you like that because it’s hilarious…i’m just saying. anyhooch, the driving in la is shortening my lifespan, of this i’m sure. c*nts, all of them. c*nts. of course, i mean that in the european sense. ;) moms

  7. I’m an expat-New Yorker (“ex” means we broke up, and I refused to let my city do that to me)…I call it the HOV lane.

    The HOV lane means jack here, even on a good day. Driving in LA is the worst thing. Ever. (but you already know this)

    1. i have broken up with nyc, as well, new friend. it was bound to happen. she was getting ‘too high maintainence” for me. lol. anyhooch, i swear, i do NOT have this la driving thing down yet. at all. but, working on it and trying to change…one lane at a time. UUUUUGGGGH, did i just say that? yes, yes, i did. hugs and stuff, sm

  8. I think wherever we are, we think we have the worst drivers are there, you know? I used to think that about SC, then I moved here and I think that N’Yorkers take tailgating and HORN BLOWING to a whole new level (although a NYorker told me they don’t mean horn blowing to be rude — they’re doing it as a courtesy to let you know the light has turned green). If you a 1/8 of second at a light when it turns green, someone BLOWS their horn. I give them the southern finger which is a little, fluttery wave — this seems to work and I seem nice in doing so. One of my sis’s lived in CA and she said the same thing you’re saying though and the traffic; well you are in the land of the spread out, M. As usual, hilarious little fantasy you cooked up there. :).

    1. my father does that with the horn in new york and it drives me BANANAS. i’m like, ‘dad, you’re an old man. someone’s going to get out of their car and pop you one.’ but, he thinks he’s just notifying them like you said. to me the issue is — the light has just f’en changed. the person hasn’t even had the millisecond it takes to bring their foot from the brake to the gas. ay yay yay. anyhoo, glad you enjoyed. xo, sm

    1. oh, i have a bff in new york who is so similar to you with the no driver’s license sitch… then she comes out here to la and we all feel we’re talking our life into our hands when she drives. lol. and the pedestrian road rage — i so hear you – i had it in times square everyday. all those tourists looking up instead of forward…HEEEEELLLLOOOOOO! It’s just a building, a tall building. that’s it, move on! lol. xo, weebles, xo, sm

  9. hahahahaha…so funny…sweet mom..i couldnt help laughing..loved the story of you, george, wifesy and cesar… :D

    ““Wait, why does George need insurance? He was in the passenger…”” and
    “I get out of the car and I beat the state trooper with my purse and floppy hat. ” …hahahaha.. loved it ..

      1. What’s funny is my husband and I are both from LA, we know what it’s like, but now he will bitch and moan about not wanting to go down the main street at a certain time cause it’s “rush hour”.

        Rush hour here is 10 cars headed the same direction.

  10. If you think New Yorkers and Californians can’t drive, you have to drive anywhere in Quebec (Montreal included). Toronto sucks too.

    1. Yup, we’re totally batshit here in Montreal. Took this WASP some time before I could handle it without hyperventilating. Very aggressive, and very unpredictable.
      Torontonians drive like lobotomized monkeys.

      1. NDG, but so west it’s almost Montreal West. Looking to relocate a little more centrally. NDG, but closer to people, parks, and life.
        Et toi?

      2. I was born in Montreal (East end) but spent most of my childhood until I was married on the South Shore. Now, I am in Gatineau. :-)

      3. lol…I am following you now so maybe we can stop hijacking Sweet Mother’s comment section. :-)

      1. hehehe….no hockey for me. Used to be a HUGE Habs fan but got so tired of watching them lose year after year that I don’t even watch hockey anymore.

  11. I admire anyone who dares drive in LA. I’ve only visited there once, but it was enough to convince me I wouldn’t last a day. So kudos to you for surviving it (so far, anyway…)

    Make sure to forward this post to George. I’m sure he’d be happy to complete this bizarre fantasy of yours. Love how your mind works. :)

    1. thank you, carrie-love. driving in la is horsesh*t. i’m telling you. if i wasn’t trying to grab this writer thing by the balls, i don’t know… might live in portland. xo

    1. could you imagine driving a horse and buggy in la? you’d have to tell people it was the latest in eco-friendly travel. morons, all of them, everyone – that’s what i’ll be saying from the old age home… xo, sm

  12. My mom lived in LA for over 20 years. I could not ride with her driving. If she knew she had to be in the left lane to get on the 101, she would be in the left lane for 20 miles…..going 45 mph….and then would exclaim “oh, for goodness’ sake!” if someone had the audacity to honk, go around her very angrily, or any other such sign of frustration. I just cowered down in the passenger seat. But the worst to me were the motorcylclists who zoom in between traffic lanes at 90 mph as the cars are traveling 70. Whew!

    1. my dad drives the entire way in the right hand lane, always. makes me want to commit suicide. so, i feel you. awful. but, i love the, ‘oh for goodness sake’ – adorable. does she wear christmas sweaters year round? ;) sm

  13. No, no, no dear blog commenters. No city has worse drivers than Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam. It’s like they just discovered the automobile! So the evolution here was walking, horses, bikes, pedicabs, then motorbikes, and recently cars. By recently, I mean only after 1975 was it common. And it wasn’t really until the late 80s and early 90s that it was on any of a mass scale. Even now, motorbikes are 50% of the traffic here. So road rules like staying in your lane? Not so much. U-turn in the middle of the street with 60 motorbikes facing you and another 50 following behind you? Why yes. Why not? They’ll move around your car like a school of fish. Quite interesting but very unnerving!

    1. that sounds insane. literally insane. though i do think it would be fun to go through there on a scooter…or is it taking your life into your own hands? have you ever tried it, winn? obviously, sans kids. lol. xo, sm

      1. lmao – I’m giving you brownie points for the ‘almost’!
        The thought of ever having to drive on the right hand side of the road has terrified me ever since ex-husband returned from the States some years ago to spend christmas with the family. He’d hired a car and drove us home… at about midnight, on the wrong side of the road with a stream of lights coming head on :(

  14. Do not ever come to Florida. I’ve driven in the Middle East; I’ve driven in New York City. I’m filled with more fear on the roads of the Sunshine State than in any other locale on the planet.

    1. interesting, adrienne said that too. she said miami was like a sh*tstorm. i’ve been to florida many times, but i think other people were always driving me around, so i never noticed… sm

      1. Bravo! I fortunately learnt to drive on it so could confidently whizz my way around the city centre, yet cowered weakly behind my steering wheel whenever confronted with a park and ride bus on the back streets!

  15. I love California like butter, but the last time we were there I missed the 101 despite having a GPS device, three printed maps and having done the exact route from San Fran to Monterey 8 times before. It’s too much for this timid Canadian. Can you lend me your Lopez next time I come?

  16. Driving in LA sucks away your soul little by little, rush hour after rush hour. I am so glad I moved to San Francisco just so I can avoid driving on a daily basis and hopefully recover what little was left of my soul. I haven’t had any major accidents, but my sister has had at least 3. And she’s still there so watch out!

    1. oooohhh, lawd. hopefully she has insurance! the driving here sux. SUX. i’ve driven in sf and it’s a touch better, but i never understand that clusterf*ck of a system where you have to get on and off the highway and it looks like one big pretzel…i think it’s right around giants stadium…might not be. but, it always drove me crazy. i love sf, though. i’m there once a year and performing…this year i’m there from the 25th-28th of august. i’ll be at harveys and the punchline. so, if you’re around, lovely blogger friend, come on down. much love, sweet mo

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