Saturday, September 18, 2010

One of Those Moments


I recalled today as I was driving through the 101 & 405 interchange, a story my friend Eric told me about an experience he had many years ago when he was on his way to a temp job.

He was driving in his little Volkswagen Golf, or something to that effect, from the 101 West to the 405 South.  This particular transition consists of a lengthy feeder road in the shape of one-forth of a cloverleaf, taking you in a clockwise turn as you descend from the overpass to an underpass. 

The transition is very busy because it is one of the most heavily used freeway exchanges in Southern California getting celebrities and the like from the mundane San Fernando Valley over to the more exciting Westside and beyond, which include areas such as Brentwood, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica and the South Bay.

Eric was putt-putting along in his VW, rolling through this interchange, when his car started to fail.  It began sputtering and choking, and was losing power very quickly.  So he pulled over to the shoulder, along where the feeder road straightens out to join the 405, and the car came to a rest just before the underpass of the 101.

In his words, he just sat there…for a minute…for two minutes…for five minutes….in disbelief that of all the places for his car to completely die, he was smack in the middle of one of the noisiest, busiest, and grungiest parts of the Southern California freeway system, where cars fly by you, turning out of the way just in time to avoid hitting your conked-out car.

But he didn’t do anything; not right away.  He didn’t call AAA, he didn’t call the California Highway Patrol, he didn’t call a friend (me for instance), he didn’t get out and try flagging someone down.  He just sat there.  He sat for those moments and looked down at his speedometer and tachometer, both of which read zero, and pondered.

It was one of those moments.  When you say to yourself, this can’t be happening.  Not here, not now.  In an instant, what was a normal few minutes of his life getting from one place to another, had become an ordeal of how to get help and how to tolerate the wait for assistance to arrive.  One of those times when industrious technology, which makes life so easy, suddenly becomes a grand burden.

You can’t just leave the car there and walk away.  Or can you?  No, you really can’t.  And so now, it is all about patience, and about saying to yourself, in a few hours, or at least by this evening, it will all be a sordid story to describe while eating dinner and then retiring to the television or to one’s bed.  Just one of those moments.