Today was my call-back for the movie I auditioned for before the holidays, my first audition here. I asked my agent if there was anyone who’d like to carpool to Baton Rouge an she gave me a phone number. He was in a jam, registration renewal hadn’t arrived or something, so I drove. Except, when I got to my car, the battery was dead. In my new favorite neighborhood in the world, the Garden District, this was the most temporary of problems. One neighbor told me to ask my next door neighbor for cables. He, who is currently buying the house I rent in, got cables and his nanny jumped my car and I was on the road only 5 minutes late.
Even if my neighbors hadn’t all conspired to get me to my audition on time, my neighborhood is patrolled by a private force that would have come a runnin’ if I’d called and would have eventually passed by if I hadn’t thought to call.
Carpool guy has lived in Los Angeles and, as we drove 70 mph (because that’s the speed limit!), he recounted his final straw, the day that made him leave. He was driving from Studio City to the Coronet Theater on the other side of the hill (6-7 miles) and it took nearly 2 hours. As he sat frustrated by his failure to make it to his girlfriend’s play, he realized he couldn’t live like that anymore. If you drive for 2 hours here, you will definitely have driven over 100 miles. I realized that everyone in L.A. has these stories, the time it took 2 hours to get from the beach to Hollywood, etc., the things they were late for or missed because of traffic. I once drove down the wrong side of Fountain in rush hour to make it to a premiere on time. We have have all given our pound of flesh.
On the highways here, almost every vehicle on the road has agreed that slower traffic stays to the right and passing occurs on the left. No one makes it personal and gets up on your bumper or cuts you off and slams on the breaks. Everyone manages to express their good manners at 70 mph.
And gas is a dollar cheaper per gallon here. That means I save $10-$11 every time I fill up my tiny tank. Imagine if I had a truck or SUV? I even get to use a feature in my car all the time that I’ve only used twice before – cruise control. Set it to 70 and go.
And then there’s the parking. There’s plenty of it and tons of it is FREE! When friends wanted to go for drinks in L.A., I’d have to figure in a minimum of $5 plus tip each for cokes (more for beer) and $10 to $20 for parking (which doesn’t even guarantee valet or proximity to where you’re going). Here, if you don’t want to take the amazing streetcars for $1.25, you might find free street parking most anywhere you’d want to go and cokes are FREE if you’re the designated driver. It cost me $2.50 for the streetcars and $3 for tips to go out on New Year’s Eve.
In L.A., parking lots near casting places often have signs saying, “No Actors Allowed.” Here, actors are just as entitled to use the spaces as anyone else in the building, that’s what they’re for – people coming to the building.
Here, should you get lost or confused or miss a parking spot and need to go in reverse or any kooky thing that people do behind the wheel that might require a minute or two of patience, people will almost never honk. Many times, they wave you forward or try to help you out. It’s okay to not get it right here. Everyone makes mistakes and we’re all doing our best and no one’s in so big a hurry that they’d want to lose their peace over tiny delays.
I’ll admit the roads here are pock-marked with crater-sized potholes. They ought to erect flags and name some of them. But the roads are also tree-lined with mighty Live Oaks dripping with beads thrown during previous Mardi Gras.
In a place where you can legally fly at 70 mph on cruise control, fill your tank without emptying your wallet, find patience for your foibles on the road and count on roadside assistance, I feel so much less stress about getting things done, going out into the world. I actually look forward to running errands. I’m learning to buy only what I need and know that if I run out of something, it might be fun to walk or drive to one of the many local markets to get it. I’m falling back in love with driving. I’m getting out more. Hear that, L.A. friends that were always telling me to get out more?