Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Stuck in the Gridlock

I used to road rage ... a LOT.  I moved to Houston from a small Louisiana town, population 5,000.  The gridlock of Houston was overwhelming for me.  When I first arrived in the city, I worked in one of the busiest districts and had to commute a simple four or five miles home.  I say simple.  Most days it took me 45 minutes to an hour to get home.  In Louisiana, I was used to a 10-minute commute with the same distance between home and work.
So I'd grind my teeth, get red in the face, and generally raise my blood pressure all the way home in Houston.
Then I got a new job where I was able to take the bus.  It took a bit longer than the drive, but I saved on parking fees plus I got to read and listen to my MP3 player to and from work.
My next move was to Los Angeles, and some may think "Oh, My God!"  But I did not have that experience.  I found the drivers there to be more aware and more courteous that those in Houston.  Certainly there were certain freeways to avoid:  the 405, the 110 South (the Harbor Freeway).  But my commute was beautiful.  I lived in West Hollywood and worked in Pasadena.  I would take the 101 South to the 110 North, drive through a big tunnel in a hill and BAM...there were the San Miguel Mountains shining in the distance.  I started thinking that Angelenos were more chilled out on the road just because so many of the surroundings were pleasing.
I did return to Houston (my life called me back from La-La Land) and what did I observe comparing Houston to Los Angeles?  More aggressive drivers.  More vehicles with body damage.  More accidents.  I laughed when one of my co-workers told me over morning coffee that she had seen a bumper sticker on the way in to work that said "Howdy, DAMMIT!"  And that about sums it up.  Cowboy drivers in our big beautiful Bayou City.

I finally took a different point of view and it's been recent that I came to this revelation.  There is nothing that I can do about traffic.  I just have to go with the flow.  And maybe that's just what the people in Los Angeles have been doing for years.  They've had more practice being a big city than Houston.
I just need to remember what I would always tell my son while navigating traffic: "The only vehicle that I can drive right now is this one."
Above all, whether it's to pick up your kid from soccer practice, meet your friends for happy hour, or just  head home to your loved ones; we are all just trying to get to where we really want or need to be.

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