When you arrive in LA, you are a mere mortal. It’s only after you’ve been here for a while that you start to develop superpowers, just like Superman as he got closer to the planet with the yellow sun.
And surprise, surprise, a lot of it has to do with your car.
I moved here in a time of pre-GPS on phones, so you had to navigate your way with a map. As in, one in a book printed on paper. This was maddening, balancing it on your knee while keeping an eye on the road and the other on the pick up truck held together with rope in the next lane.
But soon, you realize that you haven’t looked at the book in weeks. You have the streets down. You are lord of the on and off ramps. Then the real mastery begins.
Since we are all in our cars all the time, you develop a kind of telepathic, symbiotic relationship with the freeways. Sometimes you’ll be driving to one, then for no reason decide to take the surface streets. Tune in to the radio and you find out that there’s an accident on the 10 east. Tah-dah! I’ve tried using this skill to pick winning lottery numbers, but no luck yet. When I do, I’ll hire someone to write this blog for me.
The other neat trick is the getting changed in very small spaces; it’s an ability that all comes down to math. You live in Venice. This is 15 miles from Weho where you need to be tonight. If you leave at 6 you’ll arrive at 7:30. If you leave at 2, you arrive 2:30. So, go in the afternoon, write in a cafe, avoid the traffic and go straight from there. But then you need to wear tonight’s clothes now…Hmm…
Where Superman had a phone booth, we have the front seat. I can step in wearing a t-shirt and shorts and exit in a suit and shirt in under a minute. Check the backseat of any car in LA and there’s bound to be a pair of shoes, a discarded jacket, a makeup bag etc. And if you’re an actor, there’s a whole wardrobe in the trunk. I think, push come to shove, that I could get dressed for the Oscars in a matchbox now.
But the really incredible uber-human ability you learn is bladder control. And I mean like bomb disposal, surgeon levels of no go for pee-pee. You can get into your car, feel a minor urge, decide to go when you get there, drive for an hour and a half to go 20 miles, then park, greet your friends, get seated, chat for a little while, then go for a wazz and pee like a Russian racehorse hours after a normal person would have been doing the cross-legged dance. I think I may have expanded my bladder to the size of an Irishman’s.
And when I see new people on the roads here, frantically looking about for exits, a script on the dashboard, half-dressed, checking their watch, jiggling up and down thinking they should have gone before they left, I whisper to myself, “Patience, grasshopper.”