Monday, March 31, 2008

Roaming Warriors of Southern California

One of the interesting aspects of life in southern California is that occasionally motorists pull out guns and shoot at each other.

With two of these to investigate in one day, one in Long Beach and one in the valley, the press likes to cover this stuff as if violence is steeply increasing, but it's not news. We shoot at each other down here.

Back on Valentine's Day, for one terrible moment, I thought I had become involved in a traffic shooting myself. No, not as the perpetrator, silly. I don't get that angry in traffic - though it is one of my least favorite modes of suffering. When the dismay becomes overwhelming, I act out by pulling over and finding coffee somewhere. Like this place. Or this place.

No no, on Valentine's Day I was the target of another driver's aggression. The kind of angry insanity that, armed with a pickup truck in motion, becomes an unpredictable and deadly weapon.

The Honda and I were driving down Sunset Boulevard to take the lovely out for dinner. It was very congested - lots of cars, sort of inching along. Frustrations were running high as traffic moved past Elysian park. One way you could tell was all the fruitless lane switching. Another manifestation was vehicles attempting to create new lanes where none should exist.

A pickup truck, however sleekly designed, is not a bicycle. The bike lane, between traffic and parked cars, is no place for any vehicle other than a Schwinn. Yet, as I moved along Sunset Boulevard heading west, I became aware of a decidedly un-Schwinn-like presence attempting to pass me. Some guy (we know it's a guy) with gravel for brains was hoping to negotiate a gap in the parked cars and get ahead of me before rear ending some poor fool who stopped to get their dry cleaning.

Time extends and as traffic began to slow for a new stoplight, and as my new favorite idiot realized things were not going his way, I leaned my head forward to make eye contact with the other driver. No horn. Horns stimulate the asshole genome. I just wanted to make sure this moron could see what was going on, was paying attention. I'd guess he was 23 years old, driving a beat up tank with some filthy lawn equipment in the bed, and he had buddies with him. He looked at me and said something in Spanish that was not for my benefit.

Traffic moved again and he gunned it, trying to navigate insufficient space, and I was positive we would collide. Then a tremendous POP! and my imagination kicked in, smelling gunpowder. Sweet hopping Hermes, I'm getting shot! The truck took off, cutting right and heading up one of the steep streets climbing a bluff near Chavez Ravine. As for me, I pulled into a gas station and staggered out of my car. Meanwhile, another pickup truck followed me.

The fella, a heavy Mexican guy with a clean 10-gallon hat and a kindly smile, asked if I was all right. I shrugged. All I wanted to know was,"Did he shoot at me?"

"Nah, he didn't shoot. He ran into one of the parked cars. Took their mirror right off."

At which point us two cowboys saddled back up and headed back into the wild west.

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