Saturday, May 07, 2005

Mysteries of the Freeway

Roadtripped with my mom yesterday to California's heartland--Bakersfield! Over the infamous Grapevine we went, getting caught in some nasty rain and emerging in the other side into a weird hybrid of Midwestern farmland and California mountains. Had it not been for the rocky horizon, we could have been on the highway I used to take from my Chicago-suburb home to U of Illinois--nothing but cornfields and the occasional house. Beautiful land, though.

On the way back, the I-5 took us through the cement jungle of Los Angeles, and it was there that we began to contemplate the Mysteries of the Freeway. With Carole King and Peter Gabriel serenading us, we discussed the conundrums of the highway:

1. With a shoulder merely a few feet wide and the majority of California drivers being borderline homicidal, how does graffiti get onto the side walls? How does one get to the side of the road without getting hit, or at least witnessed by the hundreds of drivers careening down the freeway every minute, since the I-5 is NEVER empty in LA? And then how does one have the audacity to sit there in plain view of thousands and tag the wall with their nonsensical letters?

2. Loosely connected to #1: how does graffiti get onto the overpasses? For the writing to be right-side-up to those of us on the road, the taggers must be writing upside-down, and in some cases, hanging from something, given how far down they write. Again, how do they do this without being seen? I think I'd notice someone hanging over the bridge I was about to drive beneath.

3. Despite my best intentions and most tenderloving attention, I can't get plants to grow. My thumb is beyond black. And yet, against these walls along the freeway that are miraculously graffittied, there are the most beautiful flowers and bushes and vines. What are they spiking their Miracle-Gro with to combat the exhaust these poor plants are constantly battling? Heck, half the time there aren't even sprinklers!

4. This one can also be cross-posted to the "Mysteries of the Grocery Store" list: why does it NEVER FAIL that, the minute I move into the lane that has been passing me at the speed of lightning, the fast lane grinds to a total halt, and my previous lane moves into warp speed?

5. How is it that the most deadlocked traffic can untangle and loosen for absolutely no reason at all? For that matter, why does it get deadlocked for no reason in the first place? It is as though 20% of the cars disappear off the road and no one notices; they just realize, "Hey, things are finally moving!" Buy WHY? WHY are they finally moving? WHAT HAPPENED??

We have no answers. The more we contemplated, the more confused we became. But as the three-laned potholed and littered LA portion of the I-5 gave way to the six-laned clean and smooth Orange Country stretch (gotta love Disney money), we shook our heads and gave up our ponderings and rocked out instead to the live version of "In Your Eyes." I guess some things will never be understood. They are, as my husband would say, mysteries wrapped in enigmas wrapped in bacon. Yum.