L.A. Driving 101

Los Angeles is packed with beautiful, thoughtful small liberal arts colleges that deliver incredible opportunity to students. My problem: driving there. Here’s Driving in L.A. 101.

I am so focused on getting into the correct lane for getting on to the 405 that I head south instead of north! It takes us a while to realize that we’re headed in the wrong direction–but we correct it surprisingly easily.

Then, one motorcycle accident–incredibly, the motorcyclist was clearly fine, but I nearly had a heart attack when another motorcylist squeezed in between me (nearly grazing the sideview mirror) and the emergency vehicle blocking the lane where the wrecked motorcycle lay.

One more accident (three cars) and one car fire later–again, everyone appeared uninjured–and I say to my daughter, “Forget it hon, you’re not going to school in LA.”

We arrive at stop No. 1. 40 minutes late.

“Uh,” I say to the young man at the admissions desk, “we were aiming for the 9 a.m. tour but …”

He smiles and says, “Welcome to southern California traffic!”

“Well,” I confess, “we took some wrong turns, too.

I meet a mother touring with her 17-year-old and towing her 9-year-old. With her long, streaked blond hair, she looks like the quintessential Southern California girl. But she is from Minneapolis and went to St. Olaf’s!! We talk allergies (if you’re of northern European descent and live in the verdant upper Midwest, it’s a fact of life) and In -n-Out Burgers.

As the tour winds up and the ever helpful admissions staff asks if there are any more questions, I ask for the location of the closest In-n-Out Burger.
It has not one but two drive-in windows and a clerk taking orders. It’s very efficient and I marvel at the bright and cheery staff. “Why wouldn’t they be?,” says my daughter, “look at what they’re serving!”

Yes, they are making people happy with those high-fat burgers and fluffy shakes.

But, major mistake in having that before a college tour in 95-degree Southern California heat. The tour guides are always so enthusiastic and their audience so subdued–parents afraid to talk for fear of humiliating their children, kids not talking for whatever reasons. So, I always try to be very smiley and non-verbally responsive. But post one In-n-Out Burger lunch, it is all I can do to to stay upright, much less look attentive. I do, however, have a nice conversation with a mother from Switzerland. Once in the college’s air-conditioned library, I get a brief energy surge and do manage to ask the question that is always uppermost in my mind, thanks to my own college career back in the days when you could drink everything at age 18: Where do students drink beer today?

Answer, they manage.

End of the day: we swing over to our L.A. surfer and fitness queen Carrie’s house and head to the beach for a workout and a swim.
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