Nowhere to turn. Mass hysteria. A traffic jam of biblical proportions.
The countdown to ‘Carmageddon’ in L.A. was on …
.. And I was right in the middle of it.
No doubt you heard about this. A big chunk of one of the city’s busiest freeways, the 405, was shutting down one way for two days for construction work. The media warned drivers about the impending “Carmageddon” — wall-to-wall traffic gridlock. Celebrities were enlisted to tell people to stay away. Or better yet, to stay home. Nearby vacation spots like Vegas were capitalizing on the situation by offering escapes on the cheap.
This certainly wasn’t the first time I’d had to contend with a hell of a time in the City of Angels. I was there in the 1990s during some hair-raising times: the deadly Northridge earthquake, and the riots that simmered for days after the Rodney King beating verdict. And floods and brush fires were the norm every year.
All the dire warnings made this reminiscent of Y2K. I remember I was nervous enough about that to stockpile Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. But not nervous enough. I consumed the rations in a matter of days.
That was about the same feeling I had this time. It figures I had somewhere to go the morning of Day One of Carmageddon. I was helping out on a web series, and had to travel 18 miles, in a big curve from the Pacific Ocean north to the inland San Fernando Valley. Almost my entire route was shut down.
I started out about an hour before I was supposed to get there.
There it was in black, white and red: 405 freeway closed.
Another freeway I thought would be opened wasn’t. There were any number of surface streets to take across town. What to do?
Past the Getty art museum, almost three-quarters of the way.
The radio geek chorus blabbed on and on about what I was seeing firsthand: nothing. “Please! Get into an accident. Get a ticket. Do something!” they joked.
But when the topic switched to their favorite delis, it was obvious their coverage of the non-event was toast.
Things could still get bad, they bleated, because now that people think the coast is clear, they may start coming out in droves, and then there’d be something to worry about.
In fairness, things went so well because of all the warnings, I’m sure.
Now they’re already sounding the warning about the next shutdown, in about a year.