We left the Bergamot Station art gallery complex a little before 4:30 after our art walk Thursday. Bergamot Station is between Olympic and the 10 Freeway at 26th Street in Santa Monica, so there was good reason to believe that we were leaving plenty of time to make it to midtown, Melrose and Highland, in good time to make our 5PM dinner reservation. (We had made it so early because this restaurant has become so hugely popular that, with a good week's notice, we had been unable to get a table after 5PM!) As it turned out, we arrived at the restaurant forty-five minutes late for our appointment--and the table, of course, was gone.
Okay, it's getting to be a bore to complain about it, but it seems that the traffic in Los Angeles is getting worse by the day. After leaving Bergamot, we ran into nearly stationary lines of it on Olympic more than ten blocks before the 405 Freeway. After twenty minutes or so, thinking that it must be some dreadful accident that was holding us up, we cut north to Santa Monica Boulevard, and then east toward the freeway underpass and on through Beverly Hills. Same problem. The traffic was blocked solid, inching forward at the change of every light. Three, four, five light changes before we actually managed to cross an intersection. Same thing through Beverly Hills.
It's in situations like this, I confess, that I find it hardest to put those wonderful Buddhist principles into practice. Equanimity at zero miles per hour, sitting amongst the fumes of a hundred vehicles hemming you in--to me, this is a near-impossibility. I tell myself to breathe, but the anger and frustration continue to sizzle--and occasionally explode when my lane seems to be the only one that's stalled. Until, of course, I sneak into the next, which seems to be making at least minimal progress, and that one stalls instead, while the one I've left starts up with a burst of unpredictable speed. Or when one of those rude drivers zooms ahead and cuts in front of me from another lane--no matter that I've just done the same myself. Ah, yes, goodwill. Compassion... Equanimity, hell!
Well, cell phones have their uses, and Ellie was able to call ahead to let the restaurant know we would be late and ask them to hold the table for as long as possible. At five o'clock, they offered, tentatively, another twenty minutes. At that time, we even thought we might be able to make it. Vain hope! We did stop by the restaurant at 5:45, but by then it was already far too late. We drove on to a restaurant closer to home and drowned our sorrows in a nice bottle of coastal pinot noir.
Arriving in Laguna yesterday mid-afternoon, we were appalled to find gridlock here in the village too. We tolerate the summer crowds, and do most of our travel here on foot. But we usually expect to be spared, off-season. Is there nowhere to escape this curse of contemporary civilization?