Monday, July 13, 2009

I flouted the law, and the law won

I would love to kiss the hand of the traffic engineer who came up with the brilliant idea to prohibit left turns on busy thoroughfares during rush hour.

Because left turns are illegal on the eastbound stretch of Melrose Avenue that I take to get home from work, you can drive in the left lane and not have to stop, unless you hit a red light.

I always drive in the left lane when the ban on turning is in effect. And I was making good time on my evening commute on Friday until the motorist ahead of me decided to make a left turn, holding up me and everyone behind me.

I tapped my horn to get her attention and pointed to the "No Left Turns Between 4 and 7 P.M." sign.

No reaction.

I honked again, holding the horn a bit longer.

The driver continued looking ahead, and her left turn signal continued to blink.

Then I pressed my hand on my horn and held it there even longer. She looked at me in her rear-view mirror, and then extended her left arm out the window. She probably thought that her turn signal was broken, so she seemed to be hand-signaling to the drivers behind her that she was going to turn left.

Man, did that tick me off. So I just kept my hand on the horn. I made like Dizzy Gillespie and BLEW.

I could tell it wasn't going to change her mind about turning and I knew that I looked like a dork, but I couldn't shout "Move it, cupcake!" so blowing the horn like a six-year-old was my only option, short of being patient and accepting the fact that my arrival home would be delayed by 90 seconds or so.

Finally she turned. My eyes shot darts in her direction. With luck, one of them punctured one of her tires.

Sunday arrives, and I find myself heading west on Santa Monica Boulevard toward Century City for a work meeting.

All of the elements of Randy Newman's "I Love L.A." were present: the eternally shining sun, the mountains, the trees, the music blaring on the radio. OK, technically I was in Beverly Hills, not L.A., and I didn't see any bum down on his knees —did I mention that I was in Beverly Hills?– but in all other respects, it felt like I was starring in the video for Newman's musical valentine to L.A., just 25 years after the fact.

Then my video fantasy took an ugly turn and began to play out like "Beverly Hills Cop." I glanced in my rear-view mirror and saw a Beverly Hills police car with all of its lights flashing.

The cop must need to maneuver around me, I thought, so I hastily turned right into a residential neighborhood. The police car turned right, too. Heart pounding, I pulled over to the curb and parked.

My tags were up to date; I wasn't texting on my cell phone; my seat belt was fastened; and I never speed. All I could think of was that the cops had finally caught up with me for blaring my horn on Melrose.

I reached for a note pad, and wrote "Can't talk" in shaky script. When the officer arrived at my window, I held up the pad.

Here's what got me on the foul side of the Beverly Hills Police Department: While my seat belt was fastened, lately I have been driving with the strap under my left armpit rather than over my shoulder. When the seat belt is over my shoulder, you see, it rubs against my trach, and I hate the sensation that causes.

The officer said he could see that my seat belt was fastened, but he said that it looked like it wasn't when he decided to pull me over. He also told me that wearing the shoulder strap below my arm was more dangerous than not wearing a seat belt at all.

Do you buy that? I don't. But I wasn't going to argue with him. I didn't have enough scrap paper in the car to explain how irritable a shoulder strap feels when it rubs against my breathing tube, and I wasn't about to communicate with him by Morse Code with my car horn.

Mr. Beverly Hills Cop let me go. I don't know if he couldn't justify writing a citation or if he just felt sorry for me, but he just told me to start using my seat belt the way that it was intended to be used.

If he had started writing out a ticket, I would have gotten out of my car and begged him to let me off the hook.

That would have completed the Randy Newmanness of my morning. That bum over there down on his knees would have been me.


  1. hey, the news wasn't that good, but what can I say''''Hang in there Paul, we're all praying for you. And, be nice to the cops, they have guns. Had a small show for some of my paintings, guess what? I got to bring them all home again, i guess the paintings didn't want to leave their mum, damn

  2. I wish I still had the painting of Batman and Robin that you did for me when we lived in New York. I still remember waking up and seeing it for the first time. You should do a show of superheroes! I'd buy a few. Love you --Paul