By Jeff Girod
When I get angry, people ask me, “Jeff, what is the source of your incredible power? Are you part alien? Were you sent to earth in an escape pod from a dying planet? Were you struck by military gamma rays or bitten by a radioactive spider?”
“No, no,” I tell them. “I commute every day from Lake Elsinore.”
Forbes.com recently ranked Lake Elsinore as the worst commute in the nation. Worse than New York City. Worse than Chicago. Worse than anywhere else you can imagine, from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans (which, if you tried driving that route, is how long it would take you to get from Lake Elsinore to downtown Los Angeles).
According to Forbes.com: “Most working stiffs in Lake Elsinore start weekday mornings by getting in their cars and heading in one of two directions: Interstate 15 north toward Los Angeles, 74 miles or so away; or I-15 south for the 73-mile journey to San Diego. Either way, bottlenecks and frustrating congestion await.”
Whoever is responsible for the construction of Interstate 15 should be tied spread-eagled to a log with rusty barbed wire, and then the rest of us should take turns smashing him in the crotch—with our cars. Of course, if this scenario played out on Interstate 15, we’d all be driving 1 mile-per-hour.
Here’s a thought for you, Riverside County officials, you greedy incompetent bastards, you: Maybe while you were collecting taxes on 30,000 newly constructed houses in less than a decade, you should’ve considered reinvesting some of that scratch to widen Interstate 15 to more than three lanes. Three lanes? What, are we still traveling by covered wagon? Should I just catch the Pony Express to work? Maybe I should attach balloons to my car and hope that a lucky gust of wind comes along so I can magically float to the next freeway interchange.
And that’s why an 80-mile roundtrip commute is my own personal nightmare. Because even if I successfully navigate the triple-lane hell that is Interstate 15 north—with its tweaked-out 18-wheeler truckers, asshat bikers weaving through traffic like a wannabe Vin Diesel and oblivious soccer moms with no rear window visibility because they’ve blotted out every available adhesive surface with Not of This World stickers— I still have to tangle with the lethal dragon that is the 91 freeway.
Even typing the numbers “9” and “1” causes a portion of my inner child to wither and die. Let’s just go ahead and agree that nothing along the 91 freeway is worth the daily soul-crushing experience of leaving your house at dawn and still sweating to see if you arrive at work on time.
Better you bought an RV, moved your family into it and began a new life in your office’s parking lot. Better you made a list of every available organ you could live without—a lung, an eye, your gallbladder if anyone would buy it—quit your job and sold them on eBay. Better you became a sheepherder, a drug lord, a carnie, a Somali pirate, a Tijuana stripper—anything would be better than wasting 2-5 hours of your precious life each and every day sitting in a driver’s seat, smelling your own aftershave and farts, listening to Jack FM and swearing at the back of some idiot stranger’s $14 haircut.
Take a second to think about everything you love—your girlfriend/boyfriend, your family, your dog, whatever secret fetishes you may have. Now estimate how much quality time you actually devote to any of them in a given day/week/month. It doesn’t compare with the amount of wasted time most of us spend locked inside our cars, like high-mileage, climate-controlled coffins.
I hate Interstate 15 and the 91. I hate them more than I hate rapists, more than terrorists in the Middle East, more than Hitler. My hate for the 15 and 91 freeways is so real and pure, because a decade of commuting has stolen more from me than any home invasion or Internet scam.
Lake Elsinore is the worst commute in the country? Fantastic. It means wherever I move next will be an improvement.
Contact Jeff Girod at firstname.lastname@example.org.