When I first got accepted to grad school in Los Angeles, I knew I had to master one big thing in order to make the transition from native New Yorker to transplanted Angeleno: Driving on the 405 freeway. So right after I picked up my rental car for my pre-grad-school-move visit, I went onto the on-ramp and experienced LA's main road artery. I wasn't quite like Dione freaking out about getting on the freeway in Clueless , which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, but there are several real emotional stages you go through when driving on the freeway for the first time. You may be saying to yourself, "It's just a highway," but Los Angeles freeways (that's what we call them) are very intimidating for the first-timer.
Much like the popular and hilarious Saturday Night Live sketch "The Californians," much of life in LA is defined by traffic, driving directions, searching for parking, and freeways. There are so many crucial freeways — the 10, the 5, the 110, and the 101 to name a few — that keep this city running, but none are quite as famous as the 405, an interstate highway which spans from San Fernando (a.k.a. "the Valley"), the west side of Los Angeles to the beach cities and Orange County. The 405 is the busiest interstate in the United States and LA freaks out if any part of it has to close for any reason.
With that said, Angelenos have a lot of ~feelings~ about driving on freeways. Let's flashback five years and I'll take you through all the emotional stages I went through when I drove on one for the first time.
Can't I just take local streets? What if it there's so much traffic? What if everyone's going 80 mph?
But the freeway is the fastest way to get where I need to go at this time of day. I need to take it.
3. JUST DO IT!
All right, let's make the turn. It's freeway time!
4. The On-Ramp Isn't So Bad
Deep breath. Okay, there's a stop light and it'll tel me when to get on. I was scared of this?
5. OH MY GOD EVERYONE DRIVES SO FAST
On the freeway and everyone is flying down the road like it ain't no thang. WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?
6. OK, I Think I Got This
Speed up and it's okay, going with the flow of traffic. It's all good.
7. OH NO! THIS LANE IS EXIT-ONLY
And everything was going so well.
8. Someone Please Let Me Change Lanes
Put your turn signal on and wait for a nice driver to make way for you.
9. LET ME CHANGE LANES!
Like a nice driver exists in LA — nope.
10. Whew, That Worked Out
Finally! Someone let you in. What a relief.
11. Get Comfortable In Your Lane
All the way to the left or somewhere in the middle, you just go with the flow of traffic and feel the curves of the road. Ah, driving.
12. Whoops, I Missed My Exit
And then it starts all over again. Happy driving!
Images: Paramount Pictures (screengrab); Giphy (11)