Driving in the Rain

Last night Billy Crystal was on Jay Leno’s show. As he sat down, he commented about the rain, “It’s Biblical out there, Biblical!” Then he goes on to make an old, tired joke about how Californians don’t know how to drive in the rain. Really, we go five years without any rain to speak of, then we get a whole year’s worth in a week (it’s Biblical!). Exactly what kind of idiot would expect Californians to be well accustomed to driving in the rain?

I was on my way to UCLA on Wednesday for a doctor’s appointment. I got on the 101 Southbound at Valley Circle Blvd at around 1:30, and it was raining fairly hard. I merged over to the #2 lane and settled in. Traffic was light, I suspect people were putting off unnecessary trips and staying off the roads. We do that here. People stay home if it’s raining, wait it out. Why? Because we’re scared of water? No, because we can. Oh look, there’s the sun now.

I normally drive in the #1 lane, the fast lane, but I avoided it on Wednesday – because I know where I am. I know where I live, and I know what happens when it rains in Southern California. Traffic was moving along steadily at about 50-55 in the #2 lane, a little slower in the outer lanes, as it should. I had only gone about a mile when some car came up on my left in the #1 lane, going much faster than everyone else. He hit one of those puddles that tend to accumulate in the center of the freeways, and threw up a huge rooster tail of water all over my windshield, blinding me for a second. When my vision cleared, I saw him a little ahead of me, fishtailing all over his lane. He was fighting to regain control of his car, and as I passed him, he was headed toward the center divider. [point of information: there is no shoulder in the center of this freeway at this point. The concrete divider is just on the other side of the yellow line.]

I decided to move over to the #3 lane in case someone else going 65 hit a puddle and spun out. I didn’t want to get hit. Mostly I didn’t want to stand out in the rain exchanging information with some ass who doesn’t think he has to slow down.

As I went by the fishtailing car, I caught a glimpse of his license plate and it was not California. I couldn’t catch the state because the license plate holder covered the top and bottom of the plate, and well, I was watching the road. It was a plate with dark navy blue numbers and letters on a white background, separated by a little symbol. So if we look up current license plates, there’s Connecticut. It has blue numbers and letters with a dot in between; but it has a blue gradient and this one was all white. And the symbol in between the numbers and letters was irregular, like the shape of the state. New Jersey almost fits, but it has a yellowish background. It wasnt Nevada, Arizona or Utah, and it definitely was not New Mexico, or Texas. 

Hmm, this guy who obviously doesn’t know how to drive in the rain wasn’t from any of the Southwestern states, where it hardly ever rains. He wasn’t even from Oregon, Colorado or Washington – they have pictures of mountains and trees in the middle of their plates. So that leaves Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania fitting the description of the plate I saw. I’m pretty sure it was New York.

This Begs the question for my friends from the East, if slowing down and not speeding through standing puddles at 65 mph is not the right way to drive in the rain; what is? It leaves me to wonder what it must be like on the roads back there when it rains. Is it one big demolition derby?

It’s an issue of storm drains. Our drains are built to handle 10-12″ annual average rainfall. The thing is, we’ll go five years getting less than 10″, then we’ll get an inch of rain every hour for a week. And it gets crazy out there.

Then it goes away, the sun comes out, and we forget where our umbrellas are. Believe me, if the sun had been shining, I would have been in that #1 land, and not poking along at 65 mph, either. If Mr. New York had been in that lane on a clear day (330 of them per year), and he was going 65, he would have been cursed by the other drivers as they were forced to go around him on the right.

so, Mr. I-know-how-to-drive-in-the-rain-because-I’m-from-New-York, maybe you should learn to respect where you are. If none of the locals are doing 65 in the fast lane of a Southern California freeway, in the rain, maybe they know something you don’t.

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2 comments so far

  1. Julie K on

    Daryl,
    This was just a car. The big SUV’s seemed to be behaving themselves last Wednesday. But I can tell you, a few weeks ago when it had just started raining after a long dry period, I saw one of those really big SUV’s upside down – on its roof, all four tires in the air, on the shoulder on that same stretch of freeway. I was coming the other direction, toward home, that time.
    But hey! I’ll see you out here in just three weeks! I have been thinking of taking the workshop. I’m still planning on entering the HGA Convergence exhibitions, so I may need to be finishing up work that weekend. Not that that has stopped me before.

  2. Daryl Lancaster on

    You don’t mention what type of car Mr. I-know-how-to-drive-in-the-rain-because-I’m-from-NY, was driving. Because around here, Mr. I-know-how-to-drive-in-the-rain-because-I’m-from-NY would really be Mr. I-know-I-can-drive-in-any-kind-of-weather-because-I-have-honkin’-SUV. And he can do it driving with his knees while texting. Does my heart good when I am passed by a speeding SUV in a snow storm, only to find them later sprawled on the grassy divider. 🙂

    Daryl from NJ (20 minutes from NY)


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