In order to avoid the last-minute Thanksgiving rush, a friend of mine booked a flight out of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) the weekend before the family holiday. Even though she knows I hate LA traffic with a passion, she asked me to drive her to the airport. After all… What are friends for? I reluctantly agreed; knowing she’d book her flight at a convenient time when traffic to and from the airport would be minimal.
Yes, she tried, but the only flight she could get out of LA departed at the worst possible time; 5 p.m. on a Friday. The height of the worst rush-hour traffic in any given week — much less the weekend before the most traveled holiday in America.
My anxiety kicked into overdrive as I tried to calculate the timing of the trip to at least circumvent the heaviest traffic. I live in Burbank. She lives in Panorama City. That’s 10 miles. Panorama City to LAX is 26 miles. And the last leg of the trip from LAX back to Burbank is 28 miles. Just one big circle of 64 miles on the most heavily congested freeways in the country.
She had to be at the terminal by 4 p.m. I talked her into getting there earlier. Which meant I could pick her up at 2:30, and depending on traffic, drop her off before 3:30, and be back home just as rush-hour was ramping up.
With fingers crossed I convinced myself I could handle that. It would work out just fine. My anxiety started to ease up a bit.
That Friday I drank very little water. No coffee. No tea. And no other liquids. Why? Because when I get nervous and my anxiety starts to override reality, I have to pee. A lot! And knowing I may be stuck in gridlock, I didn’t want to be sitting there with a bulging bladder. A little thirst I could handle. Besides, according to my calculations, and with luck on my side, I’d be back home in a couple of hours, and I could satiate my thirst until my heart’s content.
At 2 p.m. I put Silver, my beautiful, emotional support, Silver Labrador Retriever in the back seat of the car and headed to Panorama City. My throat was already dry by the time I got on the 5 Freeway North. It was crowded — very crowded.