Let me start this by saying that in 18 years of driving, I have only ever had one accident. That accident was my fault. The sun glare was so bright that I literally did not see the brake lights of the car in front of me, and therefore braked way too late. That was my only accident until I started driving on the crazy streets of LA.
My first trip over to LA was only for a few weeks, but everyone I know that has spent any amount of time over there advised me to get myself a car. LA is such a spread out city, and to be constantly paying for taxis everywhere adds up really quickly. I was a little unsure, as I had never attempted driving in another country before, let alone on the opposite side of the road. What helped me make up my mind was on my very first morning there; I went for a walk up Santa Monica Boulevard. While out on my walk just exploring my surroundings I noticed a guy in his 20’s riding around on a push bike, but paid little attention to him, until he began asking me for money. He then accused me of being a hooker and demanding to know who my pimp was. According to him, every woman is a prostitute… With that, I made a very hasty retreat back to my apartment all the while he was screaming at me about being a renegade by not having a pimp. Thoroughly scared, it was time to book my car.
I found a great deal online and picked the safest, cheapest, crappiest car I could find and headed out to pick it up. I was so nervous about driving, but knew I didn’t want to have another run with my friend from that morning and I had a lot to get done in those 2 weeks. I figured once I was in the car, I would take some time, breathe and just settle myself before heading off.
When I went to pick the car up, the car was brought to the front of the building, and with all of the staff watching me, I didn’t have the time to give myself my planned little pep talk before heading off, I just had to bite the bullet and go. Terrified I was going to crash on that first trip I headed back to my apartment, talking to myself the whole way. I was encouraging myself, and discussing the driving of the other people on the road the whole way back. That was how every car ride went in the first week of my two-week trip. Me talking to myself, looking completely crazy until I finally felt comfortable on the other side of the car and road. I knew I was comfortable when my road rage came back to me and I was yelling at the motorists around me. Let me just clarify here, I freely admit I suffer from road rage, but all that consists of is me getting incredibly frustrated and yelling. The people I’m yelling at are generally oblivious to everything around them, hence the yelling.
Those 2 weeks go relatively smoothly, which is a miracle because the drivers over there are nuts! They are all over the road, not necessarily sticking to their own lane, and those freeways at times can be terrifying. Apparently blinkers are optional as is following the speed limit. CRAZY! But then I stop to fill up with gas before returning the car and heading back to Australia. I get out of the car, and I see that 2 panels of the car have been side swiped. Are you kidding me!!! The drive back to the rental company all I can think of is the excess I am about to get slapped with, and I haven’t even had an accident.
To my relief I discover that I have taken out the best insurance and am completely covered. I fill in an accident report, and as I head off, they tell me to call them when I head back. I am sure they are words they would live to regret.
A few months later I head back over there, this time for a month. I book the same car, and level of insurance. I’m feeling much more confident this time around, but still don’t want to risk damaging a more expensive car. I drive off feeling comfortable, but the narration of the drive is there again and it takes a day or two for me to feel settled.
All is going fantastically until one day I decide to head to Runyon Canyon and go for a hike. Once I get back to my car I realise I have no service and therefore my GPS isn’t working. I have no idea how to get back to my place. With that I jump in my car and try to remember which way I came from. As it turns out, my memory sucks! I end up lost on the very narrow streets of the Hollywood Hills. At this point I figure I need to keep driving in what I am guessing is the right direction until I hit a main road or until service returns and my GPS can get me the hell out of there. As I’m lost in the hills, it turns out I’m driving a little too quickly and I run over a tree root that is growing on to the road, and suddenly I’m airborne! Apparently I think I’m driving Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and I think this little car can fly. With me squealing at the top of my lungs, I hit the ground so hard I am sure I have either popped a tyre or ripped the bumper bar off. Either way, the car was still driving, and I figured I need to get somewhere where I at least had signal and could get help.
I make it down to a main road finally and get some service, and the car is still running, the tyre that I’m thinking will be flat at any second is still hanging in there and I manage to make it home. Upon inspecting the car, the only obvious damage is to the rim, and that is literally coming off the tyre. The bumper is still attached; miraculously there aren’t any major visible scratches. How I don’t know, but I thank my lucky stars.
Two days later though, a warning light appears on the dashboard and my heart sinks. I Google it and discover the warning light is letting me know something is wrong with the tyre pressure. With that I now know I need to call the rental company and confess what happened. When I called them I did tell them I had run over something, but didn’t give the blow-by-blow account. They tell me it’s all ok, if they tyre seems all right, drive it back and they’ll swap the car over for me. Perfect! I end up in car that’s even better than what I had, and I am thrilled. I take off for a day in Malibu.
A week later, on a really cold day by LA standards, I had a really horrible day, so the very next morning I went and had coffee with a great friend of mine, and he suggested we go hiking later that afternoon. It was exactly what I needed, so I told him I’d meet him there. I head off that afternoon, and 7 minutes in to that drive, as I look down at my GPS, the traffic stops moving and I rear-ended a BMW X5. I had honestly thought I would stop in time, but no! A good looking gentleman in his late 50’s gets out of his car, furious with me. I apologise and ask him to pull in to the side street, so we don’t bring our part of LA to a complete stop. When he sees my license, he automatically accuses me of planning on leaving the country and not covering his costs. I assure him that I am fully insured and have every intention of fixing any damage I caused. We have a look at the damage to his car, and thankfully it’s pretty minor and only on the bumper bar. While this is happening we start chatting, and I think he realises I genuinely am sorry and fully intend to fix the damage I have caused. He then starts looking at my car and telling me what I need to do to fix the grill so the rental company won’t know that anything happened. With that, he announces he doesn’t want any money from me, he’ll just get it fixed and we can leave things like that. With such kindness after such a crappy day the day before I burst in to tears and tell him I want to hug him. He declines my offer, but unlucky for him there is a crazy, crying Australian on the side of the road insisting she needs to hug him, so reluctantly he allows me to hug him before making a hasty retreat.
As I get in the car and head to meet my friend for the hike we going on, I’m thinking to myself about how I am going to explain this to the rental company. In 2 trips I will have now returned 3 damaged vehicles. I’m so angry with myself, but there’s not anything I can do. I just need to own it.
As my final day approaches, I am out and about and I see it. Some prick has opened his door on to my passenger side door. I’m so upset at this point. I will own the damage that I have done, but others who apparently have no respect for other people’s property are really not helping my cause. I am now struggling to understand how anybody drives expensive cars in LA.
The day arrives and it’s time to fly out of LA. At the desk is the very same man I saw 2 weeks earlier when I returned the first car. I thank him for being so great that day, and hand over my keys. I know I should explain the things that happened in this car, but figure he’ll ask me about it. He goes off to inspect the car, comes back and tells me that everything is perfect and he’ll see me on my next trip. Awesome! With that it’s time to head home. Until next time LA.