Waiting for Carmageddon?

Like many Angelenos, I’m viewing this coming weekend with some trepidation. The section of the 405 that connects the San Fernando Valley to West Los Angeles will be closed for some 53 hours while one side of an overpass–the Mulholland Bridge–is taken down. There are plenty of articles to be found on the Internet or in newspapers. The Skirball Cultural Center and the Getty Museum will be closed. (I wonder, how much money they will lose this weekend?) I listen to a popular local news radio station, and for the past two weeks or so, “Carmageddon” has come up at least eight times an hour: at the top of the news hour, at the bottom, and during the traffic reports that occur every ten minutes. And, of course, we get to do it all over again next summer, when the other half of the bridge will be taken down.

I plan on watching it all from the comfort of my family room. There is nowhere I need to be. My mom came to visit; fortunately, she planned her trip after the announcement, so she arrived on Wednesday and won’t be leaving until Tuesday. My nephew Louis–her grandson–arrives from Seattle on Saturday to stay with a family friend, Rhys, for a few weeks. At least Louis is flying into Burbank. (My brother wanted to send Louis via LAX but was quickly disabused of that idea. I believe the phrase “Are you insane?” was uttered.) And while it might be nice for Mom to see my nephew, she visited Seattle recently. Rhys and I are currently in a holding pattern, waiting to see what Carmageddon traffic will be like and trying to decide which of us will be brave enough–or stupid enough–to travel to make a family visit possible.

All this chit chat is by way of getting to my own personal theory about Carmageddon. One version or the other–this summer’s or next year’s–will be the nightmare pundits are predicting. We just don’t yet know which one. It’s possible this weekend will go smoothly. Perhaps the project will even finish ahead of schedule (probably wishful thinking). Then next summer, people will think, “Hey, that wasn’t so bad. I don’t need to leave town. I can use the alternate routes and surface roads and go about as I normally would.” Get enough people thinking like that, and next summer we’ll have a mess that’s even worse than what’s been predicted for this weekend.

The other possibility is that this weekend is at least as bad as people are expecting. If that happens, when phase two rolls around, more people will flee the area for the weekend, making it easier for those left behind to get about.

Somewhere in Los Angeles, at least one person has already printed up “I survived Carmageddon” T-shirts, key chains and mugs, and is simply waiting until Monday morning to hawk them. It’s just too bad that we’ll have to wait until next summer to find out if that’s really true.