No Wonder I’m So Cranky

Traffic Jam

Dear Will:

Forgive me if I sound a little cranky. I AM cranky.

I work in Playa Vista, a newish, high-end enclave on the west side of Los Angeles. Look it up. All kinds of ad agencies, tech giants, and other trend-setting companies have set up shop there, leading some to refer to it as Silicon Beach. Sounds pretty cool, right? And it would be . . . if not for the fact that Playa Vista sits 47 horrifying miles from my home in Orange County.

What that means from a practical standpoint is that unless you come and go in the middle of the night, when you live in Orange and work in Playa Vista you can pretty much count on a miserable commute. I wish I were exaggerating when I tell you that the final 15 miles of my drive can take 60 minutes or more. I’m not. Surely, you say to yourself, it would be faster to take another route; but trust me when I say this: I’ve taken them all, and none of them work. Ever. It’s simple math: Too many vehicles + not enough road = 405.

Allow me to illustrate: Put all 53 members of the Los Angeles Rams in a single, standard-issue hot tub. With their pads on. Now swim across. For two hours. That’s what my commute is like.

My original solution to all of this was to purchase a used Honda Civic that runs on compressed natural gas. I knew a CNG Civic would be an inconvenience, but its ultra-low emissions would qualify me to drive in the carpool lane, shaving valuable time and more-valuable aggravation in the process. With white HOV stickers slapped on the Civic’s haunches, I could (sort of) forget about my drive, and just settle into a good podcast. (Or three.)

But on January 1, 2019, the California Legislature canceled the magical decals that gave me and 200,000 other low-emission drivers carpool-lane privileges. And so for two months now I’ve been diverted into the scrum with the rest of you. I have been defrocked, demoted, cast out of the court and tossed into the courtyard. It has been awful—awfuller even—now that 200,000 carpool-lane refugees have made traffic in all of the other lanes worse than ever. One morning it took me two-and-a-half hours to reach the office. That’s 150 butt-numbing, soul-sapping minutes. One way.

So yes, I’m cranky. I now sit to the right of the express lane, watching longingly as car after car cruises past in the left-hand lane, new stickers gleaming. Except for that one car there. The one with all of the people in it. What is that? An actual carpool? Who do those people think they are?

Imagine that. A high-occupancy vehicle in the High Occupancy Vehicle lane. I’m reminded that the point of an HOV lane is to have fewer cars on the road, not to provide first-class passage to anti-social elitists like me. Somehow we have allowed a lane designed to create community to be a reward for those aspiring to increased isolation. How did that happen?

And so I sit here, feeling put upon while knowing that, except for maybe 199,999 other similarly put-upon Californians, no one is going to feel sorry for me. Fair enough. Because even as I make that observation, I must also confess—a bit sheepishly—that I have never seriously considered earning access to the HOV lane by adding a little HO to my V. Here I am, a guy who goes to church on Sundays and talks about gathering together, bearing one another’s burdens, being of one heart and one mind. Community. Family. You and us—not me. And yet I have chosen to spend three or four hours each day in my own little isolation pod, cut off from everyone around me. Flying solo . . . or crawling, I guess.

Hmmm. No wonder I’m so cranky.

PW

No Ordinary Blessing

Dear Will:

I think I’ve mentioned before that I teach early morning Seminary. My class begins at 5:45 a.m. each school day. This year we are studying the Old Testament.

In preparation for this week’s classes, I have been reading about the prophet Enoch.  Although there are men in the scriptures who seem a bit inaccessible to me either because they’re too perfect or too superhuman (I’m thinking about Nephi and Elijah, for example), Enoch seems like my kind of guy. Uncertain. Deeply flawed. Human.

When God first told Enoch that he wanted him to go preach to the people, Enoch was full of very reasonable excuses. “Why me?” he said in essence. “I’m too young, nobody likes me, and I don’t talk so good” (see Moses 6:31). Something like that, anyway. Well, God sent him out nonetheless, and the early results were not very promising. We’re told that “all men were offended because of him.” Some said, “there is a strange thing in the land; a wild man hath come among us” (Moses 6:37-38). (You can see what this new assignment did for Enoch’s popularity.)

Even so, Enoch persisted, and the people came around—and then some. So great was the impact of this one, humble man and his glorious message that “the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them” (Moses 7:18).

Imagine. Who wouldn’t want to live in such a place with such a great group of people? And to think it was all made possible by a reluctant prophet—a man who thought himself so awkward and so unpopular that he tried at first to decline the assignment.

You and I may never have the opportunity to dwell in such a place, but fortunately we do enjoy the benefits that come from having a living prophet on the earth. This coming weekend, in fact, Thomas S. Monson will be addressing the world along with his counselors and the Twelve Apostles, men divinely appointed to share with us the will and word of the Lord.

Enoch’s followers had to go up into the mountains to hear his message. But you and I can hear a prophet’s voice without even getting up off of the sofa. If your receive BYU-TV through your cable provider (most of them carry it), you’re all set. And if not, you can always watch a live stream of the conference online. Just go to lds.org where you’ll find all kinds of options for hearing the words of the prophet in your own home. (Sessions run both Saturday, Oct. 1, and Sunday, Oct. 2, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. PDT.)

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, reminds us of what a blessing it is to have a living prophet—and the miraculous technology that allows us to hear his words here in California even though he is standing and speaking hundreds of miles away:

“Our merciful and loving Heavenly Father has not forsaken and will not forsake His children. Today, as well as in times past, He has appointed apostles and prophets. He continues to reveal His word to them.

“What a marvelous privilege it is to hear God’s messages for each of us during general conference! Let us prepare well for this great blessing of divine guidance delivered by His chosen servants.

“For this is no ordinary blessing” (Ensign, Sept. 2011).

I’m looking forward to a great, inspiring weekend. As one who is himself deeply flawed and very human, I need all the help I can get.

PW