L.A. Times – L.A. Affairs: Cautious driver faces the prospect of a blind turn

Original Article: http://www.latimes.com/home/la-hm-affairs-20150425-story.html

I hadn’t been a personal driver long—it was a way to make extra cash, working the South Bay and Long Beach. She was my first job in Redondo Beach, and she had kept me waiting for 15 minutes outside her apartment. When she appeared, she was in a black cocktail dress and flip flops. She carried a pair of blue high heels in one hand, and her clutch purse in the other. She was friendly and complimented me on my tie.
“I’m so sorry. I’ve been running behind all day,” she said.
“It’s OK,” I replied.
The traffic on the 405 North was moderate. I figured I could get her to Hollywood in a half hour or so, but clouds had lingered for most of the day, and it had started to rain. I had already seen two accidents on the way to pick her up, so I was being extra cautious. We engaged in the usual chit-chat. She asked how long I had been driving. I told her a few weeks. She told me about her job in broadcasting and how she loathed having to go out on weekends—especially to Hollywood. I agreed that Hollywood had changed, or maybe I had just gotten older and it had lost its appeal.
“Roads are slick,” I said, “People drive too fast in the rain here.”
I merged into the slow lane. She reached into her purse and produced a small compact—she was finishing her makeup.
“I look all right?” she asked.
“Yes. You look nice.”
She laughed. “Does that make you uncomfortable? Are clients not supposed to ask those types of questions?”
I told her it was fine. Conversation always put the clients at ease, especially women traveling alone. She seemed to relax the more we talked.
“Damn,” she said, “I forgot to call my sister and tell her I’ve left. She likes to make sure I’m safe.”
She spoke to her sister and reassured her she was fine and that she’d call her after the event. I took the off-ramp to La Cienega and got bogged down in traffic around Pann’s.
“This is why I never leave the South Bay,” she said, “Traffic all the way to Hollywood.” She was looking at a travel app on her phone when she got a text. She said it was her sister reminding her to text once she got to Hollywood.
“If I don’t text my sister throughout the night, she has a fit. I wish she’d get out more.”
She explained that her sister was a very attractive girl and had gotten into fitness modeling. After dating a string of the wrong kinds of men, she opted to focus more on her career. She stayed in most weekends.
I had grown quiet, fearing where our conversation was leading. Then it came, the dreaded: “So, do you date much? Are you married?”
I rarely talk about my personal life, especially with strangers. However, she had a kind of openness that I appreciated, and I found myself opening up too. I told her I had been in a relationship that had ended. We had recently entered that awkward phase of trying to find a way to be friends—a phase that required some form of make-believe, pretending that our emotions and any lingering romantic urgings were gone.
She was sympathetic.
“You’ll find someone awesome. It just takes time.”
I had heard that continuously in the past few months and, frankly, it never seemed to make me feel any better. That’s the curse of a breakup– no matter what people say, it’s a dark valley you have to navigate on your own.
We were a few miles south of Sunset when she decided to call her sister, again. During their conversation, she mentioned me.
“Yes, I already told you, the driver is not crazy. Actually, I think you would like him.”
I stayed silent. There was no protocol for this. She was trying to set me up.
“Yes, he works out,” she said followed by a chuckle. She soon ended the call. I drove north on Ivar and found a meter.
“So, my sister wants you to call her.” She handed me a small piece of paper with a phone number.
“She’s never met me.”
“You’re a good guy. She trusts me.”
I told her I’d think about it. I wasn’t sure I needed to be dating at the time. The wound was still fresh and I was emotionally fatigued.
“You can call her while you wait.”
I was hesitant to say anything. I smiled, appeasing her. She headed toward the club’s entrance. I fed the meter, walked a bit, and then got back in the car.
I placed the number on the passenger’s seat and tuned the radio to jazz. After listening to a few songs, I got up the courage and took the phone from my suit pocket.

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Into the Abyss

We’ve all seen it, mostly in romantic comedies. The guy loses the girl, usually by his own ineptitude and sinks deep into boozing, poor hygiene and an affinity for wandering his apartment in a bath robe. You guessed it; it’s the aftermath of a breakup and it has become cliché—like some kind of 12 step program, and at the end they either move on or fight to get the girl back. The truth is there’s no easy way to recover after a breakup. For a long while, it’s going to be dark; it’s going to be the abyss.

However, breakups are healthy no matter how grim things may seem at the time. There are always going to be situations that aren’t healthy for us and we have to have the fortitude to get out of them. We have to learn to recognize those situations and move on because there’s a reason—there may be something better waiting. Recently I was talking to a co-worker, an ex NFL player who saw much success in his life. He owned companies, traveled the world and owned some amazing homes. And one day he lost it all—bankruptcy. His wife left him and he found himself back at square one. Then one day he gets a phone call from a woman he had met five years ago. Apparently she was cleaning out a closet and her phone book fell to the floor. It was open to a page with my co-worker’s phone number jotted down. She picked up the phone and called him that instant. They were married a few years later.

I hear stories like that and can’t help but wonder if we’re all preordained to be with someone; if all the dating and breakups are just part of the process. Though they hurt like hell at the time, they really are necessary. The trick is to not stay in the abyss; it’s to keep it moving. We owe ourselves happiness—we all deserve it. And out there is the right person who shares in your world view, your faith, and sees the same beauties of life that you do. They won’t try and change you but instead celebrate you. Love is supposed to exalt us; it’s supposed to dignify us and if it doesn’t do that, then it isn’t love.

In this Dreamland, it’s easy to get seduced by the newness of something—a new car, a new job, a new relationship. We all love the feeling, the rush of new. Yet sooner or later that novelty goes away and we’re forced to see the relationship for what it is. And deep down we know if it’s preordained and if it’s supposed to exist. The trick is to know when it’s forced and in that moment, you have to walk away. If there are doubts, there’s a reason. It’s best to cut your losses early. But for those dreamlanders like me, who are hopeful romantics and refuse to quit, it’s hard to say goodbye. So we learn the hard way and maybe, even if we lose it all, the one we’re supposed to be with will pick up the phone and say: “You’re not going to believe this but I really just needed to call you.”

 

Good luck Dreamlanders!