Dispatcher: “9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”
Me: “Yeah, uh, someone just threw a glass bottle at my car while I was driving down Santa Monica Boulevard.”
Dispatcher: “OK. What started the altercation?”
Me: “I said ‘fuck you’ to him.”
Dispatcher: “OK, we’re sending a police unit over…”
Ask anyone who knows Los Angeles what the worst part of the city to drive through is, and I’d bet my life that their answer is “Hollywood.” The whole area is a constant cluster fuck of rich locals driving their $100K cars way too slowly, adventurous Angelenos heading for a hike in the hills, and tourists wandering around completely befuddled as to why the famous “Hollywood Boulevard” is so underwhelming as an attraction (that’s an entirely separate blog post someday).
Based on where my apartment is in the Culver City area, there’s no worse place to have to drive to than Hollywood. It’s just far enough away that taking the freeway through downtown almost makes sense. Except that in LA, taking the freeway should always be a last resort. If your life is depending on it, I guess you should consider taking the freeway. Otherwise go side roads. When I inevitably have to suck it up and visit Hollywood, the goal is always just to get there and back without incident.
Saturday afternoon’s drive home from Hollywood can best be described as “with incident.” And it was this incident that finally made me google the sentence “when should you use 9-1-1”.
LAPD’s website answered: “911 should only be used for an emergency. An emergency is a life-threatening situation, crime in progress, or serious crime that has just occurred.”
Something tells me what happened to me and Julie on Saturday at 5pm was not an emergency in the life-threatening/serious crime sense. But does anyone bother to remember their local police department’s phone number these days? Do people have a bunch of emergency contacts stored in their phones? Or do people react to all police-necessitating situations like I do and lazily dial 9-1-1?
Maybe it’s best if I start from the beginning. Let’s see…how to best describe my driving habits without having my girlfriend’s parents read this and panic over the kind of maniac who’s driving their daughter around. I guess you could best categorize me as a combination of “ultra-aggressive with safety in mind” and “short fuse towards any driver who makes a mistake.”
And LA suits my style perfectly. LA driving is on a level of aggression I’ve never seen before. It’s like I’m sharing the road with 10 million other Ross’s. And if there were 10 million of me on the road, I imagine there would be plenty of controlled road rage. Normal things like swearing, flipping each other off and giving people the handjob sign as a symbol of your annoyance level (don’t pretend like you’ve never escalated from the middle finger to mimicking an HJ at somebody…I have no idea what that’s supposed to tell someone, but we all do it).
So when Julie and I were driving down Santa Monica Boulevard Saturday afternoon and I started honking my horn and screaming at a cab driver who just cut across three lanes of traffic, cutting me off in the process, I couldn’t help but be a little bit proud of him. He’s a man after my own heart. He needed to get in the left lane immediately and just went for it. Screw all the other drivers. While part of me respects that aggression, another part of me loves to antagonize people who do stupid shit while driving (cutting me off is one of those things).
When I pulled up next to this cab at the next traffic light, his window was down and he was staring at me. He mumbled something to the effect of, “Screw you, everyone does it.”
Ask my Mom what it’s like trying to get the last word in against me. It doesn’t happen. So just to make sure he knew I disagreed with his driving, I replied “fuck you” and then pulled forward a few feet. The next thing I know the cops are swarming around me, trying to revive me and checking to make sure I know where I am. There’s flashing lights and police sirens everywhere.
Wait, no, that’s not what happened at all.
The next thing that happened was the cab driver threw a glass bottle and hit the back of my car. I think I would have been less shocked if he had pulled out a gun and started spraying bullets at the side of my car. I immediately backed up a few feet to pull even with him again, and asked in a completely shocked voice, “Did you just throw something at my car?” His response? “Fuck you.”
Every detail at that point is foggy except for his license plate number, which Julie and I immediately wrote down. He sped off one way (yes, I believe he did in fact get the last word, dammit); we slowly drove the other way, completely shellshocked. Who throws a glass bottle at a car in the middle of a crowded intersection? What kind of cab driver loses his mind after another driver says “fuck you” to him? Doesn’t that happen to him probably 15 times a day?
So I dialed 9-1-1 a minute later for two reasons: 1). Shock. I didn’t know what to do, really. What’s the protocol for this? Let it go? Sure it wasn’t a life-threatening situation, but there was a crime in progress wasn’t there? And 2). I didn’t know how much damage had been done to my car. I figured it would be best to get it on record with the Police in case the bastard had messed up my car.
If I could do it all over again, I probably would have pulled off to the side of the road and looked at the back of my car before calling the cops. Turns out there was no damage, and all the cops did was not-so-subtley lecture me on the unimportance of the incident. They couldn’t have been more honest about how little of a priority this was to them.
But for anyone who’s ever watched The Big Lebowski and wanted their very own “leads? yeah, sure, just let me check with the boys down at the crime lab” moment, I got mine. After we asked if they were going to find the guy who did this to me, the cop said, “Yeah, um, another unit is checking him out right now.” Suuuuure they are.
What’s the point of this article? Fuck, I dunno. For me to vent, I guess. For me to get reader feedback on whether “throwing a bottle at a car” is the next logical escalation in the altercation I had with this guy (I think he should have spit on my car before throwing a bottle, that’s the correct order in my opinion). To warn any reader who ends up in a car with me that there’s at least an outside chance this could happen again, considering I don’t plan on reducing the number of “hand job mimics” I pass out on a daily basis.
Oh, and for anyone in LA that wants to boycott the cab company with me, it was a Beverly Hills Cab driver: