Jaci Stephen: 'I dozed off, hit a guy's wing mirror, and met my first US road rage'

Way Out West

Share
Related Topics

What is it about getting behind the wheel of a car that brings out the Wee Willie Winkie in me? I've never been a great sleeper, even as a baby, and these days it still takes me a couple of hours and at least two episodes of late-night Law and Order and CSI before I feel even remotely tired.

But put a steering wheel in my hand and I turn into Tarmac Temazepam, snoring away while drivers around me beep, scream and shout, and try to wake me while waving bits of their vehicles I have lobbed off in my slumber.

I bought my first car in 1983. It was an orange Hillman Avenger and I smashed it up when I had drunk too much during a bout of severe depression. No excuse. I woke to see a row of trees coming towards me at lightning speed, and when I had established that I was not in a production of Macbeth, and that this was not Birnam Wood, came to in time to turn the wheel away from them. It wasn't quick enough for me to regain balance, though, and the car went over. And over. And over. It landed bonnet-side down. Had I not been wearing a seat belt, I would undoubtedly have been killed outright; had I been 6in taller, my head would have been crushed to pulp.

Although not drinking now and feeling safe enough to get behind a wheel again without fear of endangering life, it hasn't inspired me to get a car in LA. Despite the fact that everyone tells me I just have to have one, I have resisted. Well, resistance implies some degree of doubt; in reality, I don't want one, don't intend to get one, and if people want to see me that much, they can get in their own damned cars and come to me. I walk up to 10 miles a day and when I'm not walking I catch the very cheap buses, which run all night.

Push came to shove, however, on the morning of Blake's funeral. Readers of this column will know that Blake was my dear mentor and screenwriter friend who died suddenly in August. The funeral had been kept very quiet, but when I heard it was taking place, I felt I had to be there. Blake's death has hit me very hard and the day before I heard he was to be buried I again hadn't slept the entire night. Yet never having driven on the right-hand side of the road, never having driven in the States, and in a hire car without sat nav, I set off, very tired, for Santa Barbara, over two hours' drive away.

I had only ever heard tales of one Route – 66 – and it turned out to be a rather sanitised and romanticised version of what actually happens on these freeways. I had to take 101 and 405, and both were the closest to Hell I think I will get before I actually take up residence in that place. I have no idea whether there was a speed limit, I just went with the flow, which was fast. Very. I managed to veer off at a service station, but it was no Little Chef, and it took me 30 minutes to find my way out of it and back on to my route, which, after 90 minutes, I still had no evidence was the one going in the right direction.

Getting to the church on time was fine, although the funeral itself was utterly devastating. Going back was the problem. I should not have been driving: first, with no sleep, and, second, severely traumatised. Blake had been one of the people who kept telling me I had to get a car. The irony that my first one was ferrying me to and from his funeral, meant that I spent most of the journey, both ways, blurry-eyed and sobbing.

On my return, I took the west, instead of the east exit, for Wilshire Boulevard, and ended up at Santa Monica beach. And it was in the slowness of the traffic getting back to the right road that I dozed off, hit a guy's wing mirror, and endured my first experience of US road rage. Think Death Row on acid.

I took the car back instantly and went to the shop to stock up on change for my forthcoming bus journeys. It's incredibly hard steering our way without you, Blake: in more ways than one.



To read Jaci Stephen's blog LAnotsoconfidential in full, go to: lanotsoconfidential.blogspot.com

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Graduate Media Assistant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an ambitious and adaptable...

Guru Careers: Solutions Consultant

£30 - 40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Solutions Consultan...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Election catch-up: Blairites for and against a Miliband victory

John Rentoul
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in debt to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before