Our son opened his presents Christmas morning. His bounty included Connect Four, in a hideous Spongebob edition, and a lousy Star Wars Lego set. He already had both these things. I hated them and didn’t want doubles, so I decided to commit an act of Christmas charity and give them away, that day. A quick research jog online found a home in Silverlake for kids whose parents have AIDS. I promised my wife I’d back in time to help her make dinner (and, more importantly, to watch the Suns-Lakers game), and took off.
I’ll always remember that day, though not because I embodied the spirit of Christmas giving, which has nothing to do in particular with LA. All communities have people in need, and they also have kids who, even though their parents aren’t rich, get all they want for Christmas and then some. But LA isn’t like every place. Every time you get into your car, you’re plunged into an epic battle for survival with drivers of all ages and from all nations.
I quickly learned that Christmas morning told a different traffic story. The 110 South was almost entirely clear. I’ve been on rural highways in Ohio that had more cars. The entire vista of Chinatown, and downtown, opened before me invitingly, for the first time ever. Then I turned onto the 101 North, which is usually a death-slog through Koreatown and Hipsterville, but again I got the all clear. A trip that ordinarily would have taken anywhere between 40 to 70 minutes was done in under 15. I was traveling at the speed of Santa Claus himself.
I never saw the kids who received the presents, and have no idea if the gifts were a hit. In fact, it’s possible that the kids never received them at all. I turned them in to a security guard, who put them under a tree in the lobby, unwrapped. But I didn’t care, because I got to drive home, free from traffic stress for the first time in years. Anyone who’s ever lived in LA knows that’s nothing short of a Christmas miracle.