The Penske Swallow Massacre

I just got back from a trip to southern California. Two glorious days of family, sunshine, warmth, and horrible, horrible traffic. It was my first brush with LA area traffic and, I’m not gonna lie, it was EXHAUSTING.

When you only drive in your home state, you assume that all freeways and highways are structured like the ones you’re used to. That becomes the normal, expected way freeways and highways are laid out.

Then you travel to Los Angeles and realize that California has a trillion freeways and highways and you have to take every single one in order to get anywhere and then your head explodes.

My favorite driving anecdote from the trip involved a Penske truck. Before I can delve into the tale, though, a little back story:

How I imagine the birds may have looked the morning of The Incident.

How I imagine the birds may have looked the morning of The Incident.

Years and years ago, I was a tween on a road trip with her mother. We were in a small convertible (a Mazda Miata if you must know) with the top down, zooming west toward the beach. Slightly ahead of us in the lane to our left, there was a large yellow Penske truck. We were coming up on a freeway overpass (because, again, California has so many freeways and highways that they all need to crisscross each other) when a flocks of swallows banked over the freeway.

To my dismay, the air displacement of the Penske truck met with the air current of the cars rushing under the overpass, creating a temporary, lethal vacuum that sucked the entire flock of swallows down into the Penske truck’s path. Birds pocked the cab and windshield of the Penske truck, feathery little corpses ricocheting off in every direction. A few of them even managed to strike our car as well, to my abject horror. Ever since that deadly day, I equate Penske trucks with bird massacres.



Anyway, to bring us to present day, I’m driving on an LA-area freeway next to a Penske truck (shudder) when, without warning, my lane ends and I’m forced to merge or else hit a K-rail at 65 miles per hour. The Penske truck to my left gives no quarter, so I’m forced to slam on my brakes and swerve into the lane behind it lest I, too, end up flattened by one of Penske’s merciless murder machines.

And that, dear friends, is the story of how I grew to fear LA-area freeways. Well, that and the reckless speeds. I would never make it on the Autobahn. I grew up respecting Washington’s mostly 60 mph freeway speed limits, so I imagine me on the Autobahn would look a lot like me bungee jumping (which is to say, would probably never happen {or would only happen if I were drugged and coerced against my will [which wouldn’t be safe AT ALL]}).

So now I’m back. For the record? JetBlue is an excellent airline with very accommodating flight attendants, Goldstein’s Bagel Bakery in Glendale makes a killer pumpkin bagel (in a complimentary sense. Not in a Penske sense), and In N Our burgers are still the best. I would recommend you hang out with my family since they, too, are the best, but you might not have as much fun with them as I did. Though maybe you would. I don’t know. I can’t speak for you.

2 thoughts on “The Penske Swallow Massacre

  1. I have much stronger feelings about driving/speeds than I myself realized….as witnessed below! That sparrow incident would traumatize many people, it’s like the Birds, but real!

    Only 60 MPH? I die thinking about it. It kills me to plod along at 30 (supposed to be 25) in the neighborhood. 70 is the base limit on the main state interstate and, well, for me that usually looks like 75, for many others it looks something more like 80.

    I am a bit of an impatient driver, you might say. I can respect that someone else might want to stay at the speed limit. Really I can, but I don’t have to like it, especially when they end up clogging the road to traffic behind them. People who drive slower than the speed limit by more than a mile or two (I’ll give you that for speedometer differences) are obviously afraid of the flow of traffic and need to find an alternate route (exceptions given for u-hauls and obviously incapacitated vehicles such as those running on the donut spare).

  2. -Blanche, Further proof that you get used to the driving norms for wherever you live. My brother drove up here for awhile and it annoyed him to no end how slow we are!

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