Rules of the road

by Hana Al-Henaid

Since my first journey to 3700 Coldwater Canyon more than three years ago, I’ve always known I was a bit different. Joining the school as a sophomore only compounded to my feeling that I wasn’t quite like everyone else. Now, as a wizened senior, I realize the time has come to address the elephant in the room. I don’t actually live in LA — I live in the county, not the city. Forty two miles east of Harvard-Westlake rests my quaint home in the City of Trees and PhD’s: Claremont, California.

My trek to school officially begins by getting on the 210 West at Towne Avenue in Claremont. After three years, nine freeways and 40,000 miles, I’ve picked up a few tips along the way. As a sophomore, I drove to school with my sister. From the passenger seat, I had a fantastic view of the license plates of passersby, and I took an unprecedented interest in them to relieve my boredom (a certain restlessness tends to kick in around mile 29). Within the first few months of the school year, I made the groundbreaking discovery that the license plates for non-commercial trucks registered in California all begin with a number then a letter and five more numbers. All other non-commercial vehicles begin with a number followed by three letters and three numbers. With that realization, I independently recognized the slight distinction between the license plates of trucks from that of the rest of C-class vehicles registered in California. I knew that one day this would be meaningful knowledge — one day. Like smog disappearing from the LA skyline after a rainstorm, my life suddenly became clearer. Discovering that piece of trivia gold and the excitement that came with my small discovery taught me the priceless lesson that life is in the details.

The year wrapped up, as they tend to do, and when junior year rolled around, things got serious. On a Friday morning in early spring last year, I couldn’t help but notice a massive 18-wheeler driving about 200 pigs west, towards LA. Seeing the curly pink tails poke out of the truck was an interesting way to start my morning, but I continued on my way without giving the animals much more thought. Driving home, however, life lesson number two was solemnly learned. Around Pasadena, I saw the same truck driving east with me. But now, it was empty. I felt like Fern in “Charlottle’s Web” as I realized that 200 little Wilburs had been driven to the slaughterhouse. Unlike Fern, however, I could not save them or send them to live on Zuckerman’s farm. To add insult to injury, I continued to see that 18-wheeler on my trek for the next two weeks. It was the spring of my discontent, to say the least. Through the sad fate of hundreds of pigs, I learned to remember that sometimes, bad things happen to good pigs. And no one knows which little piggy will go to market and which little piggy will stay home.

As spring turned to summer, and summer to fall, I returned to my beaten, paved and repaved path. The final lesson I have to share comes though my experience with traffic. Driving in Los Angeles rush hour traffic has taught me more than I ever cared to learn. I’ve parked my car on the 101 as a helicopter landed 20 feet in front of me, I’ve taken detours through downtown because of a mile-long police blockade and I’ve tried almost every freeway in Los Angeles over the past three years. Through these experiences, I’ve learned the importance of spontaneity. Life will throw detours at me, I’ll have to backtrack and sometimes I’ll just turn around and go home. But if my trips to Harvard-Westlake are any indication, no matter the journey, I’ll always end up exactly where I need to be.