Today I sat in traffic on I-5 for what seemed like forever. I was getting frustrated because heavy traffic has never been a large part of my life. At home the most I can be delayed because of traffic is 2 hours and that only happens when there is construction. Just driving around Long Beach I rarely hit traffic. The only time I hit traffic is when I’m going home and I’m wondering if my drive will take 5 or 8 hours because of traffic leaving Southern California. Overall, traffic just annoys me. As I’m getting annoyed my passenger turns to me and says “That’s just how the five is, calm down”. He says it because he knows it’s going to make me laugh, hearing the word “the” in front of a freeway number always does. It’s so weird to me that people say it like that down here because I had never heard that in Northern California. I’ve always wondered why it’s different down here than up north.
Southern California was built with the car being the main mode of transportation. It hasn’t ever experienced a time without the automotive. In a region where cars are so important so are the freeways. In fact, Southern California even figured out a freeway system before the rest of the country. Also unlike the rest of the country, it used local names for its freeways. Some people even still use these names like “The San Diego Freeway” or “The San Bernardino Freeway”. It’s a system that made a lot of sense because it was very clear. It’s also a system that allowed for the word “the” before each freeway name. As freeway systems grew throughout the nation most of the freeways were labeled with numbers. To avoid confusion state officials eventually gave numbers to the freeways already establish throughout the state as well. They even simplified the system to avoid given one route multiple numbers. Overtime people adapted to these freeway numbers. By the late 1970’s most people had dropped the original freeway names, but kept the word “the” in front of the number when referring to them. Which is why I now get to be amused every time I get directions from someone native to Southern California.