October 07, 2004

The Torrance Turn

Tonight (or actually early this morning) I'm here to talk to you about a phenomenon I call the "Torrance Turn." A little background first. Torrance, California is a lovely city of about 140,000 in the Southwest corner of Los Angeles County. It's a very nice city (I grew up here), quite close to the beach, and with good schools.

Torrance residents, however, exhibit a behavior not seen in other areas of the country, or even other areas of California. That behavior is a very strange predilection towards making impossible left hand turns--what I call the "Torrance Turn." Typically seen pulling out of parking lots or driveways, a dedicated Torrancian would rather spend 4 hours waiting for the traffic to clear to cross 5 lanes of highway in order to make a left hand turn than making three rights and ending up going the same direction in 1/16th of the time.

Torrance hosts some of the busiest streets found in Los Angeles County--Sepulveda Blvd., the aptly named Torrance Blvd., Hawthorne Blvd., and the infamous Pacific Coast Highway to name a few. Some of these streets are wider and larger than the freeways of many Midwestern towns--for example, at times Hawthorne Blvd. is 8 or 9 lanes across.

You'd think these large streets, many of which boast a 50 mph speed limit (which means people are going at least 60) would deter people from wanting to turn left anywhere there isn't a light. But no, that's not the case. In Torrance, you'll make that left hand turn, and everyone's gonna wait until you do it. In fact, I've found that unless there's a physical barrier in the street like a concrete island, people will turn left just about anywhere, anytime--sometimes in clear violation of posted traffic signs (you know, the ones that read "No Left Turn"). I've yet to see anyone muscle up over a concrete island but frankly I wouldn't be surprised to see it happen, particularly an SUV.

And those are just the people who turn out of parking lots or driveways. Then there are the people who are driving in the left lane of the street and decide that they want to turn into a parking lot or a driveway. Yes, those 4 or 5 lanes of opposite traffic speeding by at 60 mph might deter some drivers, but not a Torrancian. No sir. They'll just stop in the middle of the lane and wait for that opposing traffic to clear. Sometimes they'll even use a turn signal, although that doesn't usually stop people from having to slam on their brakes when they're driving along and suddenly find that the car in front of them has stopped in the middle of the street for no apparent reason. Nope, we're going to stop and wait for that ever-elusive break in traffic that allows us to make that left hand turn. Going up to a light, making a U-turn, and coming back on the right side of the street? That's for wusses--like people who live in Redondo Beach. A real Torrancian will make the left hand turn, and proudly.

I grew up in Torrance and learned how to drive here, so I admit I'm as guilty as the rest of them when it comes to the Torrance Turn. I've been known to have the following conversations while driving:
"You're not turning left here, are you?"
"Why not?"
"Because we're all going to die, that's why!"
"Nah, I'm from Torrance. We do this all the time."

I never really noticed the Torrance Turn until Kevin brought my attention to it (primarily by exclaiming, "This guy/girl is going to turn left here?!? Is he/she crazy?!?), but once he pointed it out, I see examples of it everywhere. I think you don't fully appreciate it until you've lived and driven somewhere else, but it's definitely unique to Torrance. Come to Torrance and experience the Torrance Turn yourself! Or even better--experience the frustration of being the driver who wants to go straight or right stuck behind the driver making the impossible Torrance Turn. That's where the fun starts.

Posted by Shelby at October 7, 2004 01:57 AM