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The 411 on 511

August 2, 2010

As expected we sat in our fair share of horrendous summer traffic this weekend.  I was bitter, but I was also prepared because I’d covered all of my bases to keep the pain of the drive to a minimum…

  • I drove so there would be no arguments about Ali’s short cuts/routes/numerous lane changes.
  • Ali was properly fed so there would be no complaints that he needed to stop at Mickey D’s.
  • Maya was safely stowed away at my MIL’s, so I knew that any vomiting episodes would be kept to a minimum.

But on Saturday afternoon, as we inched along at a snail’s pace, Ali decided to take the opportunity to dial the three numbers that I would soon come to hate even more than cleaning up Maya’s vomit.  From my the leather seats of my 1-month old car.  On the hottest day of the year.  (This was actually the case in June of 2008.  Fun times.)

For those of you lucky enough not to live in Los Angeles, we have recently been inundated with ads for the new traffic service 511.  From their website

Yes, that’s right.  Instead of putting money towards fixing our roads and freeways, the city is promoting and paying for a service that tells us our roads and freeways are perpetually jammed.  Super useful.

Anyway, I knew that it was only a matter of time before my tech-obsessed husband put 511 to the test, and I was thrilled beyond belief (note sarcasm) that he chose Saturday afternoon for a test run.

511: Which freeway or traffic hotspot would you like to hear about?

Ali: The 405 South at Howard Hughes Parkway.

511: The 405 North at Howard Hughes Parkway.  Is that correct?

Ali: No, the 405 South at Howard Hughes Parkway.

511: The 405 North at Howard Hughes Parkway.  Is that correct?

Me: The system obviously can’t hear you because you are using Bluetooth.  Why don’t you use the actual phone?

Ali (ignoring me): Shhh!  The 405 SOUTH at Howard Hughes Parkway.

511: The 405 North at Howard Hughes Parkway.  Is that correct?

Me: I am pretty sure the system CANNOT UNDERSTAND YOU because it CANNOT HEAR YOU.

Ali (disregarding my advice, again): The 405 SOUTH at Howard Hughes Parkway. SOUTH SOUTH SOUTH.

511: The 405 North at Howard Hughes Parkway.  Is that correct?

Me: If you don’t hang up right now I swear to God I am going to lose my mind.

Ali (hanging up): Why are you so angry?

Me (in shock): Ummm, seriously? Why are you repeating the same thing 25 times?  If 511 didn’t understand you the first time why would it understand you the 24th time?

Ali (dialing again): Well, it’s not like we’re busy.  I’m going to try again.

511: Welcome to 511, which freeway or traffic hotspot would you like to hear about?

Ali: The 405 South at Howard Hughes Parkway.

511: The 405 North at Howard Hughes Parkway.  Is that correct?

Me: Oh Sh@#$! Seriously?

I will spare you the details of the rest of this conversation because I am sure you are about as frustrated reading this as I was living it.  All I can say is that if I have to spend another Saturday afternoon in the company of Ali, 5,000 other freeway drivers, and 511…well we might just find ourselves single.

And I’ll be directing my divorce lawyer to send his bill to the city.  It’s the least they can do.

41 Comments leave one →
  1. August 3, 2010 2:50 am

    I cannot stand automated things!!! They never get it right and annoy me to no end.

  2. August 3, 2010 3:35 am

    LOL…I can so see me and Ryan having this conversation. Haha.

  3. August 3, 2010 4:24 am

    hahahah i would have loved to be present for this conversation! automated things are the worst and are always troublesome!

  4. August 3, 2010 4:38 am

    I have no idea what freeway I was on, but the last time I was in LA, I got stuck sitting in some baaaad traffic for like 2 hours. At one point I was tempted to just get out of the car and start walking. It was horrible, so I definitely feel for you. And it’s just that much worse when you’re stuck with annoying passengers 😉 But I guess just be thankful that Maya wasn’t there too, because young kids can be a nightmare in those kinds of situations…

  5. August 3, 2010 5:21 am

    hahaha. omg. sounds like a nightmare. yet here I am laughing. oh Ali. he’s too much 😉

  6. August 3, 2010 5:25 am

    Hahahahahahaha!! Omg, this sounds very similar!! 😉 I can totally see something similar happening in our car, haha!!

  7. August 3, 2010 5:25 am

    HAHAHA, hilarious!

  8. August 3, 2010 5:51 am

    that is funny!

  9. August 3, 2010 5:55 am

    Ha ha ha ha ha! Sounds like a really useful number. Just a question: Is there ever a time of day where the recording isn’t going to be: Traffic for miles. You’re screwed.

    In other news, scientists find out why California is bankrupt…


  10. actorsdiet permalink
    August 3, 2010 6:48 am

    oh god, i will not be calling that number. i used the maps traffic on my iphone instead!!!

  11. August 3, 2010 6:49 am

    Ya gotta love the man’s persistence! Although if that’s the only route to get to where you have to go, does it really matter if you know ahead of time that it’s jammed? 🙂

  12. August 3, 2010 6:50 am

    That is funny. I can’t stand near automated phone. Most of the time it won’t understand what i am telling. Nowadays rarely a human being in the other end of phone.

  13. August 3, 2010 7:09 am

    Ahhh, and it’s posts like these that make me oh so happy to have left LA

    I feel for ya!

    I vote you don’t leave your house today..haha!

  14. August 3, 2010 7:32 am

    Funny! LA traffic is the worst. You can’t go anywhere at ANY time without sitting around in traffic.

  15. August 3, 2010 7:38 am

    That is why technology is silly. It doesn’t work half the time and when it does it usually isn’t terribly useful, haha. Hope you treated yourself to something fun when you got home to calm your nerves. Like, a large glass of wine, lol.

  16. August 3, 2010 7:46 am

    Oh my gosh Ameena, i’m sorry, i couldn’t help but crack up at your argument. not because i love hearing others argue, but because that would be the exact same argument gary and would’ve had. and when i tell him to stop arguing with me, he’ll stop to take the time to point out that we are not arguing but are “disagreeing”. which in turn, turns into another argument in itself. so yes, we argue within an arguement. ah, good ol’ married life. lol.

    And can i just say, I HATE BLUETOOTH! I must have the crappiest car cause it just doesn’t understand what I’m saying. Seriously, in the time that it takes me to repeat 10 times which number I need it to dial (oops, did I just do an Ali? teehee) I could’ve just done it on my phone and used speaker. But for some reason hubby keeps insisting I use bluetooth. So yes, I’m a crazy woman who yells at her car. Not to mention, by this time K, is in the back yelling at the car too (mother of the year right here). can we still be friends? 😀

  17. louisianagrown permalink
    August 3, 2010 7:48 am

    Truly hilarious! I’m going to go ahead and count this as one of the best posts I’ve ever read from you. Poor Ali…

  18. August 3, 2010 8:04 am

    I hate those services that make you say five million things into the phone before they even give you the option of speaking to a customer representative. Absolute ridiculousness. You should definitely charge the city for any divorce bills should you incur them, although I definitely hope not!

  19. Michelle permalink
    August 3, 2010 8:04 am

    Ahhhh I’m so sorry! I hate that!

  20. August 3, 2010 9:02 am

    OMG!!!!!! 511 is the same in Rhode Island i seriously want to slap that automated beyotch through the phone!!!!!!
    then ours doesnt update correctly, like you are sitting in a traffic jam and it just tells you about construction that is going on 25 miles away on another interstate! annoying!

  21. August 3, 2010 9:23 am

    lol what a horrible system

    super cute title!

  22. August 3, 2010 11:58 am

    511 memories are coming back to me now – I used to spend so much time in traffic in LA because of work, and never managed to get the answer I wanted when I used the number!
    We have GPS in the car we’re using right now to tour, and I swear it starts more arguments than anything else. I’m a go-forth-and-self-navigate kind of person, but my partner is obsessed with GPS – our’s has a woman’s voice, and there have been times when I’ve almost felt jealous that he listens more to her than me….

  23. August 3, 2010 12:22 pm

    Oh dear…I will remember to never call those numbers when I’m in LA…I despise traffic, and I can’t wait till I can live in a city where I don’t have to drive anywhere.

  24. August 3, 2010 3:21 pm

    it must be so much funnier reading it through for yourself and looking back. obviously INCREDIBLY frustrating in the moment tho!! haha i love the repetition, i totally would react the same way as you!! damn the annoyances of driving, and worse, directions!!!

    xoxo ❤

  25. August 3, 2010 4:03 pm

    I was stuck in traffic for so long today, and I couldn’t understand why! I didn’t see any construction and it was at 3 pm on a Tuesday in the summer…it isn’t usually like that! I was pretty frustrated, so I can only imagine what you had to deal with (and what you constantly have to deal with in LA).
    Oh, and that 511 thing sounds pretty pointless to me. I hate automated things anyway…I would rather talk to a real person. I get really annoyed when I am on the phone for an hour reciting mindless things until I can actually talk to someone who can help me. I can’t believe Ali was so persistent with that thing!

  26. August 3, 2010 6:34 pm

    Bahaha, this is great! My husband and cannot travel together…it’s awful.

  27. August 3, 2010 7:02 pm

    lol. Technology. It’s a love/hate thing I tell ya!

  28. August 3, 2010 7:43 pm

    uggh automated phones can be so frustrating. My optical center refuses to understand “optical”. I know I have an accent, but come on Sears,its not that bad!

  29. August 4, 2010 6:23 am

    Freaking Hilarious! I cannot stand those automated phone systems–they make me want to scream!

  30. August 4, 2010 6:27 am

    Hilarious in a frustrating way…ah, sometimes it is nice to be single. No one there to witness my meltdowns.

  31. August 4, 2010 7:55 am

    this is so funny! If it were my boyfriend and I in that situation…I would definitely be playing the role of Ali! I love stuff like 411, 511, anything like that!

  32. August 4, 2010 8:17 am

    I DETEST automated messages…especially the ones where you talk and tell them what you want…and they say over and over they can’t understand you…so I’m screaming like a lunatic – ‘Cust-o-mer Ser-vice’!!!!! *&^&&*&. Argh!

    Love your stories. Seriously, write a book…;)

  33. Leah @ Why Deprive? permalink
    August 4, 2010 11:14 am

    hahaha that reminds me of an insurance commercial for Capital Direct. Its only funny when its NOT happening to you. I hate those automated services – and what was wrong with just “push 1 for customer service”? I would rather push 1 than repeat myself 40 times.

  34. August 4, 2010 11:57 am

    Oh my gosh, you are saintly. The conversation would have been so much more expletive-rich in our vehicle! You know, this would be one of those instances that you quietly sneak into your backpocket for future guilt trips. Not that I ever do that…

  35. August 4, 2010 12:04 pm

    Yes, I too think the convo was rather conservative compared to the vulgar comments and reaction I’m use to. I swear traffic in LA is awful,we should have cars of all sorts be illegal! see if everyone were on bikes, there would be no pollution (or less at least) and no need for 511. I know this sounds like a crazy idea, but maybe try taking the bus next time?

  36. lowandbhold permalink
    August 4, 2010 12:24 pm

    I hate those automatic voice recognition things with my soul. They should be illegal.

  37. August 4, 2010 5:11 pm

    LOL! I’m sorry, as I’m sure it was annoying…but imagining that was hilarious. Your husband must have crazy amounts of patience/stubborness. I’d be swearing a blue streak in two minutes. I hate automated things.

  38. August 4, 2010 6:03 pm

    Ahahaha that’s hilarious! I actually love messing around with automated voice recognitions just to see what I end up with.

    You can see I have a very busy life 😉

  39. traynharder23 permalink
    August 4, 2010 7:39 pm

    this sounds like one big nightmare! AUGH!H!!!

    i hate the gps sometimes as well.

    I KNOW. some dude asked us to get an executive membership. that’s how sad we are.

    hahah. and we go way too much. it’s quite embarrassing.

  40. August 4, 2010 8:58 pm

    I had the same issue. My dad called Amtrak for their “schedule” but they couldn’t understand him. “schedule” he said again and multiple times. Then I snatched the phone, listed to the automated option and said “schedule”. I think it might have been a slight accent of his that threw off the machine.


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