How the Specter of Bad Luck Shadows You in Every Traffic Jam


I was standing with Chris Hayes in a misting parking lot. He jingled keys to a horribly fast Ford Fiesta ST. Roman and I dodged every sadistic problem that the greater L.A. Region could throw at me, and here was a bearded night owl daring me to give L.A. traffic one last chance to bend me over a chair.

I didn’t want to drive this car. I just wanted to be cuddled in the brass and phony LAX Hilton; let the airport shuttle ferry me back to the concrete holding cell that is Los Angles International Airport. Get me back to calm, green Pennsylvania.

But not quite yet. We had to do it one more time. Drive again. Open up to the night and all of its SoCal mysteries.

Hayes’ Fiesta ST makes 230 horsepower thanks to Mountune. The Fiesta has full chassis bracing, coil-overs,  Hotchkis sway bars, and powerflex bushings, but the car is still using the teeny-weenie stock turbo. The stock turbo on the Fiesta ST isn’t bad, it’s just small. That means it comes on fast.

I eased the tightly-wound front wheel drive anxiety-machine onto a main route to the airport. My heartbeat had just slowed when he told me to turn right. No! This is how it begins. I was doing fine going straight but now he’s asked me to move right. I whipped my eyes to the right and checked my huge Fiesta blind spot. I looked forward and then checked it again to make sure it really was empty and I didn’t just think that it was empty.


Ha! take that Bad Luck, you crafty thief! I see what you’re up to. You did this, Bad Luck! You put a truck there where there wasn’t one before. You know I’m making one last dash to LAX and you want to ruin me and my good reputation with The Smoking Tire. I see your game!

The truck was a lifted black Silverado howling on off-road tires. Its driver had a man-cave at home. Its driver had a lawyer. Its driver lives in L.A. but is “from Brooklyn.” I knew this because I know the spirit of Bad Luck. Once the truck drove past, I moved to the right and exhaled. So far, no crashes.

In L.A., I learned that cars appear out of nowhere. Phantom cars… not driven by humans. They are ineffable. They are spirits that suck on Bad Luck. I am bad luck. There is no reason that Regular Car Reviews should be as successful as it is. Roman and I have been riding on good fortune for too long and sooner-or-later there will be hell to pay for success.

The coil-over setup in Hayes’ Fiesta ST was set up for canyon runs. That meant that the car’s natural habitat was in apexes. Driving straight made the car twitchy; it always wanted to turn. Yes, turn, turn me into traffic. Bad Luck. I watched the white median paint stripe and the yellow lane marker dashes. I did not stray. I did not give Bad Luck an opening.

A lump in the asphalt approached. I didn’t change lanes to avoid it. This was Bad Luck testing me. I ran over it square.


The coil-overs fully compressed. The force went though the unibody. The force went into my perineum. My ego lives there. I apologize to Hayes. He says that’s just the life on L.A. roads.

Hayes told me, once I made a right turn onto something-something that there is a drone under mid range power in his car. Hayes told me that he is running Mountune’s “mid-tune,” which means there is one more stage to go. How much more could be asked of the 1.6L four cylinder? It’s already making 230hp! Where do you go on pump gas? Where do you go on California pump gas? California’s octane only goes to 91. The rest of the the United States of No-Knock goes to 93 with the exception of some parts of Colorado.

We approached Los Angeles International Airport.

LAX at night glows like a Japanese pachinko machine with multicolored spires jutting our of the mal-watered grass like giant freeze-pops; sugar-water promising flavor that will never be fulfilled. Welcome to LAX, you think you’re getting out of here? Think again!

Traffic stopped. Profane brake lights illuminated the ambient air like Hell’s halos. Bad Luck. Traffic jam at LAX. Why was there traffic at the airport at 10:15pm on a Thursday? Bad Luck, that witch!

I spun the wheel to the right onto Century Blvd. I only made a light head-check this time, using more of the tuned Fiesta ST’s abilities. I saw a four door blandmobile trying to merge right ahead of me. I gave the car four flashes of its turn signals before I mashed the go-pedal back to the floor. He got four flashes to make his move and he didn’t take it. Screw him and his four doors!

I was learning how to “L.A.”

More lit popsicle spires, purple this time. Welcome to L.A.! You’re in a fun town! See how whimsical we are! We put a bunch of translucent cylinders into the earth and made them happy colors like a head shop trying to pretend it’s a novelty store.

Every move became a left turn. Right lanes ended. Left lanes appear. I merged left. I was safe for eight seconds and then my middle lane became the right lane. I merged left again. My head spun around, looking for Bad Luck. My middle lane became the right lane again. What was happening here? Was I hallucinating? I pawed for the turn signal but grabbed the windshield wipers. Screw it. Let them wipe. I had bigger problems. Like steering clear of Taxi -vs- Uber -vs- Lyft battles.

More left. More left. Everything is left. The Fiesta’s wipers rubbed against the glasses and my left turn signal never switched off. I kept nosing the blunt little car left until nothing was aside me but the concrete divider. There! Let’s see you mess with me now Bad Luck.