Traffic + Poker = Taco Man?

I live in Los Angeles, so traffic is a normal way of life when traveling the freeways. This particular day was extremely hot and the normal traffic flow came to a complete stop. I’ll reshare the story of what can happen when we take regular ingredients in our lives and mix them up with a dash or adventurous fun. It’s a fun memory for me and a lesson in creating different results when approaching a situation with a different attitude.

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On Friday, July 26, 2014, I was headed to Orange County to teach dance classes at Atomic Ballroom in Irvine, CA. It just so happened that my usual route along the 5 Freeway from Pasadena to Irvine was destined to be a parking lot for over 3 hours from about 3pm to 6pm that afternoon.

Traffic was at a complete standstill due to a man standing on the ledge of the overpass half a mile ahead. After sitting on the freeway for over 20 minutes, I noticed a guy 3 lanes over fill up his water bottle from a water jug stored in the side of his construction vehicle. Armed with my extreme thirst, a red Solo cup and a box of Triscuits, I walked over to guy with the precious water jug and offered a trade of crackers for water. The man greeted me with a smile, some Triscuits were exchanged and as I weaved between vehicles on a path back to my car, I shared my crackers with my fellow drivers who were stuck on the freeway with me.

Soon, people were getting out of their cars and chatting with each other offering snacks, conversation and even lending mobile phone chargers to fellow drivers stuck in a strange situation on a Friday afternoon.

I had hosted a Fundraising Poker Tournament the week before for The Burrito Project and my poker chips were still in the trunk. I noticed a folding card table in the SUV next to me and proposed setting up a poker game in the middle of the freeway. Within minutes the poker table was being set up including a red table cloth.

2014-07-25 17.01.08Sarah Jung, of Los Feliz, posted a photo of the scene on Instagram. Her picture was displayed on the local Channel 7 news. Someone took a screenshot of the TV, posted a caption about tacos and within minutes a poker game among stranded drivers was being portrayed on the media as a #TacoMan setting up shop on the 5 Freeway.

As the afternoon hours were spent on the 5 Freeway this crew of new found friends shared laughs, stories and posed for pictures which were being snapped by fellow drivers with their mobile phones.

2014-07-25 17.10.01Two young ladies who joined in the fun were headed to San Diego to referee a soccer game the following day. After playing poker, a soccer ball magically appeared and this fun group of people had time to play pass between their stopped vehicles.

Soon after we started playing with the soccer ball, the CHP approached us and relayed the good news that all the drivers should return to their vehicles so we could safely turn our vehicles around and drive off the nearest exit which was behind where we were parked. Within 30 minutes the freeway was cleared of cars and these friendly drivers returned to our busy lives with a story to tell our friends.

When I was asked why I first decided to get out of my car, my first response was, “It was hot and I was really thirsty!” I have been told that I could have fun in a stuck elevator. Whether or not this is true, I know for a fact I can have fun on shutdown freeway.

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Most of this post was reproduced and modified with permission from this original interview:

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