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0105 Driving Directions

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 105: Driving Directions.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 105. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Today’s podcast is going to be about giving someone directions or instructions about how to drive to a certain place. Let’s get started!

[start of story]

I was getting into my car at the mall when I noticed a man standing nearby with a map. He looked confused and I asked him if I could help. He looked up and was clearly relieved. He was from Houston, Texas, he told me, and he was visiting his daughter. She was at work that afternoon and he wanted to take the opportunity to buy her a present before she got back, but he wasn't accustomed to driving in L.A. and he got all turned around. His daughter lived near the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and he needed to find his way back.

I was familiar with that area so I gave him some directions:

"When you drive out of the mall, turn left and get into the far right lane. You need to get on the 10 freeway and the on-ramp will be on your right. Go about two blocks and you will see a sign that says 10W right after you cross under the bridge. Once you are on the freeway, look out for the exit for La Brea Avenue. Get off at that off-ramp and you will be heading north on La Brea. Go straight up La Brea, past Venice Boulevard, and keep your eyes out for Wilshire Boulevard. If you get to Beverly Boulevard, you've gone too far. A good landmark to look for is the big Samsung sign on the corner, at the intersection of La Brea and Wilshire, atop an office building. Make a left on Wilshire, going west. Go about six blocks and you'll see the museum on the right-hand side."

The man said that he knew his way from the museum and thanked me for the directions.

I was glad I could help. I don't envy anyone who has to drive the freeways in L.A. It's not for the faint of heart!

[end of story]

Today we’re giving driving directions to someone who is lost, driving here in Los Angeles, and I talk a lot about driving here in Los Angeles because everyone has a car and everyone drives. There is not very good public transportation in this city. Other cities like New York or Chicago, even San Francisco have better public transportation than Los Angeles but here in Los Angeles, we spend a lot of time in our cars.

I started the story by saying that I was “getting into my car” at the mall. “To get into your car” means to enter your car, to open the door and sit down and close the door. I said I was getting into my car at the mall or the shopping center and I noticed a man standing nearby with a map. “To be standing nearby” means to be standing close to you, in the area that is close to you. If we use the word “nearby,” we mean it’s in the area around us. If we use the word “near” then we usually have to say what it is near to, so, for example, “The man was standing near the door.” You would not say, “The man is standing near.” You have to say “near” where. You have to say where he is or she is near to but if you say “nearby” then you don’t need to do that. It just means “in the general area.”

The man looked confused and I asked if I could help. “He looked up,” meaning he raised his head and looked at me. He looked up and was “clearly relieved.” “To be relieved” means that you feel calm because someone has solved a problem for you, or feeling anxious or stressed and now you feel relaxed. The man then was relieved – he was “clearly relieved” (clearly), which is an adverb here that means he was obviously relieved. I could tell immediately. That word – that adverb, “clearly,” we use a lot to mean very obviously, you can tell right away. You could say, “The woman was clearly a model because she was beautiful.” A “model,” of course, is someone who is very beautiful and wears clothes that companies are trying to sell. Anyway, there were no models in the story.

The man was lost and he said he was from Texas, Houston, Texas, which is of course one of the many large cities in Texas – the state of Texas. He was visiting his daughter and he wanted to take the opportunity to buy her a present before she got back. “To take the opportunity” means to take advantage of the time or the situation. “Let me take this opportunity to thank you for being there” means let me take advantage of the fact that I am talking to you now, to thank you. Here, the man took the opportunity to “buy a present,” meaning he had some time and now he was able to take advantage of it. The woman – or the man was going to buy a present or a gift for his daughter “before she got back,” meaning before she returned back to her house.

The man wasn’t “accustomed” to driving in L.A. “To be accustomed to” means to be used to, to be familiar with. And because of that he got all “turned around.” “To be turned around” means to be lost. You’re driving, you take a right on one street, you take a left on another street and you get “all turned around,” you get lost. He needed to “find his way back.” “To find his way back” means to find out how to return to the place where he left. I gave him some driving directions. I told him, “When you drive out of the mall, turn left and get into the far right lane.” “To drive out of,” here means to leave, to exit. “When you drive out of the mall, turn left and “get into the far right lane.” A “lane” is a part of a road. Usually, if it’s a regular street, there are two lanes, one for each direction. In a freeway – on a freeway, particularly in Los Angeles, you usually have two, three, sometimes five or six lanes. Here in L.A, many of the freeways have four, five, six different lanes going in each direction. Well, I advised or told the man to “get into” -- and that’s the verb we would use, “get into the lane” – means go over to that lane, and this was the “far right lane,” meaning the lane that was farthest to the right. The opposite, of course, would be the “far left lane.” In the United States, the “far right” – I’m sorry, the “far left lane” is usually the lane where if you want to drive faster. If you want to pass or go in front of another car, you get into the “far left lane,” and if you get into the “far left lane” and you don’t drive fast, you will have many angry drivers behind you.

I told the man to “get on the 10 freeway and the on-ramp will be on your right.” As you probably know, in the United States, we have a national freeway system and these freeways all have numbers. The freeways that go east to west are even numbers and those that go north to south are odd numbers, so Highway 5 goes north to south and Highway 10 goes east to west. Highway 10 is the major, important highway – freeway that goes from the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, so it cuts across the entire country and it begins here in Los Angeles. The “on-ramp” (on ramp) is where you get on a freeway. A “ramp” is usually something that goes up or goes down. Freeways are usually above or below the level of the rest of the area around them, in a city in particular, so you either go on a – you get on an on-ramp, you’re either going to go up or you’re going to go down. In order to find the on-ramp, I tell the man to go two blocks and he will see “a sign that says 10W right after you cross under the bridge.” “To go two blocks” means, of course, to drive two blocks, a “block” being the distance between two streets. I said, “Go two blocks and you will see a sign that says 10W,” and “W” here stands for 10 “West.” “Right after you cross under the bridge,” meaning as soon as you cross under or go underneath the bridge, you will see the sign. That expression, “right after,” means immediately after something.

After he gets on the freeway, I tell the man to look for the “exit” for La Brea Avenue. The “exit” (exit) is where you leave the freeway, so he looks for the exit for this street or avenue called “La Brea,” a big avenue here in Los Angeles. I tell the man to “get off at the off-ramp” and he will be “heading north on La Brea.” The expression, “to get off in a freeway,” means to leave, to exit. You normally “get off at an exit” and the “off-ramp” (off ramp) is the ramp that takes you off the freeway and onto the city street, what we would probably call here in Los Angeles, a “surface street.” “Surface streets” are everything but the freeway. The man is told to “head north.” “To head north” means to go north, to go in the direction of north. I tell him to go straight up La Brea, past Venice Boulevard. “To go straight” means you don’t turn, you don’t go left, you don’t go right. We often use the expression “ to go up a street” or “to go down a street.” Sometimes when we say “go up,” we mean north, or “go down,” we mean south, but people use those expressions often without referring to a particular direction, north, south, east or west. I could’ve said, “Go down La Brea,” and that would’ve been understood to mean the same as, “Go up La Brea,” but occasionally you want to distinguish and people will use “go up” to mean go north.

I said to go “past” Venice Boulevard.” “To go past” (past) means that you’re going to drive beyond it. You’re going to drive past it. You’re not going to stop there. I tell him to “keep your eye out” for Wilshire Boulevard. “To keep your eye out” means to be watching carefully for. We usually use that expression when something is going to happen very soon, and in this case, I tell him to “keep his eye out” for this particular street or boulevard. Wilshire Boulevard again, a major, important street in Los Angeles, goes east, west.

I tell him if he gets to Beverly Boulevard, “You’ve gone too far,” meaning you’ve driven too far, you have to turn around and go back, return to where you were. A “good landmark,” I said, is a sign at the corner, the intersection of La Brea and Wilshire. A “landmark” (landmark), all one word, is a sign or a building or something that helps you find a place, something that is very noticeable, that you can see very easily, so, for example, a landmark could be a building. It could be a sign. It could be anything that helps you find where you are. “You know you have arrived at Wilshire Boulevard if you see the bank.” Well, the bank is a “landmark.” It tells you -- it helps you figure out where you are. That’s how we’re using it here. I tell him to look for the big “Samsung” sign, and “Samsung” is a name of a Korean electronics manufacturer – company, at the intersection. “The intersection,” all one word (intersection), is where two streets cross, a north-south crosses an east-west. That’s an intersection.

The “intersection” – the sign at the intersection is - I say, is “atop an office building” (atop) – means it’s on top off – just another way to say on top of, “atop.” I tell him to “make a left,” that is to say, “to turn left.” You can say “make a left.” You can say, “Go left.” You can say “Turn left.” They all mean the same. And you should “go about six blocks,” in other words, drive about six blocks, and “you’ll see the museum on the right-hand side.” The “right-hand side,” of course, is the side to his right. We could’ve just said, “You’ll see the museum on your right,” and here we say – it means the same as “You’ll see the museum on the right-hand side.” The man said he knew his way from the museum and thanked me. To say “you know your way” means you know how to get there. You don’t need more directions.

I ended the story by saying, “I don’t envy the man.” “To envy someone” means to want what they have. I say, “I don’t envy him” because driving in L.A is “not for the faint of heart.” “The faint (faint) of heart (heart)” means for those who don’t have courage, for those who are weak. If you are “faint of heart,” you are not very strong, you don’t have a lot of courage.

Now let’s listen to the story this time at native rate of speech.

[start of story]

I was getting into my car at the mall when I noticed a man standing nearby with a map. He looked confused and I asked him if I could help. He looked up and was clearly relieved. He was from Houston, Texas, he told me, and he was visiting his daughter. She was at work that afternoon and he wanted to take the opportunity to buy her a present before she got back. But, he wasn't accustomed to driving in L.A. and he got all turned around. His daughter lived near the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and he needed to find his way back.

I was familiar with that area so I gave him some directions:

"When you drive out of the mall, turn left and get into the far right lane. You need to get on the 10 freeway and the on-ramp will be on your right. Go about two blocks and you will see a sign that says 10W right after you cross under the bridge. Once you are on the freeway, look out for the exit for La Brea Avenue. Get off at that off-ramp and you will be heading north on La Brea. Go straight up La Brea, past Venice Boulevard, and keep your eyes out for Wilshire Boulevard. If you get to Beverly Boulevard, you've gone too far. A good landmark to look for is the big Samsung sign on the corner, at the intersection of La Brea and Wilshire atop an office building. Make a left on Wilshire, going west. Go about six blocks and you'll see the museum on the right-hand side."

The man said that he knew his way from the museum and thanked me for the directions.

I was glad I could help. I don't envy anyone who has to drive the freeways in L.A. It's not for the faint of heart!

[end of story]

That’s all we have time for today. I’m Jeff McQuillan from Los Angeles, California. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time on ESL Podcast.

ESL Podcast is a production of the Center for Educational Development in Los Angeles, California. This podcast is copyright 2005. No part of this podcast may be sold or redistributed without the expressed written permission of the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
nearby – near to the location of something or someone; close to where one stands

* When Charles went to look for a book at the library, the librarian said she would be nearby if he needed any help.


relieved – calm after being worried or anxious; happy because one has a solution or fix to one’s fears and worries

* Rosalie thought she had lost her car key and would not be able to get into her car, but was relieved when she found it.


to take the opportunity – to use a situation to do an action that one wants to do when that action is not the reason for the situation; to use a situation or event to do an action that one is not usually able to do

* When Alejandro went to the store to buy bread, he took the opportunity to buy some candy that he had not eaten for a long time.


accustomed to – used to; familiar with; knowing how to do something because it is something one does often

* Shawanda is accustomed to taking long walks after dinner, and she isn’t able to sleep well when she can’t go.


turned around – lost while trying to travel somewhere and unable to find the right path; not knowing which direction is the correct one

* Josiah did not look at the map on his way to his grandparents’ house, so he got turned around and started driving in the wrong direction.


lane – one of multiple paths on a road; one section or pathway of a road that has multiple pathways moving in the same direction

* Nikita moved her car into the right lane to allow an impatient driver to pass her.


on-ramp – a small portion or part of road cars use to move onto a freeway or highway

* Traffic was bad today and the on-ramp was crowded with cars that were trying to get onto the freeway.


block – an area surrounded by four streets, two north-south streets and two east-west streets

* Marshall wants to visit his friend who lives two blocks away, but he needs to travel by himself across two busy roads to get there.


to cross – to pass; to move over or under something, like a street or bridge

* The store was on the other side of the street, so Roxie needed to cross the street to get there.


exit – a sign marked by a name or a number that guides drivers off the freeway and onto a street or road

* Gonzalo needed to drive off the freeway at exit 271 to get to his aunt’s house.


off-ramp – a small section or part of road where cars exit a freeway or highway and enter onto a street or road

* Mary slowed down when she started driving on the off-ramp because the speed limit of the street she was approaching was only 30 miles per hour.


to head – to move in a certain direction; to move toward a certain place

* To get to the park, Theo needed to head south down the road and then take a left turn.


to keep (one's) eye out – to watch for; to look for a certain item, place, or person

* Carrie planned to meet her cousin and was keeping her eye out for her cousin’s car.


landmark – a place or feature that is easy to remember and often used as a guide

* The large billboard is the only one in the area and many people use it as a landmark to guide visitors.


intersection – the place where two roads cross; a place where multiple streets meet

* Ken stopped his car at the intersection and waited for cars from the other road to drive by before continuing.


to envy – to be jealous of; to wish that one was in the same situation that someone else is in

* Vicki envied her sister because her sister was traveling to Australia, and Vickie wanted to go but could not.


faint of heart – describing someone who is weak or timid; describing someone who is easily scared or upset by difficult situations and events

* The roller coaster was not for the faint of heart because it moved very fast.

Culture Note
Traffic Cameras

If you drive in Los Angeles, be ready to have your picture taken. As of September 2008, at about 175 “intersections” (places where two streets cross) in the Los Angeles area, you will find cameras ready to take your picture if you break the law.

The idea behind the traffic cameras, the government says, is to “reduce” (lower) the number of “collisions” (when two things, usually cars, hit each other violently) when people “run a red light,” which is when drivers continue driving after the traffic light has already turned red, telling them to stop. When drivers run red lights, they can cause head-on collisions, where the two cars’ front ends hit each other, or one car can “side-swipe” another, which is when one car hits the side of another car. The “rationale” (explanation; reasoning) for using these cameras is that they will make driving safer.

If a driver breaks a traffic law in one of these intersections, the camera takes a picture of the car showing the license plate and perhaps of the driver, and a copy of that picture is mailed to the driver with the ticket.

However, many unhappy drivers say that the real reason for the cameras is to increase “revenue” (earnings; money that is received) for the city. As of 2008, a ticket costs about $175 for illegal right turns and about $400 for running a red light. About 80% of the tickets are for illegal right turns. In the U.S., drivers can make legal right turns even when the light is red if no cars are coming if they first make a full and complete stop. Those who don’t make a complete stop can get a $175 ticket. Some people say that not making a full stop is not really unsafe and allowing tickets for this minor “offense” (breaking of the law) is just the city’s way of making more money.