When her doorbell rang at 4:30 in the morning on March 28, Camile Collins was getting ready to leave for her daily commute from Lake Elsinore in Riverside County to Westwood. It is, by any measure, a miserable drive, taking up to three hours — assuming there’s no accident or other disruption to slow things down — to cover the nearly 90 miles.
“Congratulations!” the young woman in the blue polo shirt on Collins’s doorstep told her. “You have the worst commute in So Cal!” Collins threw back her head and laughed as the woman, a representative from Honda, handed her an enormous trophy. “That’s awesome!” Collins said. “I mean, it sucks, but thank you.”
What otherwise might have been just another day for Collins spent slogging along multiple freeways through three counties to reach her job as a UCLA Health emergency management specialist turned out to be something entirely different. Collins had been selected in a Honda promotion to receive a new car to replace the beaten-up “road warrior” with more than 173,000 miles on the odometer that she’d been driving.
Collins began working at UCLA in January, leaving her job of 16 years at a hospital in Corona to “come here to work with the best of the best.” But it soon became clear that the transition would not be easy.
“The first day, I was like, ‘Ah, this drive’s not that bad. I can handle this,’” Collins says in a video Honda produced of her first drive in her new car. “The second day, I was like, ‘Ok, this semi won’t get off my tailgate. This is horrible. Day three, it took me four hours to get home, and I cried, I’d say, 75 percent of the way, and I was just like, ‘I quit!’ I planned my two-week notice in my head.”
All that has now changed. “I’ve had so much less stress on the drive,” she says. “I’m not worried or stressed out about my car stalling on the freeway or breaking down or leaving me stranded.”
And it will get even better once she receives her stickers to drive in the carpool lane. “I’m going to princess wave everyone stuck in traffic as I go by,” she says.