Cars 'n' Driving
L.A. Wants You Dead, Part 1:
In a city dominated by automobiles, you would think proper traffic signals would be at the forefront of city planning. Wrong! L.A. has maybe five protected-turn-signal-green-arrow-things for the entire city. If you are at a light and want to make a left hand turn, first, I pity you. Second, just go ahead and pull all the way into the middle of the damn intersection. Feels weird, I know. Third, wait for the light to change. Fourth, wait some more for all the people running the yellow light going the other way. Fifth, now that the light is red, and you're stranded in the middle of the intersection, gun it! Don't worry about a ticket, there's five people right behind you. This is how all left turns at lights are negotiated in L.A.
L.A. Wants You Dead, Part 2:
L.A. has crosswalks at every intersection with yer standard Walk/Don't Walk signs. But then there are sections of street with no intersections for oh, yards and yards, so L.A. made some completely unprotected crosswalks! The lines are painted on the asphalt, a yellow sign clearly warns drivers that this is indeed a crosswalk, here, on a stretch of road where cars could finally build up some speed away from those pesky stoplights. So how does it work, you ask? Basically, the honor system, you hapless chump. You, the trusting pedestrian are just supposed to waltz across the road at any time, and oncoming traffic is just supposed to see you and stop. Personally, I believe it's a darwinian plot to kill off the elderly, tourists and any one dumb enough not to walk farther down to a stoplight and a real crosswalk.
Are everywhere here, not just downtown and at the airport like in normal cities. For the love of God if you are trying to do some tricky automotive manuever and a taxi is involved, don't! Let the taxi win! That is your ticket to survival. The taxis here are very aggressive drivers, don't try to cut them off, pull out in front of them or assume they'll let you in. It's not their car, they don't care! Swallow your pride, and let the taxi win, trust me.
Some run on methane. Some don't. Try not to get stuck behind one that don't with your windows down. A snootful of that is like an exhaust espresso. Concentrated. Much more delightful (if surreal) is walking down the street and getting a whiff of the Elmer's glue smell that inexplicably comes from the methane buses.
The Thomas Guide:
This book-thick map of L.A. is indispensable; a real life-saver. It would stop a bullet if you were able to heave it up in front of one in time, which is tragically, unlikely. Your best bet? A suit made entirely of Thomas guides- you'll never have to worry about bullets or getting lost. Just falling over.
Earthquakes, riots, crime, fires, mudslides, cults and plentiful dog turds- none of these are good reasons to NOT come to L.A. But if you can't parallel park, then don't move here. I already busted a tire scraping curbs in my first month. Eternal vigilance or nerdy curb feelers is/are the price of freedom.
The Infamous L.A. Freeways:
Fear not, my friend, their evils have been greatly exaggerated. One assumes from what one hears that the freeways are full of gun-toting trigger-happy maniacs trying to kill you. Nonsense. The L.A. freeways are full of gun-toting trigger-happy maniacs trying to GET SOMEWHERE IN A HURRY. Trying to aim and fire a gun whilst driving might make them miss their exit, so mainly, just stay out of their way. Besides, all incompetent, dangerous maniac drivers have been weeded out via a messy form of automotive evolution, so only highly skilled, dangerous maniac drivers are left on the road. The biggest problem facing you on an L.A. freeway is the traffic stopping dead, and here's the interesting part, FOR NO GOOD REASON. You'll inch along, assuming in your foolish, non-Los Anglean way that an 18-wheeler jackknife or burned-out Aerostar chock full of corpses is just around the bend. But you, my friend, would be wrong. You'll inch along for 20 minutes, then suddenly, FOR NO GOOD REASON, the traffic will pick up and start moving again. Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.
It's a car buff's wonderland here, as every make and model under the sun stays under the sun, not getting rusty, but instead lovingly restored by rich idiots. Or for the movies, which is more rich idiots, really. Jason keeps risking whiplash to crane his neck around to see all the obscuromobiles going by, but the best car we've seen is the one we like to call "the Shitty Ferrari." It's an ordinary, wedge shaped, high performance rich idiot sports car Ferrari that's beat all to hell, totally primer gray and may or may not have a coat hanger for an antenna. It's a wonderful sight and I hope it's not just a piece of performance art.
Another interesting vehicle is one we nicknamed "the van with stuff written all over it." Owned by an apparently insane person who lives in it, this ordinary U.S. made, late model van was been spray-painted white with text spray-painted on all 3 sides, possibly the roof too for all we know, we're not tall. What's written on it changed on a surprisingly regular basis, as the owner frequently repainted it, but it's all crazy. The passage we chanced to read declared that when a certain time capsule in L.A. is opened, George Washington will come back from the dead to once again rule this country. Unfortunately, some time ago my friend reported he saw the van and all it said was "That's All, Folks!" And we haven't seen it since.
Being around so many cars, they don't impress you anymore. You recognize them for what they are: bloody nuisances. Fat ass SUVs lumber obliviously in your way. Pricey sports cars dart dangerously in and around traffic. HumVees waddle down the street barely fitting in the lane. Stretch limos desperately try to turn onto narrow streets full of parallel parked cars. Motorcycles do a lot less pretending they're tiny two wheeled cars and roar down the center line. A fifties tailfinned beauty is just another dinosaur that forgot to die. Jaded. Yup, I'm down on the whole "car" thing now that I'm into staplers.
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