I promised I would think about your piece on driving & provide a thoughtful response. I’m not sure this fulfills that promise on all counts, but I will try. It will be easier to follow than an in-person cafe rant where I would also insert analogies featuring Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, & Dune if I thought I was losing you.
I’m not gonna lie to you: driving in LA does in fact suck. You are in no way wrong about that. I have imagined blowing my own brains out on the 5 more times than a cognitive behavioural therapist would consider prudent. It is this very point on which we agree that I will build my premise that you can be taught to enjoy driving, but I concede it will never happen here. Ever.
I will argue with your 7th graph down (if you count the one liners): trains did not tame the frontier. Neither did four door sedans.
One day, you, me, Sara & the dog should drive to Reno. We’ll act like we’re going to Vegas, so we can stop by this tin roof shack called The Still that serves hamburgers the size of actual steering wheels, & then head up to Reno. You will see the West was never tamed. By anything. Except the Air Force, kinda, if we drive between Vegas & Tonopah at night. Even going 85, we will see a light show & displays of military force for at least two hours out the passenger side.
You will, after Tonopah, be allowed to take the wheel. After we’ve had a meal served to us by a delightful meth addled teenager, taken pics outside the signs for the Clown Inn, & peed, you can have the wheel. I will put in the Dune soundtrack & you can drive the whole length of Walker Lake. I will not make fun of you if you yell “Father? The sleeper has awakened!” I’ll be rather disappointed if you don’t, truth be told.
You will fall in love with driving, unless we get stuck behind a caravan. Wait, you guys don’t call them that. What are they? Campers? RVs? Anyhow, you’ll get bold enough to pass that asshole going 90. Really.
Upon returning to LA, you will hate driving again, but you will have the memory.
I don’t judge you for not learning to drive until you were 38. You’re a New Yorker. At no point did you ever have any reason to operate a vehicle in NYC, just like my mum & I never needed one to get around London. Both of those cities were founded before the advent of cars, so they made do, building along old carriage lines.
LA cannot fathom a time before cars. Sadly, it never really planned for them, either. We’re dumped upon a desert/shoreline/mountain range which scoffs at travelers & mocks our desire to see shows on Sunset when we live in the Valley. “You pathetic bastards! I shall squeeze you into a bottleneck so tight you’ll wish steel had never been tempered & the Mongols had conquered the Earth because then you’d have a horse!” My own beloved church has mountains & Franklin between me & it. No one would wish that upon their worst enemy.
Don’t use the carbon footprint excuse, btw. Half of your friends won’t think you’re doing enough, & the other half will point out that you use an iPhone & a flush toilet, etc.
People do walk in LA. Another reason I hate driving here is the yoga/Pilates people who run across Ventura randomly when I am trying to get to work. It is more accurate to say people jaywalk in LA.
Your sister’s heinous car accident is a completely understandable reason to fear cars, period. I hated being a passenger. My father, a man of many flaws, had as one of them the propensity to truly believe he was the only person on the road. He made left turns on red, did 80 on streets with 40 clearly signposted, & made every freeway experience feel like that scene from Matrix: Reloaded. Yeah, that. How we never died is a mystery. This is partly why I believe in God.
Some of my earliest memories are of my mother gasping & saying “JOHN! We have plenty of time to get there. Oh, Jesus.”
So I have a hard time being a passenger. When I was 15, I relished getting my permit. It meant I didn’t have to be his passenger. It meant I could leave That House. And then I had a driving instructor from hell who made me flip a bitch in the middle of a Nevada highway embankment.
I tried to get my mum to cancel the driving classes. “Why? You were so excited.” Then her brow furrowed. “What did he do?” She called & gave em what for. Eventually she took me out to a dry lake bed & the Sam Boyd Silverdome parking lot to learn the driving basics. That helped a lot. Learning to drive in Nevada is fairly simple. I wish you could go back & have that experience, sans Taylor Swift & racism.
Pay no attention to an LA horn. They are usually deployed against someone obeying the law & hence preventing them from getting to their mani/pedi only 30 minutes late. The only time I deploy my horn is when someone is texting & fails to see the green light. I swerve around all the other disasters.
I loved driving for a long time. I could blast music & drive circles around town in college & deal with all my very dark feelings. To me the car was just a large, mobile stereo.
Now I have full blown fibromyalgia, & every trip costs me a little something of my life force. Navigating the curves & hills & morons of LA, the stop & go freeway traffic, & the endless search for parking withers me like a fly swatter to a faerie. If I had any money, I’d use BLS, like, all the time.
Maybe we can take turns going to Trader Joe’s. But honestly it’s just better to park at my place & walk. I’m a block from one, & sometimes a dude in the apartment complex next to TJ’s hangs a bag of donuts from a tree. It’s like he’s trying to catch Homer Simpson.