Monday, May 24, 2004

A Very DC Night 

On friday night, Claire and I were driving in my car, trying to figure out how long her daily running route is, and I finally snapped. As we were heading west, near Treasury, we were trying to cross 15th street, but weren't able to. Why not? Well, every time the opposing traffic (one-way) would get a green light, they'd go until they'd get so backed up, that people who entered the intersection couldn't leave it, blocking our entire green light. Then their direction would get another green light, everyone would clear out, and the next group of asshats would cleverly do the same thing, probably thinking they were the first to do it. We sat there stuck like this for 3 or 4 rounds, growing increasingly pissed off.

Finally, some lady pulled this stunt and wound up right in front of us. I've always been taught never to honk at anyone, unless you want your head blown off. But as the front of our column, which was filling up with cabs and other poor victims, I finally lost it (I've been on the east coast too long). I leaned on the horn, unyieldingly. Now, supposedly this car has a super-strong horn. It was specially installed. In my mind, this thing was going to blow the windows off her car. It wasn't actually that loud, unfortunately. But it was constant and firm. This lady didn't turn her head at all, as maybe 30 to 45 seconds passed. Of course, she didn't abort into the totally empty lane on the right which would have forced her to turn right, as would have been proper punishment, but we somehow made it through that time.

Then, it started spattering little bits of rain. Within about 2 or 3 minutes, this had turned into the most intense rain. I discovered a new speed for my windshield wiper. It was almost impossible to see, and the streets seemed to already be covered in inches of water. This was unfortunate, since Claire had to run inside to her apartment to get some stuff, and she got soaked in just a few moments. She came back outside, covered in a rain jacket, and we went back to my place.

By the time we got back to my place, of course, the rain had basically let up.
Haha, reading this as a New Englander transplanted to So Cal I just had to laugh at the poor So Calie transplanted to the East coast. Sure, there are some tough parts in So Cal, like the amount of traffic and the road rage you allude to (is that still a problem? perhaps I shouldn't honk so much-- Well, I honk in San Diego, but not when in LA; I know better than that), but overall, from a strict New Englander point of view, Californian drivers are wimps.
I firmly maintain that Los Angeles drivers are some of the best in the world, and I’m from Northern California, a group specially bred to hate all things Los Angeles. Los Angeles county has about 10 million people in it, nearly one-third the population of all of California, and a seemingly formalized opposition to mass transit. LA isn’t like other big cities; it’s sprawling, enormous, and mostly evolved after the invention of the automobile: commuting by car is very much the norm for millions of people, every day.

I’ve driven in New England, and run into traffic congestion at the only stoplight in a town of 5,000 people. In Boston, I’ve watched drivers aggressively maneuver into cross-traffic, stopping all four lanes in both directions, only to have to backtrack because their boneheaded tactic didn’t yield any results (when you force everyone to stop, you can’t move either). Yet in Southern California, with their “soft” driving tactics, millions of people get to and from their destinations every day faster and with much less aggravation.

I hope someone has done some real studies on this, I’m sure there’s quite a game-theory paper to be written on cooperative driving habits. And it’s not to say that I haven’t come accross idiots driving in California, in fact I’d wager that the idiot driver quotient is about the same. I’d also wager that the average driver in LA, a city more dependent on driving than most, especially driving in traffic, is a better driver than the average for anyplace else.
I have conflicting opinions on how to drive-- East coast or West coast style. When I first started driving around DC with David I had two simultaneous responses. One, wow, what a safe, courteous driver. Two, what the hell is he doing? Why isn't he swerving out of the left lane into the right to pass this guy making a left turn at the light? What kind of driver's ed nerd attitude is going on here? When we went to LA and drove around in his native habitat, it all made sense. People follow a set of rules, so it makes sense to follow them too. If you wait your turn, people will let you go. Sadly, this is not the way it works in NE cities like Boston, my hometown. If you wait, you'll never get anywhere. Game theory does apply but drivers are responding to different given situations. In LA, people basically follow a set of rules, so if you follow them too, you'll get around efficiently. In Boston, if you follow the rules, you'll never get anywhere, so you too, must break the rules.
hey Claire... nice to "meet" you. Have you noticed a difference in the way people walk? In Boston, particularly on the T, you could get somewhere... people would walk fast. Here in San Diego, it's more like the walking dead; you can't get around them.
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