I am in LA for a few days for a little business and a little pleasure. The car is always at the center of LA life, and I have some notes about it from this trip:
1. Renting a car is ridiculously cheap here. I feel like I can never get one on the East Coast for less than 40 or 50 dollars a day, but here I am paying 7…yes, SEVEN.
2. Now having had time to compare Apple’s vs Google’s turn by turn map directions I can tell you that Google’s wins hands down. And not just because of the data being better and clearer (though it is), but also the f-ing annoying way Apple maps only gives you a half-second warning to make your turn where Google’s timing feels much more natural and helpful.
3. My eyesight at night has seemingly gotten worse, and I had a lot of trouble reading some of the street signs last night while driving. But then I also realized that much of the time, when we know a place, we don’t really need to make out the signs perfectly, just enough to jog our mind into filling in the rest. I am not sure that my eyesight was all that much better 7 years ago, it could have been that my brain was filling in the failings (hardware) with this spacial familiarity (software).
4. The dirty open secret of driving at night in LA is that way too many people drive drunk. They go out to bars and drink 3 or more cocktails, and hit the road because they feel they have no other option (like not drinking so much or calling a cab or taking public transport). I would love to know what the DUI stats are here, it is terrifying (a state level comparison shows 3 times the DUIs in CA compared to NY).
5. Many people have told me over the past few years that I seem to be a fairly calm and centered person to them, especially compared with myself years earlier. I realize after spending a couple of days in LA traffic that NOT driving in it has a strong calming effect on me. Paradoxically, living in New York City is much more of a tranquil experience for me than LA because of my freelance schedule (never really have to take subway at rush hour) and my ability to walk or subway or cab everywhere and not have to look for parking or zig or zag my vehicle, or get gas, or pay insurance or parking or speeding tickets, etc etc.
The car culture, in short, is at the center of all that is bad in LA, a city that has so much going for it in so many other ways.