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Existential Crises in L.A.

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 3:19 am - March 3, 2006.
Filed under: LA Stories

Perhaps the most frequent jokes about LA involve our car culture. I often point out that in LA, if you’re traveling some place that’s only one block away, it’s okay to walk, but if it’s any further, you’re pretty much expected to drive. We drive everywhere. I’ve even known people to drive 3 or 4 blocks (and have to admit that I have even driven to a Starbucks within walking distance (as defined by non-Angelenos) of my place). When my Dad was here recently, his hotel told him it was too far to walk to a restaurant that was fewer than four blocks away. Steve Martin makes delicious fun of this in his brilliant movie L.A. Story where his Harris K. Telemacher drives to his next door neighbor’s house.

So, it’s kind of an existential crisis in this town when something happens to your car. And today (Thursday), after returning from three days classes and setting off to run a whole mess of errands, my car, Mary Anne II (named for the great George Eliot) refused to start after I had stopped briefly at the ATM. The guy from AAA came soon enough, gave her a jump and she sounded good as new, but he thought that since she had started fine just moments before, I might want to have someone look at the battery.

Terribly nervous that Mary Anne would conk out in traffic as I drove to the dealership (where I needed to schedule some maintenance anyway), I imagined the nightmare if I couldn’t start her again right at some intersection. I could just hear the angry Angelenos cursing me, beeping their horns — or worse.

Well, I made it to the dealership and the estimate wasn’t as bad as I feared. As I waited for the guy from Enterprise to pick me up and looked over the list of errands I could not complete today, I suddenly realized that it wasn’t as bad as it had seemed earlier. I had been in a decent parking lot when the car wouldn’t start; I could get the errands done on Friday (and over the weekend); the guy from AAA came quickly and told me that AAA would probably pay for a one-day car rental; the car didn’t die in traffic. And then, the battery “decided” to go out today instead of yesterday when I was driving a friend from school to the airport. Mary Anne held out long enough so that I could get him there on time to meet his flight and return home to his wife and kids.

Whenever something happens to our cars in LA, we always fear the worst because here we are so dependent on the automobile. And yet, it does seem that more often that not, even in such crises, things do work out in the end. Even when some moron decides to block traffic in a parking lot while he waits for a driver taking their time pulling out from a prime parking space — when the numskull could drive just 20 feet further (where there is ample parking) which would him require to walk a mere 12 extra paces to get to the store. Or when some ditz who has not activated her turn signal just stops in the middle of a busy intersection (right in front of you), waiting to make a turn (which you didn’t know about because she didn’t signal) and preventing you from profiting from the green light (because all of a sudden, all these cars that weren’t there previously just materialize in the right lane forcing you to wait ever longer). Had this airhead bothered to activate her turn signal when she was supposed to, you could have changed lanes and been well on your way. But, it was more important to talk to her friend Suzie on her cell phone about what shade of blue eyeshadow would make her look sensual but not slutty than to concern herself with others on the road.

I thought I was trying to end on a positive note, but then I ended up writing about driving in LA. Oh well. As Emily Litella used to say, “Never mind.”

-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest):



  1. Mwuh-huh-huh-ha-ha! The first test of the Ignition Disabler Beam is a complete success!! Soon, I will control the world. Mwuh-huh-huh-ha-ha!

    Comment by Karl Rove — March 3, 2006 @ 7:23 am - March 3, 2006

  2. Your post is precisely the reason why I try to avoid the Valley at all costs. If I do end up having to enter that pit of despair, I pray constantly for Divine Providence to deliver me from that hell before I finally end up killing a few idiots. I can’t explain it, but Valley drivers seem to trigger in me some vampire-caught-out-in-the-sun phenomenon.

    And by the way, Dan…

    “my car, Mary Anne II (named for the great George Eliot)”

    That is the gayest thing I’ve ever heard. 🙂

    Eric in Hollywood

    Comment by HollywoodNeoCon — March 3, 2006 @ 9:54 am - March 3, 2006

  3. “LA is a great big freeway… Put a hundred down and buy a car…”

    I never really listened to the words of that song before (DYK The Way To SJ) but did recently. It is such a slam on LA! It’s topical and dated, at the same time. I love the reference to getting a car for $100 (it was the 1960s, remember). I also love the reference to San Jose having “lots of space” – hah hah, were things different back then 🙂

    Comment by Calarato — March 3, 2006 @ 12:25 pm - March 3, 2006

  4. Dan, the way my week has gone I really enjoyed your light-hearted break from the normally heavy topics here.

    I got a kick out of the people you decribe as driving short distances they could (and probably should) walk. I used to live on the side of a bluff overlooking the Missouri River. Our best friends built their house downslope next door to us on our left; we were close enough we shared an entrance to our driveways. They then built a new house behind us on top of the bluff. Our backyards joined and the houses were only 270 feet apart but it was a steep climb through heavy brush in my upper backyard. Because their house now faced a different street, we drove the equivalent of nine city blocks to visit “next door”.

    I can imagine your nerves, driving Mary Anne to the dealer. I have a phobia about stalling in heavy traffic — based on experiences. When I was a kid I went with my mother to pick up our brand new 1959 Plymouth Fury. One mile from the dealership, with just nine miles on the speedometer, the car broke down in front of the driveway of Omaha’s main fire station. A couple of years later I was driving a dear friend’s year-old Rolls Royce. While running an errand in a store, a snall crowd of admirers gathered around the jet black RR in the parking lot. I was very smug as I walked up, unlocked the door and got in. The damn thing wouldn’t start. (In those days, a very polite and proper Brit in a black suit and black derby arrived from England 30 hours later to make the repairs.) A few years later, when I was fortunate to be able to trade cars every fall, I biught my second-straight big, comfortable Buick Electra. A week later we drove from Omaha to Los Angeles for a college football game and back without a bit of trouble. Back in Omaha, however, whenever it was driven for 20-30 minutes it would not start again for anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. It took the dealer months of fixes to finally find the real problem.

    The worse experience happened one December, when Omaha went 20 some days when the high temperature never got above 20 below. I don’t know whether the cold was a factor or whether it was just a lemon part. I had a six-month-old Cadillac Seville (and I mention that only because it added so much to my embarrassment). Anyway, my generator went bad and I was enroute to my regular mechanic when I started losing power to accessories. I shut down everything but it was too late and the car stopped cold on a main drag, right in the middle of the turn lane into a busy McDonald’s. It was 5 p.m., just as working moms started heading to the McDonald’s drive-thru to pick-up “dinner”. People don’t expect to see a new Caddy break down and other drivers were honking like hell. I got out and hid in a nearby donut shop until a friend could pick me up.

    Everyone of those mishaps took place in a fairly new car and you can imagine my phobia now that I’ve fallen on “less fortunate” times and am driving a car nearing “antique” status.

    Well, I’m sure all of this has been totally boring for all of you, but it sure felt good to talk trivia instead of bitching about James Earl Carter’s latest treasonous ego trip at the U.N.

    Comment by Jack Allen — March 4, 2006 @ 2:54 am - March 4, 2006

  5. Since we live five miles out of town, we don’t go anywhere that would qualify as a “short distance,” and we always drive.

    Comment by rightwingprof — March 4, 2006 @ 11:45 am - March 4, 2006

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