These days I do most of my online writing with The Undeniables. I often find myself writing about Los Angeles. Thought I'd share something here that I wrote recently:
A City Of Amateurs
The driver looked at her in the rearview mirror. “So where are you from?”
“Los Angeles,” she said. On yet another business trip to New York, Taylor prepared herself for the typical New Yorker critique of her home town. She heard the same complaints about LA being glitzy, superficial, and materialistic over and over again throughout her travels, and she prepared herself to defend the city yet again. There were parts of LA that few outsiders understood, and some inhabitants never found.
“Ah, LA.” The driver sighed.
Here it comes, Taylor thought.
“Kinda miss it. When you think about it, people trust each other a lot out there.”
Slightly bewildered, Taylor asked “What do you mean?”
“Well out here most people leave the driving to the pros, like me. To the delivery guys and whatnot. All their trust is in the trained people and the–well, the train operators. Out there in LA, people get into cars every single day and everyone has some degree of faith in the skills of the other drivers. I mean when you think about it, it’s 90% amateurs operating two-ton or heavier machines to get all over the city.”
“I’ve lived there all my life and never thought about it exactly that way,” Taylor said, “but you’re right. That is a lot of trust.”
“I think about going back sometimes, but the taxi franchises out there are killer. Maybe in a couple of years the LA Taxi Workers Alliance will get somewhere and I’ll give the city another go.” The cab came to a slow halt. “Here we are. $7.60.”
Taylor handed him a ten. “Thanks. It was good talking to you. Maybe I’ll get this cab again sometime.”
He smiled, “Yeah, maybe. Maybe in LA.” And he winked.
Written 23 November 2009.
My life currently has me spending time in East LA, the South Bay, West LA, and Long Beach, with some Orange County and West Hollywood thrown in from time to time.
This means I drive. A lot.
Driving is so much a part of our lives in Southern California that we don't think much of it. It's not a big deal to have a license. It was while driving that I realized how much trust we have on the road. Of course, we're always on guard in case something goes wrong, but for the most part, we have to trust (to some extent) that the people in the cars around us know how to drive properly, or none of us would ever get on the road.
I wonder what that says about us, and the Southern Californian mentality, that we trust each other to get in our cars and generally not do anything crazy. That day in and day out, we drive miles and miles to get to where we need to go with some degree of faith that the dozens or even hundreds of other cars aren't going to kill us (though we do worry about it).
It's kind of amazing.