I Can’t Drive 55! (or at all) – [California Seething]
Recently, the Expo Line opened from Downtown LA to Culver City. In the next few years, this new subway line will be extended all the way to the beach in Santa Monica. This is a very exciting development. Finally, 21st Century Los Angeles will have a mass transit system that can compete with 19th Century London’s.
Just think of all the thousands of underprivileged Angelinos living in blighted neighborhoods without cars who soon will have affordable and convenient access to upscale, safe and fashionable neighborhoods where they aren’t wanted unless they’re bagging groceries at Whole Foods. And think of all the yoga-matt-and-Prius moms who’ll have to twist themselves up into pretzels trying to explain why they don’t like poor people in their neighborhoods without sounding like a bunch of cross-burning racists (I just looove Lululemon’s new Swastika line.) Look at the bright side moms – the faster your nanny can get to you by subway – the faster you can get out to Breadbar to discuss The Help at book club.
Mind you, this was not always the case. LA History buffs love to bring up the fact that, back in the 40s this city was criss-crossed by street-cars and had one of the finest public transportation systems in the country. This is very helpful information for me to know, since I’m often looking for faster ways commute downtown by using a streetcar and a fucking time-machine.
Unfortunately, in the 1950s the streetcar lines were all torn out by GM and Standard Oil so they could force consumers to use cars and buses instead. This just supports the Supreme Court’s contention that corporations are people because only people could be that greedy, corrupt, short-sighted and stupid. I mean, if corporations were dolphins we wouldn’t be in this fucking mess, because dolphins are innocent and adorable and loving and would never rip-up a perfectly good public transportation system just so they could make a few bucks by ruining the air quality and quality of life of the people of Los Angeles. Of course, they might do it for herring because dolphins, like Dutch people, are crackheads for herring (the Dutch are also crackheads for wooden shoes and drugs. The Dutch are weird.)
Anyhow, my point is that I live really close to an Expo Line stop, and, as a non-driver (or “putz” as they say in Yiddish) this could seriously improve my quality of life- which becomes very clear when you look at all the other transportation alternatives available to me in LA:
Taking the Bus
In New York City, normal people take the bus all the time. Hell, even well-heeled Upper East Side Joan Rivers types take the bus to the 92nd St Y, so they can shamelessly throw themselves at their closeted tennis instructors. In LA, though, this is not the case.
Taking the bus in Los Angeles is the supreme expression of personal failure. I mean, no one in LA has ever said “Just leave the Bentley at home, darling – we’ll take the bus to Spago!” No, if you’re taking the bus it’s because of some personal deficiency which is preventing you from driving. Either you’re too young, too poor, too drunk or too incompetent (like me!) to operate a motor vehicle.
Taking the bus is like going to the emergency room because you don’t have health insurance – first you think – oh my god, look at all these poor souls trapped in this horrible hell hole – how awful! and then you realize, Merry Christmas, loser, you’re one of them.
Suddenly, it becomes crystal clear that certain choices you’ve made in your life have not gone well at all – like quitting your cushy corporate day job to devote yourself full-time to writing your rock opera about the tragic downfall of Tawny Kitaen or doing those last three Jager shots “for the road” before your morning commute or, in my case, deciding not to learn to drive because “fuck that shit – I’m moving to New York after college! So long suckers!!!”
Riding the bus is a shocking reminder of just how pathetic you are in the eyes of the world – it’s what African kids must feel like when they see themselves on TV being offered up for adoption by Sally Struthers and they’re all like: “What the fuck, bitch? I’m fine. I was only licking those last grains of rice from my fingers and looking all sad and hungry cause you told me to, but I totally filled up on Snickers at the craft services table. If you want to adopt kids so bad, go get ‘em from Bulgaria and leave me to swat these flies in peace.”
What’s so bad about riding the bus in LA? Well the buses are dirty, crowded, poorly maintained and uncomfortable. That’s all fine, though. I would expect nothing less of any municipal bus system. Hell, if I got on a city bus and it was immaculate and luxurious, then I would probably freak the hell out and run screaming right out of Singapore (running screaming out of Singapore is punishable by death.)
No, the real problem with buses here is that they are, as Johnathan Safran Foer might say, Extremely Slow and Incredibly Late. And this is really less a function of the buses themselves than of the city they are in.
After all, great weather and terrible traffic are the “death and taxes” of life in Southern California. It’s why the local news here has the most boring weather reports (cloudy at the beach, sunny in the valley and hot in the dessert- YOU DON’T SAY) and the most exciting traffic reports in the country.
Cars slog their way through LA’s congested streets like blood cells through Paula Deen’s arteries. In a car, though, you have some control – you can take the freeway or take local streets, change up routes, take secret shortcuts or change lanes constantly like a total maniac trying to beat everybody to the light (well done, Mr. BMW Z4, you got to the red light one car ahead of me, I’m so glad you endangered my life to do that, so we can both fucking sit here WAITING FOR THE LIGHT TO TURN GREEN.)
In a bus, though, you are stuck in a slow moving vehicle, in the slowest lane on the most congested streets of the most congested city in America. And just when you think you’re making progress, just when you finally get through that intersection that’s been backed up for 45 minutes because it’s National Hey Let’s All Turn Left on Hoover and Totally Fuck Up Eric’s Ride Day and traffic is moving and you think that you’re actually going to make some goddamn progress, the bus has to STOP and pick up a whole fresh batch of new losers. At that point you’re not going anywhere until every last giggling teenager and dirty haired German backpacker has meandered up the bus steps, and Homeless Joe has crammed on his entire 401(k)’s worth of enormous bulging trash bags filled with bottles and cans on to the bus, and then argued with the driver for twenty minutes about the validity of his three day-old transfer. And if there’s a wheelchair – forget about it, you might as well just fucking turn around and go home except that, oh wait, you can’t turn around and go home because YOU’RE TRAPPED ON THE FUCKING BUS.
And by the time Homeless Joe and the German backpackers and the giggling teenagers and all the other SoCal untermenschen have boarded the bus, traffic is all backed up again and you’re going nowhere. Seriously, it’s like a circle of hell created by Dante to punish bad drivers in the afterlife (Oh, Mr BMW Z4, you’re gonna love the bus! Just wait til you’re stuck at Venice & Hoover for the rest of eternity (that’s how long it takes to turn left)!)
Pretty much the only thing that the bus system here does well, aside from serving as a deterrent for drunk drivers, is encouraging people to buy cars. This is, of course, exactly what GM and Standard Oil had in mind when they tore out the streetcars in the first place and shoved buses down our throats. In fact the motto of the original LA bus system was: “Oh, so you don’t want a car? Trust me, a couple of months on the bus, and your bitch ass’ll be begging us to sell you a Chevy.” And- hey – it worked! LA County now has more than 5 million cars on the road all of whom are trying to turn left right in front of my fucking bus while I’m going downtown PLUS the worst air quality in the nation. Go GM! I feel so much better about bailing you out now. Maybe you can return the favor and bail me out when I get lung cancer- oh wait, never mind- that’s socialism.
Riding a Bike
Riding a bike is a great way to get around town! It’s healthy, invigorating, fun and environmentally friendly to boot. I can’t imagine life without my bike and pity the poor saps who are trapped in their cars while I whiz by them on my trusty bicycle. I love my bike!
If you hear me making any of the above statements, please kill me immediately since I have clearly been replaced by a pod person or a robot. Other statements to watch out for are:
“H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks- I just stubbed my toe. By golly that smarts!”
“Mitt Romney is just the man we need to turn this country around”
“Tim Tebow is just the man we need to turn the Jets around”
“Kobe Bryant ISN’T a homophobic rapist who should choke to death on a cub-scout’s dick.”
Of course, if you happen to like this bike-riding, non-swearing, Tebow-loving Eric, I suppose I can’t blame you. I kind of like him better myself.
Seriously, though, I know that riding a bike is supposed to be good for the earth, but when I think about all the petro-chemicals used to make Spandex, I’m convinced the earth would be better off if bikers drove Range Rovers instead (and better looking). Plus, I don’t think any of my co-workers would want to be around me if I rode my bike into work.
I mean, eating a hot-dog is like Bikram yoga for me, so I can only imagine what a sodden, repulsive mess I would be if I commuted by bike. Talk about toxic emissions! I could melt glaciers with the smell coming out of my armpits.
Seriously, if I wanted to ride a bike to work, I’d get a fucking paper-route, or move to Holland where they love bikes, wooden shoes, drugs and herring and, honestly, as much as I love drugs and herring, there’s no way I’m putting on wooden shoes or riding a bike everywhere like some freaky Dutch weirdo in spandex.
I am one of the few Angelinos lucky enough to live walking distance from their primary worksite. I often brag about this and tell people how amazing it is – usually, right before asking them if they would be willing to give me a ride home from work because I’m too fucking lazy to walk.
Begging for Rides
If you’ve never given me a ride home from somewhere, there are only four possible explanations:
- We’ve never met
- You don’t have a car
- I already had a ride lined up with somebody else
- I was already home
I am one of the world’s greatest ride-whores. I have logged more miles in the passenger seat than any non-hitchhiker in history. I once got a ride from Northhampton, MA to Albany, NY via Seattle, Tijuana, Las Vegas and Graceland. There are a few secrets to my remarkable success as a transpo-ho- namely:
- I have absolutely no sense of shame. Really. I am sitting here writing this while wearing a 14 year old purple t-shirt with giant holes in the armpits and a pair of shorts so loose that they fall down around my ankles every time I stand up which reveals the disintegrating boxer shorts with pictures of fish on them that I am wearing underneath – and I’m actually telling you about it! Now, would somebody this totally and utterly shameless have any hesitation at all over asking a co-worker from out of town for a ride from Torrance to Venice Beach during rush hour, knowing full well that this person needs to then drive all the way back to Torrance after dropping me off? The answer is no. In fact, I have so little remorse that I’m actually bragging about it right now and still giggling about it, even though this was over eight years ago and the poor schmuck who drove me is still stuck in traffic on the 405 South around Rosecrans.
- I’m very good at making random small-talk. When somebody gives me a ride, I like to pretend that I’m actually hosting a talk show where celebrities drive me around while I interview them about their latest projects. This puts me in the right frame of mind to ask the driver all sorts of questions about their life, what they’re working on, etc and to be absolutely fascinated by their responses, no matter how mundane. Also, it puts me in the frame of mind to be agreeable and not to start screaming at the driver, no matter how idiotic the opinion he expresses. So – if you want to tell me all about how Obamacare is evil and just how you would deal with all them illegal immigrants if it was up to you to solve the problem (and thank fucking God it’s not) then I recommend that you tell me all about it while driving me home because then I’m a whole lot more likely to just nod and smile and say: “Well, I guess that’s one way to look at it” instead of screaming “Fascist Pig Die!” and rupturing your ear drums with my pinky, so you can never ever listen to Rush Limbaugh again. Trust me, I’d be saving you from yourself. Even Rush had to go deaf so that he could stand being around himself when the painkillers weren’t enough to keep him numb any more.
- Charm and manipulation. Yeah, I’m charming- you got a fucking problem with that? I’ve got charm and charisma coming out of my ass. I’m like Cary Motherfucking Grant in To Catch a Fucking Thief. I’m so goddamn charming. Seriously, you guys, it’s alarming how charming I feel. Plus, I’m willing to unabashedly manipulate any situation so it just happens to work out that I get a ride home – case in point: “Hey, I know where we can go for a drink – it’s a great little bar right next to my house.” Or “hey, who’s hungry? Let’s go grab a bite really close to my house.” Is this behavior disgraceful? Yes. But since I have no sense of shame, I’m incapable of disgrace- huzzah!
So, as you can see, taking the train represents a significant improvement not only to my quality of life, but to the quality of life of those around me who drive me around. Of course, it takes almost as long to walk to the station from work as it does to walk home, so naturally I’ll need to get a ride there. Hey, I know, there’s a Fantastic Sam’s right next to the station – who wants to come get a haircut? We can make charming small talk on the way. I mean, seriously, what am I supposed to do- take the bus there? Do I look like some kind of loser? (the technical answer is “yes”.)
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