“In order to get across the street (in LA) you have to have been born there.”
–Martin Amis in Money
It’s been over a decade since I chucked my car and began getting around, most of the time, by putting one foot in front of the other. By now I should be used to the low priority, invisibility and outright abuse of pedestrians in the Golden State, but if anything, I’m becoming more outraged the more time passes. In ascending order of importance, then, here are the worst offenses committed by car owners.
- Drivers waving me on
This is a petty complaint, I know, but I can’t stand it when a driver stops at a corner, with or without a stop sign, as I’m about to cross, and magnanimously waves me on–as if my crossing the street is entirely up to him or her, and aren’t I the lucky benefactor of such kindness? In fact, according to CA law, if a pedestrian steps off the curb, traffic must cease until they’re safely across. It’s a right, not a privilege.
- Cracked and broken sidewalks
Sidewalk maintenance gets little attention in many cities, especially in the poorer neighborhoods. Even potholes, notoriously left unrepaired, are taken care of before sidewalks, since after all we don’t want our cars getting ruined on the road–and what kind of nutcase walks anyway? My first car-less year I tripped and fell four times; needless to say, I’ve become hyper-alert. Still, last winter’s rains took a heavy toll; one street I walk down regularly is so badly caved and crumbled that I have to step into the roadway, raising a hue and cry of honking. I’ve been told it’s the landowners who are responsible for their own sidewalks, not the city; I’ve been meaning to look into this.
- Dog shit
Why is it that the owners of the biggest baddest dogs are the ones who have yet to join civilization and clean up after their pets? Two lazy louts in my ‘hood are guilty of this, but I’ve never actually caught them in the act. When I come upon their infernal messes I hold my nose and circle past the sometimes steaming piles of poop. I’m closing in on one of these guys, though: I think I know where he and his dog-horse live. As soon as I’m certain I plan to file a report.
- Cars parked on sidewalks.
You have a ten-room house and a two-car garage, but you need even more, you greedy bastard! You park your car so it takes up all available sidewalk space. I cannot overstate my angry resentment of such people: all I want is a sliver of sidewalk! But no, here too I have to step out into traffic. Lately one of my neighbors has been making this a daily habit. I’m planning to write them a note–I will attempt to be polite. (Or not.)
- Running red lights
Now this is more than a mere annoyance. The Bay Area and SF have the highest percentage of red-light-runners in the country. Frequent headlines tell of children or adults murdered by impatient assholes who speed up instead of slowing down at the amber light. My son was hit by one of these heinous criminals many years ago, and he’s suffered TBI (traumatic brain injury) ever since. If CA is supposed to be so mellow, why are these drivers in such a rush?
Ah, here’s the truth: Californians, driving or not, aren’t, despite the stereotype, mellow;. Having lived here for almost 30 years I concluded some time ago that they live in a permanent state of denial. Which is a whole other topic.