There are a handful of places that I feel I know. There are less I’d say I know well. But I know pockets, and I’ve been known to be somewhat observant, and as I continue to travel, and experience, I’d like to try to share that with you.
I currently live in a world called Los Angeles. It’s an odd sort of place, but not without its charm–personally I delight in its weirder quirks. However, when I communicate my current residence to other travelers, I have noticed some great trepidation around transportation. And while I cannot in good faith say that this fear is completely unwarranted, I would like to make a case for why it is an experience you should not be miss out on.
Much like the subway is a huge part of New York city, and BART is signature to San Francisco, traversing the many interstates and streets that connect the Los Angeles neighborhoods is integral to truly experiencing the area. It’s a strange part of their personality, and while occasionally, unnecessarily hostile, it’s almost endearing if you take the right mindset about it.
Additionally, the public transit system leaves a lot to be desired. Ultimately you’ll limit where you can go, and while it’s not nearly as bad as the locals make out–I really value how I spend my time and waiting for infrequent and inconsistent transit was not, nor has ever been my cup of tea. Alternatively, depending on your plans for while you’re here, if you attempt to taxi/lyft/uber everywhere, you’re going to be paying at least double–probably more–than if you rented a car.
So my recommendation to drive has held pretty firm. Besides, as they say, when in a post-apocalyptic desert, do as the locals do.
…they say that here, right?
The first thing to remember, is very few people genuinely live in Los Angeles. I don’t mean that as a slight, but most people here are here for very specific reasons, and, given the opportunity, would likely settle elsewhere. So many people transplanted in one area–with, more or less, a common goal.
It’s oddly unifying when you really look at it.
But you need to accept that not everyone is going to view it that way, but I promise if YOU do, you’ll feel less overwhelmed as a stranger in a strange land.
So if you do decide to follow my overly enthusiastic advice when it comes to getting around (and to be honest, I hope you do), here’s what you need to know:
These are, of course, a very imperative part of your vehicle. I do not under any circumstance recommend against them. Please don’t neglect to use them. This will result, inevitably, in an accident. However, you should also know that using one’s blinker is often seen as a challenge to the Angelino people. If you indicate with that handy light that you intend to get over, keep an eye out. You will likely see someone in your near vicinity in that lane (or sometimes NOT in your near vicinity), attempt to speed up.
Don’t try to find the logic in it, fellow traveler, there really isn’t any. Suffice to say, from what I can surmise, Angelino’s have really taken the term “Human Race” far too literally. It’s almost as if they sincerely believe it can be won. And this is particularly clear in their driving. They will try to pass you, even if they weren’t even close to you. That’s why this next point is vitally important.
As a wanderer of worlds, I’m a firm believer that this skill is a MUST, but especially in Los Angeles, you need to hone this. And by that I mean, don’t zone out. Keep a keen eye on the cars around you. Are they drifting? Do they intend to get in your lane?
One thing I will give Angelino’s in regards to their driving is they are DECISIVE, and that’s actually rather admirable. When they have made a decision to do something, you know it. So you just have to keep an eye out. In this same vein, YOU need to be decisive. Indecision and timidity causes accidents, because everyone else is trying to read you and they assume you’re going to be as decisive as they are. If you’re getting over, get over. Do so concisely and cleanly.
The land of Los Angeles believes in lane-sharing, which is not quite as sunshine and rainbows as it sounds. As part of your defensive driving, it’s important to keep an eye out for motorcycles, who will come up on the side, surfing from lane to lane as suits their fancy. You can usually hear them coming.
At some point we’ve all had or experienced someone else’s road rage. It’s a little nerve-wracking, right? Well, right now I’m going to soothe you a little bit. Angelino’s have got some rage. But for the most part it’s superficial and while they may flash a middle-finger, or visibly yell at you in your rear-view mirror til they’re red in the face…
Let it go. It’s kind of meaningless. Their road rage is really not about you. As you’ll notice because people will honk, flip the bird, or soundlessly yell for things that aren’t your fault, weren’t even bad–they just need an outlet. Just ignore them. Maybe lend a little sympathy if you’ve got some to share. But I guarantee you they won’t spare whatever perceived offense you gave them another thought once you’re out of sight.
For reasons I have yet to fathom, any weather that is not Los Angeles’ typical bright and sunny sky causes problems. I have some theories that native Angelinos are potentially solar powered. Even if it’s just cloudy, you will run into more traffic than usual. If it’s raining? Beware. There are some Angelinos, who again are taking the race part of ‘human race’ far too seriously, and seem to be attempting to outrun the weather. They will speed around you and onward. Don’t follow their lead. Your instinct to handle rain as inclement weather is the right one.
Despite what you’ve heard off-world, Los Angeles rarely has standstill traffic. Don’t get me wrong, it has traffic, often inexplicably and unreliably, but unless you get caught behind an accident, you will always be moving.
The key here is a GPS app you trust. I’m not here to recommend any in particular, but I use mine even when I know where I’m going. I have been driving from my current residence to my office for over a year now–but I still use my GPS to get there. Why? Because its traffic reporting is invaluable. You’ll go a myriad of routes just to get from the same point a to point b because due to the way vehicles make their way about–or in some cases don’t make their way about–navigating without that constant update on traffic would be near impossible. Then maybe you WOULD be stuck in one location at a standstill.
There are little to NO protected left-turns in the heart of this world’s metropolis. But don’t let that intimidate or frighten you–the locals have found a way around this. There is an unspoken rule of in Angelino culture when cars are waiting to make a left turn at a light, and they inevitably cannot because the stream of cars going by is too great, two cars are allowed to make the turn after the traffic light has turned red. Not three–this is very important. If you’re the third car to go after the light has gone yellow/red, this is a huge faux pas. Only two. It’s very Noah’s Ark. Oddly even local enforcement seem to follow this rule, likely because if it was not adhered to, no one would ever be able to turn left.
Saying you’re X miles away is a rather useless statement in Los Angeles. Due to how roads are constructed or yes, even the dreaded traffic, miles get pretty meaningless when applied practically here. When traversing Los Angeles, things are minutes or hours way, not miles. This is also where your GPS will come in handy. That estimate is a good barometer. Though, depending on the day, sometimes it’s good to add in an extra 30 minutes for a buffer. Just in case. You never know who’s on the road, after all…
Take this to heart, and you’ll be ready to ride the tropical desert wasteland planet of Los Angeles with ease and relative comfort. And hey, if you can make it driving there–you can make it driving anywhere!