“If I can make it throughout my entire life without owning, leasing, or having any long-term responsibility over anything that runs on four wheels, I’m going to do it!”
So says my current life mantra. I’ve lived in Los Angeles County for five years. Prior to coming out here, I lived in Saint Louis, where I grew up. At approximately 0.00 times throughout my life have I ever wanted to own a car or even wanted to drive so while everyone I knew at 16 years old was busy snapping up their permits and logging in their 40+ hours of practice behind the wheel, I was out and about walking and enjoying the life of a passenger driver. It was a practice that I would continue doing for another decade to come.
And so far, so good! There is a song about how nobody walks in LA and that song was made with good reason – because literally nobody does. Every day out here for a pedestrian is like living a real-life version of The Hunger Games. A series of mad dashes across the street even if the walking sign is flashing, 360 degree turns to alert every single car at every single light through a series of hand gestures that “hey, it’s MY turn to go across now!” and the occasional close call with an SUV in a residential neighborhood. But I am living proof (knock on wood) that not only can you make it out in La La Land sans a car, you might even make it to the point where you feel confident that you can get away without one here for a long time to come.
1) First off – it’s ridiculously expensive.
Car payments, insurance, gas prices, paying for parking whether it’s on the street, in a building, or at your place of residence, and car repairs ranging from check engine lights to blown out tires on the freeway. Oh yeah, and the occasional ticket if you get pulled over or park in a spot for too long you shouldn’t be in. I feel tired just writing this out. Snaps to everyone who owns a car and makes owning one look completely hassle and expense free because if it were me, I’d undoubtedly be sobbing in the shower about how much I spent on gas for the week. And I can’t be doing that because that’s my crying over my student loans time!
2) The drivers and traffic. It’s cray.
And a round of the biggest possible applause for the good people out here that commute to and from work every day, going the mileage distance in doing so. The cities of both LA County and LA proper are spread out to a degree that to get from point A to point B you’ll eventually wind up in a gridlock on point C (the 405) or point D (the 101) or point E (the 10) surrounded by incensed drivers all in a hurry. And while the preferred scenic route will always be the PCH, not even that one can save you from a traffic jam, roadside accidents, or even a landslide.
Seasoned drivers, take the wheel. I get by with a little, or a lot in my case, of help from my friends over the years and I’m thankful as can be that whenever I truly need a ride to an important destination, they’re there to help me in a pinch.
3) Driving is a weird little bubble out here…
Most drivers in LA appear to live in their cars, or maybe they don’t, but they do spend a significant amount of time on the road. I’m already pretty focused on getting my work/life/hermiting in my bedroom balance just right so this might put a kink into my plans. What worries me most of all is that if I had a car I’d be more inclined to spend more time at the In-N-Out drive thru or walking into Target and leaving with shopping carts full of things I don’t need but I’m getting anyway because I don’t have to walk what I buy home anymore.
I… I just can’t see any of that ending on a high note for me.
4) Walking is literally the best.
Especially in California, land of zero snowy sidewalks, slush, or hidden ice patches buried beneath the snow to slip and trip you up! I walk to and from work every day and love it. The exercise helps wake me up early in the morning and on the way home gives me a chance to chill out post-8 hour day. I like to look at everything around me and I keep my iPod filled with music to listen to. On a near daily basis, someone sees me and says, “Hey! I know you! I’ve seen you walking!” Not a bad thing to be notorious for, even if it is to a point where I’ll probably get that etched on my tombstone one day.
5) Rideshares are AWESOME.
While I like to imagine a future Los Angeles with monorails connecting downtown LA all the way out to Santa Barbara and back, for now I’ll settle on the awesomesauce of the rideshare and shuttle. While public transit out here has a more sketchy reputation, rideshares are smaller, more intimate, and allow you to get off at your location without worry somebody creepy sitting six rows behind you will follow you out. I typically take a shuttle van when I need to get to the airport and I’m super excited that Lyft, better known as “your friend with a car” has spread its wings from its SF-based roots to help a walker out over here!
It’s always a possibility in the future that I might one day get behind the wheel and do the driving thing. But it’s an even better possibility that if I did come into significant money for a car, I’d sooner hire a driver first. Keeps my terrible driving skills off of the roads and creates a job for someone in need!
Image courtesy of the NY Times.