Love Lessons From Mass Transit: LA Car Edition
I just got back to New York after spending nearly three months of it Los Angeles, a city not regarded for its well-functioning mass transit system. It is a sprawling beast comprised of several cities and municipalities. During my time there, I rarely attempted to traverse it on the buses or its subways. The latter doesn’t cross the east-west divide; the former gets stuck in the infamous LA traffic. Yet I suppose that one can still learn important life, love, and sex lessons while sitting in traffic, listening to Top 40 radio.
Turn right on red: In New York City proper, it’s illegal to turn right on a red light even when the coast is clear. This seems absurd to drivers raised outside of the city yet I prefer it this way. Fewer decisions and judgment calls to make this way. But in LA, sliding into the right turn lane means quick decision making—is it clear enough for me to make a turn or do I wait? Typically, I erred on the side of caution and the cars behind me, believing I had the opportunity to turn, would honk and I would get anxious.
In the world of dating and sex, I prefer clear, unambiguous signals. I don’t want to parse body language and other signs to see if a guy is interested. I want “red” to mean “No, you’re going home alone to watch Netflix,” and “green” to mean “I hope you packed your toothbrush in your purse because you’re not going back to your place tonight.” I frequently miss the softer cues and half the time, don’t even realize when a guy is flirting with me. And when I’m interested in a guy, I’m about as subtle as an anvil. Right on red is too confusing for someone like me.
Drive past a parking spot unless it’s easy to get into: I am not a good parallel parker. The fact that I passed my road test (and with a perfect score, no less) is nothing short of a miracle. I don’t think I’ve parked that well in the decade since I took the test. (I test pretty well.)
My lack of parking prowess makes me feel insecure whenever I approached a spot that seemed like it might take a couple attempts turns to get into. If I judged it to be too hard or if there were several cars behind me on the road, I’d probably drive right past it. As a result, I frequently pass up spots that seem like they’ll take a bit of maneuvering to get into, favoring one that I can enter headlong way. No reverse for this gal. I’d frequently park many, many blocks from my destination, which would force me to commit the ultimate LA sin—walking.
In the dating world, this approach to parking would translate into the “low hanging fruit” theory of flirting. You don’t go for the most attractive man/woman at the party or the one surrounded by a bevvy of admirers. That would require advanced skills when it comes to maneuvering your way inside the circle, the social equivalent of parallel parking in a really tight space. You pick the ones on the periphery of the group, the one you can sidle up to easily as though headlong into a spot surrounded by miles of unoccupied curb.
No mass transit means you can’t ever be spontaneous: It’s hard to act on impulse in a city like Los Angeles. You can’t accidentally discover a new bar/restaurant/store when you’re driving by them at 35 m.p.h. It is also more difficult to drunkenly hook up unless you’ve both arrived at the party in cabs or friends’ cars. When I walked into a party, I immediately grabbed a drink and started calculating how long it would be until I could drive again. If I had gotten drunk at the start of the party, I’d have to wait for the inebriation to wear off before I could do much of anything. In that time, I might come to my senses or use those senses—sans beer goggles—to judge whether I truly want to wake up next to that dude. If you can’t drive drunk, you can’t follow someone home in your car, look for parking and go up to his place, all while staying buzzed.
Driving is a great responsibility, which might end forcing you to be sexually responsible, too.