Driving in LA: Emergency Blinkers

Annoying When Not Used Correctly

I did not get my drivers’ license until I was forty years old. (Before then, I was on Catapres, a blood pressure medication, which put me to sleep whenever I rode in a car.) When I finally learned to drive, I made a shocking discovery: I suddenly discovered how utterly incompetent most adults are. Every block, I descry at least two or three major violations. Martine asks, “Where are the police?” I smirk while answering, “Where’s the nearest doughnut shop?”

One of the most irksome driving (mal)practises is the incorrect used of the emergency blinkers, or hazard lights. It seems that many (mis)users of this capability are telegraphing to other drivers this message: “I am a pale, fragile flower. Please do not kill me if I stray into your lane or omit directional signals, or if I slow suddenly on the freeway while texting.” To the police, should they be inclined to notice anything so unexciting, the message is: “I am signalling you because I am in the process of committing numerous moving violations. Please cite me at once and save me from myself.”

This is the first in a series of occasional posts about the experience of driving in Southern California. There are a lot of very capable drivers on the road, but the ones who aren’t make for an interesting experience.

 

 

Valentino’s Voisin et al

1932 Pierce-Arrow V12 Model 52 Sedan

On this cool and cloudy Saturday, Martine and I paid another visit to the Nethercutt Collection in Sylmar. We saw many of the same cars as on previous visits, but were newly impressed with the variety and beauty of automobiles manufactured in the 1920s and 1930s. The 1932 Pierce-Arrow practically called me by name as I walked by it. Like all the cars at the Nethercutt, it shone like a jewel. Even the tires look bran new. And yes, that is an old fire engine in the left background.

When I compare today’s cars with what was available a hundred years ago, we have lost individuality. (It looks like all the car bodies today were tested in the same wind tunnel, whether from Mercedes, Range Rover, or BMW.) Do you think the Toyota Prius is a new concept? Not so, there were hybrids a hundred years ago—and they looked better, too.

Rudolph Valentino’s 1923 Voisin

Many of the automobiles on display have fascinating histories. For instance, there were only eighteen Rolls-Royce Silver Phantom IVs manufactured, and they were all sold tom heads of state. The Nethercutt has one of the two that belonged to the Sheikh of Kuwait. At the time he owned them, there were only twenty miles of paved road in the whole country.

And then there is the gray 1923 Voisin that belonged to Rudolph Valentino. He purchased three of them, and brought one of them back with him to Hollywood. The hood ornament is a custom-made cobra head which was given him by fellow actor Douglas Fairbanks Sr.

There is even a Duesenberg Twenty Grand that cost … twenty grand. It was the only one manufactured, a special order made for the 1933-34 Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago.

Will I ever get tired of seeing these beauties? Not bloody likely.

 

New Wheels

2018 Subaru Forester

Today I picked up my new Subaru Forester. Inasmuch as I loved my old Nissan, there were a lot of things it didn’t have, or which no longer worked. It’s nice once again to have a radio which I can tune visually: The light on the Nissan radio had burned out years ago. And I would much rather play CDs than tape cassettes anytime. On the other hand, there are ever so many more controls with which I have to familiarize myself. It will take a while before I am altogether at home driving it.

As you can probably tell, I did not take the picture above. It looks, however, just like mine, except that mine is white. The funny thing is that the basic configuration of the Forester is what I wanted: no moon roof, no GPS, no phone.

I’ll take some pictures of me with my new car in a week or two. Right now, I am still trying to cope with Martine leaving me; and that’s what occupies my waking (and sleeping) thoughts. Life is a mixed bag.

Last Look at an Old Beauty

My 1994 Nissan Pathfinder: A Last Look

It doesn’t look its age at all, does it. (Of course, the accident marred the other side only.) As my vehicle was insured with Mercury Insurance, and they declared it a total loss, I was faced with a difficult choice. Before long, I would have to start spending big bucks on a new engine, new automatic transmission, and so on. Or I could take what Mercury offered me and lease a new car. I chose to do the latter. Already, I would rent a car every time I took a longer field trip, to Santa Barbara or the Desert or other point farther afield. The combination of impending repairs and car rentals would soon begin to weigh heavily on my finances.

So … sniff … good-bye.

This afternoon, I leased a 2018 Subaru Forester for 36 months.

Double Whammy

Martine at Captain Kidd’s Fish Market in 2006

Troubles, when they occur, rarely occur in isolation. Today, I was inundated. First of all, Martine has decided to leave me two weeks from today. We have been together for thirty years—not actually married—but man and wife for all intents and purposes. My little French girl, like her mother before her, has a tête Normande, a so-called “Norman head,” famous for stubbornness. Around the same time, she got tired of Los Angeles, my apartment in Los Angeles, and me. I know she is initially headed for Sacramento, where she lived when I first met her, but where she goes from there is anyone’s guess.

I still love her and would give anything to continue our relationship, but that does not seem to be enough for her at this point. Once before, in 2005, she left me for several months. But that was to take care of her mother, who was not being well cared for in the institution where she was housed. She came back then; and I hope she will come back again. If not, my life must go on.

Every day, I see large numbers of crumpled-looking old people who can barely get around to do the basic chores of their life. I have no intention of succumbing to that condition. As Dylan Thomas wrote:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I still have places to go and things to do. And books to read.

A second trouble also hit me between the eyes today. You may recall I wrote about an accident I had last Saturday. Today, Mercury Insurance declared my car a total loss, which it really isn’t. Although my 1994 Nissan Pathfinder is twenty-three years old, it is still a gem of a car, with relatively new tires. But I may have to give it up, because, once it is declared a total loss, I get nothing but Blue Book value (plus or minus). Perhaps it would be cheaper to lease a new car than to deal with upcoming major repairs, such as a replacement engine or transmission. So it goes.

I loved both my girl and my car and must say good-bye to both of them around the same time.

 

 

It Eventually Had to Happen

My Right Front Headlight

I have been twenty-two years without an auto accident. It had to happen eventually, and fortunately no one was hurt.

On Saturday, Martine and I went to the Greek Festival at Santa Sophia Cathedral near downtown. It was a hot day with temperatures going up to 90° (32º Celsius) or more. We spent most of the time in their air-conditioned parish hall sampling the Greek goodies. When it was time to go, we went to our car, which was parked at Saint Ignatius High School’s parking lot and headed north on Dewey Street. Just as we approached Pico Boulevard, a driver in a parked car opened his door, which my Nissan slammed into, wedging his driver’s side door hard against my passenger side door. Martine was seated about three inches from the impact.

My Nissan Pathfinder is now having some body work done. It appears that I will have no blame in this particular incident, as my car was parallel to his when I hit his car door.

The driver was a Latino who didn’t quite understand how accidents are handled in the United States. I felt sorry for him. Luckily, he was insured. He wanted to call the police in. I encouraged him to and offered to wait. He was disappointed when, upon calling them a second time, they told him they weren’t coming out unless someone was injured. He shook his head and said he didn’t understand how this country worked. That’s OK: Neither do I. In the end, we wound up shaking hands. I didn’t turn out to be the Gringo pig he expected (at least I hope).

Damaged were to my front bumper, right headlight, a gash on the panel to the right of the engine, and my right rear-view mirror, which hangs on two thin wires.

Handicap

Originally a Good Idea, Until the Abuses Started

I am writing this blog post at Martine’s behest. She frequently takes walks around the neighborhood and is disgusted by the large numbers of cars indicating a handicap driver, where neither the driver nor the passengers are in fact disabled. One of the problems of living in West Los Angeles or neighboring communities filled with people who feel themselves entitled to free parking. On some of her walks, up to 75% of the parked cars sport handicap placards. Only twice in the last few days has she actually seen disabled people emerge from those vehicles, one with a walker and the other with a cane.

There is something wrong with people who assume they are entitled to free parking because, well, they are special. It is easy to convince a physician to write a note giving them the right to purchase such a placard. From that point on, until the placard expires, they can park without paying for the privilege.

These same drivers frequently cut me off in traffic, whether I am driving or am a pedestrian. They frequently drive expensive cars such as Porsches, BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes, or—worst of all—Range Rovers.

If there is any single symbol of inequality in our society, it is a luxury car with a handicap placard when there is no disability involved. And yet there are whole parts of Southern California where many or most of the luxury cars sport the blue placard. Everlasting shame to them!

When I had severe osteoarthritis sixteen years or more ago, my orthopedist suggested that I get one. I refused, telling him that my habitual practice was to park far and walk, even though I was in excruciating pain. But then, even then, I walked several miles every weekend with Martine and my friends.

As actress Teri Garr once said: “When you hear the word ‘disabled,’ people immediately think about people who can’t walk or talk or do everything that people take for granted. Now, I take nothing for granted. But I find the real disability is people who can’t find joy in life and are bitter.” To which I add people who assume they are entitled to do whatever they want.