As the weather warms up again after a brief cold snap that inflicted daily temperatures reaching only into the low 20-degree celsius range – sorry – I’ve resumed sleeping with the windows cracked open. Last night, I was regularly stirred from my slumber by the dull roar of… what was that noise? A bulldozer smoothing out a nearby lot? At this hour? Distant, low-flying planes? The hum of a neighbour’s air conditioner? It went Mmmm, mmmm, mmn, mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, mm…
No, no and nope. It was the din of traffic from arterial thoroughfares and expressways that run through my daily life here although I am rarely in a car.
It’s not like I’m living right beside any of these beasts. Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards are blocks away. The 10 and 405 further away still. But at night when everything else has been put to bed, you can hear them. That’s definitely them I’m listening to, through the open window I sleep near because it is that warm out.
I imagine I’ll eventually get used to the weather if I live here long enough. The traffic, however, is another matter.
Yesterday, I spent an hour reading a book out on the patio of a local coffee shop. (I could do so, of course, because it was warm out. Did I mention that already?) There was no getting away from the traffic there. Motorized vehicles are loud and insistent. Their presence amplified beyond their already ample stature. I Am Car Driver, Hear Me Roar!
Los Angeles drivers love to honk their car horns. There’s a joke in there somewhere about the legendary boosterism of the Angeleno. Anything appears to set them to it. The turning of the green light. The turning of the yellow light. Any sort of not immediately obvious source for sitting idle, not stepping on the gas. Honk the horn. That should clear it up.
As I was approaching a parking garage, I watched as a car emerged from it. Still too far back from the street, the driver couldn’t possibly see the situation with oncoming traffic. That didn’t stop him from honking the horn at the car ahead of him, waiting to turn out of the lot. Get a move on. I’m here now. Let’s go.
It wasn’t obvious that once the coast was clear, this guy was going to wait for me to pass in front although I would have had to stop to let him proceed. Our paths crossed. No one was hurt. There were no tears. No further honking either.
You don’t have to read up much about this city before hitting upon a discussion of the nature of public-private spheres. Los Angeles is famous for its emphasis on the latter at the expense of the former. The history of local architectural design is notable, apparently, for its inward-lookingness. I’m sure there’s a more technical term for it. The fun’s inside, folks, not outside. What the hell are you doing, hanging around out there?
This despite, and I’m not sure I’ve mentioned it yet in the last 3 or 4 sentences, a pretty agreeable climate for most of the year which should draw people out and into it. Yet, most patio or street level culture such as it exists here is largely pulled into courtyards or covered sections away from any sense of the hustle and bustle of daily city life. Wonder why that is, and I imagine you can guess where I’m going with this? The total and utter surrender of huge portions of the public space over to the servicing of private automobiles. So dominant is the car here, still, that it filters into the private spaces, through open windows, long after most of us have gone to be, our sleep disturbed by that noise, low but insistent, coming from distant thoroughfares and freeways.
— sleeplessly submitted by Cityslikr
Toronto doesn’t get it either – still waiting for a year-round outdoor public pedestrian concourse.