I can’t think of a better day to talk about this next blog than a rainy day in Los Angeles. I just drove back from the gym which is less than a mile from my house, and in that single span I saw more 4 wheeled dumb-assery than a Target parking lot in the Valley on a Saturday. Which, by the way, I personally believe is the single most dangerous place to walk in all of Los Angeles. Compton ain’t shit when you have a horde of trophy wives in Escalades on Blackberry’s meandering blindly in search of two parking spots they can sprawl their Bimbo Boxes in showing the world just how much they don’t give a fuck about their fellow human beings. Now that I have that off my chest…
I was doing research a few months back while I considered starting my own ‘Bad LA Driver’s Blog’. “The Devil’s Taint”, which is what I affectionately call the 405, was going to be a masterpiece of snark, wit and plain old trash talking. Then I found L.A. Can’t Drive… My hopes were dashed! The site was everything I wanted. Replete with photos, hilarious stories and not just an Idiocy Meter™ but an Asshole Meter™ as well. So I gave up my dreams and added L.A. Can’t Drive to my newsreader and haven’t looked back.
The founder of the site, a bloke naked Mike was kind enough to do a quick interview with me about the site, driving and other fun stuff. Enjoy and check out the site. He does take submissions from the public so if you’ve got any doozey’s send them his way. Just check L.A. Can’t Drive for details.
J: First off I love your site. As a 10yr+ LA driver I see this stuff every day and I’m glad you’re there to chronicle the gems. How did you get started with the site? Was there one particular incident in particular that spurred you into action?
M: The website has always been and always will be a medium for me to vent freely about my frustrations with asinine, assholish, and quite frankly retarded–yeah, I said it, you overly PC fake-as-hell bitches–L.A. driving. All kidding aside, when I moved to L.A. in 2006, I found myself succumbing to road rage, which when coupled with my sciatic issues from sitting in traffic all day, made me a pretty irate commuter. As a born and bred New Yorker, adjusting to the culture and lifestyle of Southern California is hard enough without having to deal with sucky drivers. And believe me, the irony has not been lost on me that a Chinese (albeit Asian American) male from New York City is writing about bad driving. Contrary to what some detractors may say, I have never claimed to be a perfect driver, nor do I drive like I’m chauffeuring Miss Daisy. And I certainly don’t drive around like a citizen cop trying to find bad driving for my blog. I needed a cathartic release from my daily frustrations, and being a creative person at heart, I thought that writing about my anger and letting it go in the webosphere was healthier than acting it out behind the wheel and screaming epithets at other drivers. There wasn’t one particular incident that made me decide to finally start making a running commentary on L.A. driving, though I must say that the plethora of drivers cruising around at night without their headlights on blew my mind from day one. And I’m not talking about dusk either…owls are hunting and roaches are having bonfires, and yet a disturbing percentage of L.A. drivers still have no idea that their headlights are off. To this day, I still don’t understand it, and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen in any other city I’ve lived in or visited.
J: How are your stories generally received? Is the audience generally receptive or combative? Driving seems like such a sore spot for LA locals. Everyone says everyone else is a terrible driver but themselves it seems.
M: The general feedback has been quite positive. I do get comments from people who jump to conclusions about my motivations or a perceived hypocritical moral soapbox, but that’s to be expected. After all, I make gross generalizations and assumptions all the time. I’m not so naive as to believe that bad driving doesn’t exist everywhere, because it does. But the fact remains that I live here, and we Angelenos spend more hours of our day driving than any other resident of the United States. As a result, driving is inextricably linked with one’s ego in Los Angeles, and it’s so easy to take bad driving encounters personally. With that said, I find it easier to just let things go if I write about it and commiserate with my readers. I guess it’s like commuter’s therapy, in a way. Most people tend to feel the same way I do, and it’s actually surprised me how quickly the site grew in popularity, when essentially it started as a public rant on a very simple platform. True, someone’s idiot is that other person’s asshole, but on a blog where all submissions are anonymous, who cares if you’re arguing both sides of the issue? If it makes you feel better to get it off your chest, then I say more power to you. I always welcome submissions and commuter horror stories from anyone, with or without photos or videos, and in many ways a community of us can talk about an age-old problem in a refreshing light. I have yet to receive a coherent, well-crafted email from someone who can justify aggressive driving in Southern California. Most of the time, I’ll get some undereducated product of the LAUSD who insults my mother and my manhood with poor grammar and spelling errors. I am waiting for the day when someone submits a photo of my car complaining about how I drive. That would be the epitome of this site’s success, in my book.
J: Has anyone you’ve posted about ever gotten in touch with you to refute the story or ask you to remove posts?
M: Actually, this has happened once with a commercial vehicle. I don’t blur out any identifying information for commercial vehicles, because if an employee is representing your business in a poor light because he or she is driving like a complete dick, then I would assume that you as the employer would want to do something about that. In this particular case, the person driving the vehicle was the owner of the business, and quite a few of my readers called the number plastered on his car to give him a piece of their mind. He came on the site and started to defend his behavior, basically denying everything that was being written. In the end, it was his word against mine, but one would have to ask why I would even bother making all this stuff up in the first place. Anyway, he couldn’t refute one thing that was actually shown, which was a photo of him crossing over double yellow lines in order to impatiently bypass traffic. Of course everything is hearsay, and no one to my knowledge who has participated on this site is a sworn officer of the law. As a result, no one can get a citation for something documented on my site. I think this guy was more concerned with his pride if anything else. And I was like, buddy, you were caught. Deal with it. Learn from it and move on or continue being a stubborn jackass. I suppose he chose the latter.
J: Have you found any specific part of the city that’s worse than any others or do different parts have different nuances?
M: I find that parts of the city where there is a lot of pedestrian traffic tend to have more attentive drivers. I also feel that driving in the Valley isn’t as bad as driving in L.A. itself, even taking Glendale into consideration, though this might have to do with general traffic congestion and the average size of the roads in question. From my own eyes, I would have to say that driving is pretty horrific from Downtown L.A. to West L.A. That cross-section covers all socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds, so I do not subscribe to the fact that certain races or genders or classes of people are worse drivers than others. However, I will occasionally joke about a fellow “Asian brother from another mother” who is just reinforcing a negative stereotype by driving like he’s in a third world country. Then again, maybe he could do my bookkeeping….he should be good with numbers, right?
J: Some people might say that taking photos of other cars while your driving makes you just as bad as they are? How do you respond to that and how do you take the photos? Do you have a special camera rig in your car or do you just say fuck it and whip out the camera phone?
M: Most of the time, I’m either a passenger in a car, someone else is taking the photo for me in the car, or I’m stopped in traffic. Other times, I just literally pick up my phone, point it in the general direction of the offender, and snap the photo. This was easier to do when I didn’t have a smart phone. My old Samsung flip-phone was perfect for taking quick pictures without a lot of button pressing, zooming, and the like. As a result, most of these latter pictures don’t come out. It’s not like I’m driving around with my knees with my hands on my phone and my eyes on the screen rather than on the road in an attempt to frame the perfect shot. If I can work with a photo I’ve shot, I will then do the cropping, rotating, and blurring with an image editor at home. I’ve actually developed the habit of carrying a camera with me with me which allows me to snap photos quickly, and then I call home via my car’s Bluetooth and leave a message on my answering machine about what I just witnessed. I did toy with having a Flip camera taped to my windshield, but then I thought that was a bit too elaborate. It’s not like i have a lot of time in my day to edit through hours of footage. In short, I’m always careful about what I do, and my modest driving record proves it. Sure, it only takes one wrong move to cause an accident, but I could say that about anything all drivers do while driving. For instance, I spend less time snapping a photo than it takes for people to drink a sip of water from a bottle or to browse the stations on their radio. It’s still legal to dial a number in your phone, though you need to chat with a hands-free device, and it certainly takes me less time to snap a photo than punch in 10 digits and hit send. And I must argue that I am in no way as unsafe as those drivers texting away with their eyes off the road for seconds at a time. Without exaggeration, I see a half dozen or more of these examples every single day.
J: If there’s one thing you could change about how LA drivers behave what would it be?
M: L.A. is the capital of distracted drivers. We seriously have people doing anything and everything but driving in this town. However, I think the primary issue is the lack of communication between L.A. drivers, or L.A. strangers for that matter. We are so isolated in our homes, places of school or work, and our cars that we almost forget how to interact with random people in our community. We need to stop treating other drivers on the road as obstacles to our destinations, and we need to start viewing them as fellow commuters who are just as frustrated with the poor roads and traffic congestion as we are. There is a pervasive me-first, cutthroat mentality that may or may not have to do with the veil of Hollywood that blankets this town, that inevitably affects how we drive. If we all start working together to deal with our common enemy known as the 1 hour/5 mile commute, than maybe we can start paring back on poor driving decisions that often contribute to the problem of congestion through bottlenecks and traffic accidents. And saying excuse me in a crowded Trader Joe’s shopping aisle wouldn’t hurt either. Don’t worry, we won’t bite.