Monday, June 26, 2017

A Small Car Driver In A Big Car Town

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published June 29, 2017] ©2017
I used to be fairly certain that my end would come in a Bird Rock roundabout. But now I’m pretty sure that my last moments will be backing out of a parking spot between two SUVS in front of the public library. 
Or maybe it will be backing out of a spot on the Fay Avenue Speedway. People definitely seem to channel their inner NASCAR driver on that street. 
The problem, of course, is that I’m a small car person in a big car town. Even though I always look for a place next to a car my own size, anyone who has lived here for more than week knows that you grab – gratefully - what you can get.  And even if I’m parked next to what I am convinced is the only other little car in La Jolla, it invariably seems to be gone by the time I come back, replaced by a large black sport utility vehicle.
The first two feet that I back out are always totally blind. I inch out as slowly as I can ready to slam on my brakes as a car comes flying past. I brace myself for the sound of breaking glass and crumpling metal, two sounds that I really, really hate, especially when I’m encased in that glass and metal.  It is not good for my increasingly frail nervous system.
But I really don’t want a big car myself. My car pool days are mercifully over. No more cleat marks in my dashboard! (You know who you are.) In fact, I’d like an even smaller car than my little Toyota, maybe a Smart Car. Parking places aren’t getting any bigger. A tiny car would be especially useful at Gelson’s where despite the ample slots, the big cars hog one and a half parking places. I could still wedge my little Smart Car into the remaining half spot.
But if backing out blind on a busy street isn’t scary enough, pedestrians in local parking lots bring it to a whole new level.  Short of a deep-seated death wish (and the knowledge that those Beemer and Lexus drivers are well insured and will amply compensate your loved ones), I can’t for the life of me imagine what sort of brain activity, if any, is being registered by people who are obliviously texting – or not even texting - as they walk right behind backing cars.  One can only sigh wistfully and wish this lot were in the Serengeti, where natural selection could take its course.
We’re into the summer season now, of course, where traffic and parking and backing up issues all become exponentially worse. I think all of us year-round residents of La Jolla feel incredibly lucky to live in this beautiful ocean-side community.  But one can’t help but notice that summer tourists at a beach resort seem to have beamed themselves to a parallel universe where traffic laws do not apply. Fair enough; it’s what people do when on vacation. Still, it’s amazing so many survive their visit here.
At the Shores, for example, beach chair-laden visitors wander at will across busy streets against the light in front of oncoming cars.  They look stunned to hear the screech of tires, a blank look appearing across a puzzled face as they attempt to process what that annoying sound might have been. I fantasize having a neon blinking sign on the top of my car that I could broadcast “Look both ways!”  “The light is RED!” or even “AIIEEEE!” 
I used to tell myself that soon enough, it will be Labor Day again and life in La Jolla will return to its normally congested self.  But in the last few years, I can’t help but notice that Labor Day doesn’t even make much difference in parking or traffic congestion. We’re now in Full Tourist Season All Year Round. My go-to parking places are gone. In January!
But as for backing my little car out of parking places between the inevitable two big ones, I actually have a solution. It was inspired by World War II submarine movies and is so simple I can’t believe auto makers haven’t invented it. When I’m ready to back out of my spot in front of the library, I would say, “Up periscope, Siri!” and up through the roof of my car would come a 360 degree tube that would allow me to see speeding vehicles and death-wishing pedestrians. And Siri would say, “Safe to proceed! No Indy cars in sight!”  And for once I’d appreciate Siri with whom I’ve have an otherwise problematic relationship.  A vehicle periscope would truly improve my life more than any invention I could possibly imagine, even my long-time fantasy, a clairvoyant computer that would do what I want, not what I say.
As for the periscope, I’d just have to make sure it was down at the car wash.


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