Economy meets LA Culture

When I first moved to Los Angeles in 1996 there was nothing that impressed or distressed me as much as trying to navigate the freeways.  I had never experienced so many cars, in so many lanes, so close together, and sometimes driving so fast…others not moving at all….

But everywhere you looked — ahead, behind, to the right, to the left, peripherally, in your blind spots — always, there were cars. 

I’d never experienced LA driver culture, which included a new definition to the turn signal.  If you put on your turn indicator to shift into the right lane, that meant that any cars near you in the right lane were to speed up and NOT let you make a lane change.  Haha.  You laugh, but it is true.

At that time, there were no insurance regulations concerning car driveability.  (Now, in California, a car must have insurance, which means it has to pass driveability tests in order to qualify for a vehicle license.)  That meant that if the car could drive,  someone would have it on the road.  When I moved here, I saw cars like I’d never seen anywhere else in the US or Canada.  Multi-colored rusting out school buses, from Haight-Ashbury days; original Love Bugs, with or without hoods; literal rust buckets…I remember driving behind a Spider (remember the 1970’s Alfa Romeo Spider?) that was literally rusting apart with every bump of the road…bits of this and that flying off the car as it still sped along the 405…(not in rush hour).

When insurance became mandatory, all the limping along, wired together, hand-painted rust buckets disappeared.  Until lately.  Now, there are so many people unable to pay their car insurance that these ancient, wire-tied cars are starting to appear on the road again.  A couple of days ago, I was stationed next to an old custom van at the gas station.  The driver’s window frame was held together with duct tape.  The license plate was attached with a few bits of wire.  The hood was closed with a wire hanger.

On the highway, I drove next to an old VW bug.  No hood over the engine (which you’ll remember are in the back of the car).  No frames over the front lights.  Not much left to the car, actually, but along it chugged.

Of course, I’d be really upset if one of these cars hit me…because the drivers are uninsured.  But it does give me a sigh of relief to see that part of LA car culture resurfacing.

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