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An Open Letter to Southern California

26 Mar

UGH!

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Dear Southern California,

You’re disappointing me. Just thought I would get straight to the point.

When I was 12-years-old, my parents announced we were moving from frigid Massachusetts to California. I had expectations. I thought the state was one big beach and palm trees would be everywhere. I expected to be ridiculously tan year-round, and have blond, sun-streaked hair that had that messy surfer look because, well, I was going to be a surfer.

I can distinctly recall driving up Howell Mountain, our car laden with things too important to put in the moving truck. As we climbed higher and higher, my eyes took in pine trees. Hundreds of them. No palm trees in sight. It was burning hot, but I was told the beach was an hour away, and likely overcast and cold. I was sad.

I soon learned about the distinction between Northern California and Southern California, and it’s no secret I soon adored the Napa Valley. I even found a few palm trees, but they were mostly limited to the yards of million dollar homes. I was content.

When my husband found out he got a job at a world famous animation studio in Southern California, in spite of myself, I began to set up many of my former expectations. I had been told for so long that SoCal was warm and sunny year-round. That I would be able to go to the beach at almost any time, pending I didn’t mind sitting in traffic. I was even advised against packing my winter coats when I was boxing my belongings. I was told I likely wouldn’t need them, at least not so many (I have four, and a raincoat). My collection of scarves? Sure, I could take them, but they would probably sit in my closet, gathering dust.

And what did I find? True, initially we did encounter record highs in Los Angeles, which led me to believe everything I had been told was accurate. Sadly, we didn’t have enough good sense to go to the beach during this time, telling ourselves there would plenty of chances later on. I thought excitedly of being able to call our parents during the winter; respectively miserable in Portland and Napa during the cold, rainy season; and bragging that we were walking at the pier in Santa Monica in tank tops and shorts. I was wrong.

After that initial spike in heat, it got cold, and it got cold fast. And it rained! Oh did it rain. It poured for days, and shattered rain records. There was one flood warning after another. In fact, there was one morning I was on my work to work that I questioned whether I would be able to make it. Traffic was awful, there was minor flooding everywhere, and the sky was still dumping rain. When I finally arrived, my husband began texting me about the evacuations that were being made in nearby La Cañada Flintridge, and I misunderstood his texts to mean our area was being evacuated. I freaked out and almost left work. When I realized our home wasn’t in danger, I was calm, but still disgusted at the weather.

Oh, and then there was snow in Los Angeles. I was in Burbank and it began to flurry. I couldn’t believe my eyes were seeing snow in Southern California. When I came home at the end of the night, there was an inch of snow in some parts of our front lawn, and most were completely frozen. Some of the snow even managed to stay around until mid-morning the next day. Excuse me, but what is that?!

I complained to my fellow Angelenos, who joked that I brought the bad weather with me from NorCal. I’ve started to believe them. However, they assured me that things would start looking up, and soon. I began to get hopeful yet again. But… “Heavy rain, high winds, cold air to hit Southern California this weekend.”

Please stop.

Sincerely,

Larissa Church

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Fear and Raging in Los Angeles

5 Mar

Go go go!

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One of the things I do not appreciate about my new Los Angeles life is the traffic. To understand how jarring traffic is for me, I may need to give you a little background information.

I miss you.

Before moving here, I resided in the absolutely perfect Napa Valley. For almost 15 years, I lived in a little hilltop town that boasts of one stop sign on its “Main Street.” I lived half a mile from my work, so the commute… well, there wasn’t one. A jaunt into St. Helena, the closest place of interest took all of 15 minutes. While the nearest Target and retail shopping was about a half hour away in Napa itself, I didn’t mind the drive. How could I complain when such a trip was filled with field after field of grapevines and the occasional hot air balloon? I couldn’t. Tourists who were suckered into bicycling the valley also made the drive interesting, as their misery was greatly evident. I loved to make fun of them. (photo source)

It’s true that the summer months brought in hoards of tourists and jammed the 29, but none of them ever bothered to do any research about where to go or how to get there, so the Silverado Trail was usually fine. The moral of this tale is that until recently, my experience with traffic was practically zilch. While it is true I encountered some traffic whenever I trekked into San Francisco, it was excusable because I was going to San Francisco.

Now, since my husband and I share a vehicle (shout out to Pierre!), at least two hours of my day is devoted to getting us to and from work. I suppose I should be grateful there isn’t more, but it’s still something I’m having a hard time accepting, which I assume you can understand given my past history. On weekdays, my husband and I aim to leave our house before 8 a.m. We take two freeways to his work. I drop my husband off, and then take another freeway to my work. The worst part of my commute is the 1.7 mile stretch from the freeway to my work – it takes at least 20 minutes. Then I do the whole thing in reverse at the end of the day. What kills me is the trip is approximately 26.7 miles but takes at least 45 minutes to complete. Don’t even get me started about how I have two Targets 4.9 and six miles away from my house but I have to get on three or four different freeways to get to either of them.

If the whole thing sounds unpleasant, it’s because it is, but I don’t mind since my husband is able to commute with me at least for part of the time. The worst part about all the driving are the drivers. The drivers in LA are hands down the worst I have ever been around. I may be doing 10 over the speed limit in a residential neighborhood but I will be tailgated and honked at and occasionally flipped off. It is great (I’m being sarcastic). On the freeway, I have learned that if I am not tailgating the car in front of me, it’s like I have a large, Vegas-style sign atop my car that says in bright, flash lights “Yes! Please! Cut me off!”

As you can imagine, all of these things make me mad. Very mad. And I may have a confession to make…

I have road rage. Or at least an early onset version of it.

I feel your pain, man.

But don’t worry, you won’t see me jumping out of any cars and trying to hit anybody with a golf club. The only person my rage effects is myself. See, it’s kind of a passive-aggressive kind of rage, in that other drivers are more than likely not aware of my feelings. Mostly, I yell at the cars that are tailgating me/cutting me off/otherwise driving irrationally and call them names. That is because I am terrified of other drivers, which takes us to the second point of this blog post. (photo source)

More explaining may be due here. Remember that small, hilltop town I referenced earlier? That town has little to no crime, and the same goes with the majority of Napa County (though Napa itself I realize is getting a bit sketchy in parts). I literally know millionaires who don’t lock their million-dollar homes. With the exception of the Wal-Mart in Napa, I have never been worried when walking alone, even at night. (I realize this has a very “Pleasantville”-esque sound to it, but it’s the truth.) In my entire time living there, I believe there was only one murder in St. Helena and it was family-related (not that that makes it any better, but at least it wasn’t some random killing). It was the first homicide in the area in years.

Now, I live in a county that has had 96 homicides since the beginning of this year, according to The Homicide Report of The Los Angeles Times. So you can see why I would be hesitant to even honk at a motorist who deliberately cuts me off or tailgates me relentlessly. I’m worried they’re going to shoot me. When driving around in Napa, my biggest concerns were avoiding the numerous drunk tourists or hitting a deer.

Thanks for telling me to stay "Straight Outta Compton."

I understand that Los Angeles is much different than Napa, in so many ways. Population-wise, little Napa County boasts a mere 134,650 residents (source) while LA county has over 9.8 million (source). I also know that a majority of the crime in the county occurs in East Los Angeles, which I can tell you I will never visit. I’ve listened to Dr. Dre, I know what’s up. Still, it is unnerving to know I live in a place where there’s actually crime. And traffic. (photo source)

Thankfully, however, my husband and I are lucky to live in a really nice place, one that has only had 11 violent crimes (no homicides!) and 129 property crimes in the last six months. We have no plans to venture into Compton or Inglewood, and I guess I just need to get a grip about traffic. Mom, rest easy. 🙂

Don’t Be a Statistic!

23 Feb

This guy should have read my blog.

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Chances are, if you have spent any time with me over the last few months, you have heard me utter the phrase, “Don’t be a statistic!” in regards to walking/driving/living. If you haven’t, allow me to explain.

As a previous blog post noted (see “S.E. OoooOoOOoOOOOooOoooooO.”), I work for a legal internet marketing company as a blog editor and copywriter. We deal exclusively with attorneys, and the vast majority are personal injury lawyers (as opposed to criminal defense lawyers). My days are filled with writing and editing blog posts and website content pages on topics such as product liability, medical malpractice, workers’ compensation, defective drugs, and various accidents, such as car, bicycle, motorcycle, and truck accidents.

Thanks to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), I’m able to rattle off certain accident statistics like I’m Watson the super computer. I can tell you off the top of my head that 33,808 people died in motor vehicle accidents in 2009 in the United States (stats for 2010 haven’t yet been published), and over 2.2 million people were injured in these accidents, and that over 10,000 fatalities were in alcohol-related crashes (I had to check my handy NHTSA PDF to see that the exact number is 10,839). These statistics scare me, but it’s easy enough to brush off since the population of Los Angeles is somewhere around 3.8 million (source), making my chances of being involved in an accident relatively low.

I know you can read.

However, there are two areas whose statistics I haven’t been able to shake from my mind, and that’s where my phrase “Don’t be a statistic!” comes in.

(I apologize if what follows is overly preach-y or if you have heard me rant about this topic before. Learning these things at my job has definitely made me improve my driving habits and by sharing them, I hope to change the habits of those who read this as well.)

Of those 33,808 accident-related fatalities in the U.S. in 2009, 5,474 were reported to have involved a form of distracted driving (source), which includes cell phone use, eating, flipping through a playlist on an iPod, etc. Of those 2.2 million people that were injured in accidents that year (keeping in mind that becoming a paraplegic is considered an injury), 448,000 of them were injured in accidents that were distracted driving-related.

A recent study found that a driver using a cell phone (texting or talking, handheld or hands-free) delays their reaction as much as have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the legal limit of .08 percent. Scary, isn’t it? Think about that the next time you reach for your cell phone while behind the wheel to read a text that likely contains something along the lines of “Hey, what’s up?”

If these statistics and facts still haven’t made you want to change your driving habits, I encourage you to go look through the NHTSA’s “The Faces of Distracted Driving” video series, which highlight the people who have lost their lives in distracted driving-related accidents by interviewing their friends and family while telling the victim’s story. They are heartbreaking.

I warn you in advance: if I am a passenger in your car and you get out your phone while behind the wheel, I will yell at you.

 

Let the poor man walk!

Closely tied to distracted driving are pedestrian accidents, the second area of personal injury with which I have become obsessed. According to our friends over at the NHTSA, a pedestrian “is any person on foot, walking, running, jogging, hiking, sitting or lying down who is involved in a motor vehicle traffic crash.”

In 2009, 4,092 pedestrians died in traffic accidents in the U.S. and an estimated 59,000 were injured in these accidents. (Note: these statistics are not a part of the 33,808 motor vehicle accident fatalities or the 2.2 million people injured.) These statistics result in an average of a pedestrian killed every two hours and one injured every nine minutes in traffic accidents in the U.S.

This information has caused me to now look both ways before crossing a street at least twice, and then give each car that approaches or is stopped at the intersection the evil eye should they be tempted to run me or my companions over.

Also, thanks to my job, I have the contact information of over 100 highly skilled personal injury attorneys, and you bet your sweet rear-end I will sue the living daylights out of you if you hit me or my friends.