Thursday, May 7, 2009

Life in Stepford

Perhaps it is just me, but I swear that all the cars in this town are always clean and shiny. I am not proud of the fact that I wash my car less than once a month. Since moving here, I've bumped it up to maybe twice a month, at the Cruise Thru. I feel a sort of pressure to do this. Like there are many eyes on my car noticing that its sparkle is not quite up to standard.

It seems there's an unspoken rule in Bakersfield that you must keep a clean car. I tested this theory. Standing, waiting for my gas tank to fill up, I inspected every other car in the station. Not only were they all clean and looking fresh off the lot, but at least three drivers were busy wiping their windshields or buffing their hoods, making productive use of their time as their tanks filled. Of a sudden, I felt guilty for merely standing next to my car that still had some leaves and "what not" on the windshield from being parked under a tree all day.

The wide streets of Bakersfield easily accommodate the many shiny late model cars that stream down their multiple lanes. Veer out of line (ie, go more than 5 miles above the speed limit, run a red light, or make a "California" stop) and you'll be quickly brought into line by one of our fine city's courteous and plentiful police officers.

In L.A., at large intersections with double left turn lanes, people generally will take the leftmost lane. Anyone can easily gauge that the inner lane has a shorter distance and therefore it is a cinch to be first around the corner (unless, of course, you are planning on making an immediate right afterward; these things are calculated instantly).

But not here. People avoid the inner left turn lane (and many intersections have these). Why? Because the medians on many streets are nearly a foot high and almost vertical. There's no leeway. It's easy to spot the marks made by tires scraping up against these, cutting their turns a little too closely.

This little thing, these assertive medians, is another way of keeping us all in line, in our shiny cars. I tell you, I'm feeling a little spooked.

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