Columnist for Monday, 2/5 - Sun Ra

Wait, what do you mean... "You"?

So, I know I owe you some words on why hackers are of less value to society than, say, guinea worm, (comment one: and they are, oh my yes) (comment two: I was going to say "George W Bush", because I'm all riled up at the moment from some republican idiot (sometimes redundant, but sometimes they are evil instead) glorying in how Shrub is in the White House and all the badness of the Clinton years is over, and damned if I didn't have seven or eight cerebral hemorrages from the sheer stupidity of the motherfucker - even now I am circling slowly around total loss of control like a grape rolling around in the sink, dangerously near the Dispose-All...), AND I have this WTO column here glaring at me like a malevolent snake, BUT I'm not going to give you either of those, yet. Instead, I will share with you an interesting revelation I had recently regarding the inherent nature of people in LA.

You see, I have been living in El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula for, let's see, a year and a half now, and it is indeed a very different place than Northern California (insert sound of angelic choir), which is where I'm from. And yes, I am certainly pre-disposed to look down upon these Southerners, for there is some small amount of good-natured (read: not generally involving shotguns) rivalry between the two halves of the state. But I came here with what I feel was an open mind, and have attempted not to check whether or not my earlier prejudices and generalizations were true, but to get rid of them altogether, and build up an entirely new set of prejudices and generalizations, based more firmly upon anecdotal evidence.

And I have succeeded. Boy Howdy, have I.

However, I think that in general, when trying to understand the Los Angelene mind, one thing seems to bring all the disparate observations together, and in the darkness binds them. That being a truly impressive level of self-centeredness.

It's true. People living in Los Angeles are just plain more interested in themselves, and less worried about anyone else, than people living elsewhere. It's not an insult. Well, okay, it is, but it's a true one. Angelenos are self-centered to a degree higher than anyone else I've ever met, and that includes Germans.

It's not a mean sort of trait - they honestly wish you well. But they just don't really care that much. I've observed this quite a bit in the social groups I have dropped myself into down here. All talk is centered around the individual talking - and people are unhesitant to break in and give their own opinion. Elsewhere, you hear the question "So, what do you think?" Not here. Unless it's followed by "... about my project/hair/car?"

I had thought that perhaps I had just fallen in among egotists, but (and this is what spurred this column) this is fully borne out by the public behavior I see. Take turn signals. People here don't use 'em. I've actually counted, while driving, the number of turns I witness where the signal was used versus those where it was not used. It's 60-40. People just don't signal. (It's an exaggeration, of course. If you even thought "well, obviously some people do signal", go away. Now. Preferably to set your face on fire.)

Oh, they expect you to signal. But why should they? The only person who needs information on the road is them. Scratch that (you can see I'm not a native) - the only person on the road is them. Giving anyone else information via their turn signal really doesn't occur - because there's no one else there.

Even wackier, they do this for crosswalks. "This" being that they never push the button to cross. By my count, any given Angeleno has a 3/10 chance of pushing a button to get a "walk" signal. This is, of course, fine in groups, where someone (I'm thinking a foreigner) will push the button. But I repeatedly see people walk up to a crosswalk, wait, and then become seriously discombobulated when the light turns green to drive and stays red to walk. I see it at least once a week.

Because, see, it's them. They are the ones at the light. Of course it will change. How could it not? They need to cross. The fact that the walk signal is unaware of their presence until they push the button, well... Let me put it this way. There is, somewhere, an Angeleno reading this column. And their mind just blanked out that sentence. They are confused as hell, now, because it is quite literally inconceivable that anything could be unaware of their presence, and they are wondering why this paragraph jumps around so erratically. Hee. I did it again. I bet they are really confused now.

Fascinatingly, it's a self-reinforcing culture. If everyone else is imbued with Trump-like levels of self-importance, you have to be too. To get a word in edgewise. To build up your own ego. If you don't adopt the ME culture, you can't survive here. So you imitate the natives, and the culture goes on.

In conclusion, let me re-iterate that I really am not trying to insult or in any way say that Angelenos are bad people. I have a great many friends down here (not for long at this rate, eh?), and I am dearly fond of them. But, they simply are much more self-centered than people elsewhere. I would imagine that for many people, it suits. Not me - I hope to return to somewhere where people care about others, use their turn signals, and will all fall silent, as they should, when I begin to speak.


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