I don’t do pledges to you, your flag, your country, your Make Believe Friend, or anything else. But I will stand up when others do, and I did when the Palos Verdes Estates Traffic Endangerment Committee opened its monthly meeting. As you’d expect from a meeting that started with a pledge to a nation protected by a Make Believe Friend, the seating consisted of actual wooden church pews. This was designed to drive home the fact that the Make Believe Friend was watching your sorry ass, and also to make your sorry ass even sorrier after sitting on a wooden plank for two hours.
The Endangerment Committee of course sat in plush lounge-office chairs, wide and ample for the soft and large and spreading buttocks that each committee person lugged to the meeting.
I spoke first after being told, in effect, that nothing I said mattered because as an advisory body the Endangerment Committee was not empowered to make any decisions or implement any policies. That, we were told, must be done by the city council, although I was free to gas up the room with empty phrases and a harangue or two.
So I asked the Endangerment Committee a few questions along the lines of “How did they feel about being colossal failures since two cyclists had been killed in the last two months?” and “How did they feel about the fact that we were now reporting all violent crimes in PVE with an emphasis on assault with a deadly weapon?” and “How did they feel about the fact that we were all running video cameras and we were sick and tired of asking them to be nice while they killed us with impunity?”
The way they felt was angry at me, especially when I pointed to the fact that PVE police don’t know the law, either the 3-foot law or the exceptions to CVC 21202(a), and even more especially when I reminded them again that as a safety committee they were failures. When you call yourself a safety committee and people die on your watch, you have failed. However, I sat down before getting into the confrontational aspects of my speech.
This was but a drop in the bucket, though, because it was easy to dismiss me as crazy person with a hole in his jeans who lives in an apartment (Gasp!) and wears a t-shirt designed by Joe Yule saying “Wanky Awards.” [WHAT IS A WANKY? AND FOR MAKE BELIEVE FRIEND’S SAKE, WHAT IS A WANKY AWARD?]
It was harder to dismiss Michael Barraclough, a gainfully employed, property-owning, tax-paying, child-rearing white Republican male who made the rather devastating point that the problem wasn’t the “outsiders” such as hole-pantsing, wanky-shirt-wearing, apartment dwelling vermin, but rather the residents of white and upright PVE itself. “The problem,” he said, “are you, your neighbors, the people standing behind you at Trader Joe’s.”
The chief of the Endangerment Committee told us to “Put it in writing,” to which Michael responded, “I already have.”
The exasperated Endangerman then uttered these immortal words as he tried to tell us that the committee was reactive: “This committee is reactionary. We can’t cold turkey.” I almost jumped to my feet and offered him a dictionary and a book on the 12 Steps but it was clear that the uniformed man with the gun, the cuffs, the radio, and the Taser had his eye on me. “You’re out of line. Back off,” Endangerman said. When he added, “You’re on video,” I almost took off my shirt and started massaging my nipples. But I didn’t.
When they tried to shut Barraclough up he committed the foulest of sins; he quoted the government code language posted at the door allowing public comment to take precedence over the committee agenda in cases of urgency. “If two deaths aren’t urgent, what is?” he asked. The Endangerment Chairman, a crusty old property-owning Make Believe Friend-fearing property owner, scowled and essentially told him to shut up. We hoped that Barraclough would get arrested and dragged out by his hair, if only to make the blog photos more entertaining than this:
After dispensing with the pair of fatalities and the rash of violent crimes being perpetrated against cyclists in the happy enclave of PVE, the committee got on to serious business. First was the burning question of whether or not a convex mirror should be installed in front of 1812 Via del Monte.
I confess to having lain awake countless nights agonizing about this very thing; thank Make Believe Friend the city was on the case. Although no one knew or cared why two cyclists had been killed, the staff had conducted feasibility studies for the possible mirror. Now when I was a kid the feasibility study for installing something was called a shovel, but apparently not any more. What they found after thousands of dollars in studies and manpower was that no matter what the problem in PVE, it’s caused by cyclists.
In this case their traffic study showed that top speeds on VdM were 51 and 58 miles per hour. The posted speed is 25. Rather than coming up with an innovative solution, such as strafing offending cars with .50-caliber cannon from low flying gunships, they bemoaned the cyclists who broke the law going 27. Suggestions were increasing enforcement, having more parking restrictions, and taking no action.
Everyone was relieved to vote that they do more nothing, which they did with great energy. The dead cyclists could wait. They weren’t in a hurry; they were dead after all.
The next hot issue was not cold dead biker bodies. Instead it was the issue of residents seeking parking permit restrictions around the high school. The problem wasn’t that the students were assaulting cyclists (I was battered with a sandwich earlier this year), but rather students were parking cars in front of people’s homes. I suggested parking on top of their homes or better yet, inside them, say in the entertainment room, but this was not well received.
I marveled that no one said: “Hey, dumb fuck. Did you not notice at the time of purchase that you were buying a house next to a high school filled with spoiled pricks who all have nice cars? What is it about ‘rich kids’ and ‘cars’ and ‘cocaine’ that you don’t understand?”
But there was an underlying issue here, familiar to all residents of PVE: The only people who the Don’t-Touch-My-Stuffers hate more than outsiders are each other, and the only people they hate more than each other are each others’ children. That a mirror and a parking restriction were occupying the time of four white guys and a white woman wearing a salmon-colored tent, and that all of them had passed their expiration date years ago, was not lost on me.
Then it got good. Entitled Robert Winston (real name, but I was disappointed that he didn’t show up in a maroon smoking jacket) came to speak in favor of the new parking restrictions because, gasp, his house cleaner had gotten a parking ticket while parked in front of his house! We wondered how this civil rights activist had even been allowed into the meeting.
But the next controversy was even huger. Should the city relocate the stop sign from Granvia Altamira to Via Fernandez? SHOULD IT? Drivers were confused by the split intersection, i.e. they were stupid, and by consolidating the intersection perhaps they could all be turned from complete idiots into mere bumbling fools.
Fortunately, the true culprits were found. Perky Waterman, a real person who goes by that actual name, pointed out the obvious problem: Cyclists! Cyclists run that stop sign all the time! She’s never seen one stop! They roar down the hill! She reminded us that she and her family of four had lived there for thirty years, which made me wonder how an 80-year-old woman still had a family of four. Did she have a couple of those infamous PV sons who never seem to fall far from the tree, or even the living room couch? Or were the other two residents her pet cat and its split personality?
People clapped, cheered, rolled out the welcome mat, and showered the cyclists in attendance with jeers and spit. I thought about pointing out that no matter where they put the stop sign we could still blow the motherfucker, but didn’t. I also thought about pointing out that the two recent cyclist fatalities didn’t involve any stop sign running, but figured that with a name like Perky about the only thing that would get her attention was a stiff gin and tonic.
The final decision was monumental and decisive and unanimous: The Traffic Endangerment Committee exercised the authority invested in it by the Constitution and their Make Believe Friend and voted to do nothing.
“Do we need a motion to do nothing?” asked one of the members whose sole contribution to the meeting was a question about what action was needed to vote for inaction.
Apparently no motion for doing nothing was required, because shortly thereafter they adjourned, and they must have been pleased with their community’s round condemnation of the troublesome cyclists. Would they have felt so satisfied staring into the eyes of the families of the dead?
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