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post #96
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Driving and Drinking

Los Angeles is a desert. We all know this, but we don't think about it too much. After awhile, the warm dry air and in-lawn sprinkler systems become just another part of life, and one doesn't reflect too much on the desert aspect of stuff. Besides, deserts are dusty and LA has palm trees.

Recently, I witnessed an interesting social aspect of LA which I think comes out of our desert unconsciousness. Everyone drives and drinks.

When I say driving and drinking, I am not saying people break open the six packs and chug from hip flasks while doing 25 on the 405. No, I'm talking about bottled water. Lots of bottled water.

Stopped at a traffic light, I noticed that I was not the only one taking a swig out of my sport water bottle. The drivers behind me, next to me, and in front of me all took the break at the light as a chance to wet his or her whistle. The woman next to me not only drank water, she also redid her make up. We all took one or two sips like back in the 4th grade during class trips to the water fountain down the hall.

There are many possible reasons for the water bottle sippage. Perhaps, the driver is trying to quit smoking (another frequent car activity) but needs to continue the hand to mouth action. Perhaps, the driver is dieting, and water has no calories and no (gasp) carbs. One rarely sees drivers with cans or bottles of soda though. I think this is because soda goes flat, warm, and yuck too easily.

I believe the main reason for the in-car water bottle is simply thirst. We live in a desert that's trying not to be a desert but is still a desert nonetheless. Even though the next oasis (or 7-11) is only a few blocks away, one should always pack water just in case there's traffic.

Some days, I feel like I live in my car and that I spend more time listening to NPR then to real people. I have even eaten a few meals while driving down Santa Monica Blvd (note to self: wrap sandwiches will never stay wrapped). Those days require extra bottles of water. Can't do much else except drive and drink. There are only so many cell phone calls you can make and altoids you can suck on. Water is the best alternative.

Actually, the longest running feud in the United States involves water. The Department of Water and Power and Enyo County still dispute how much water can come down the aqueduct into LA. This dispute has gone on for decades. Water matters a lot out here.

Last weekend, I cleaned out my car. It wasn't an extreme clean out. I didn't vacuum. I picked up all the Trader Joe's baby carrot bags, an empty Altoids licorice tin, and some old Mapquest directions to some place I had forgotten I had gone to. I also pulled ten empty water bottles out from under the seat. One of them still had some water in it. It was car water now, and I didn't want to drink it. After watering the garden, I tossed the ten water bottles into the recycling bin. I had enough water bottles to build a raft---maybe not a raft---maybe a kickboard. Ten water bottles. That's a lot of water.

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