Amblin’ Alameda: Driving Miss Daisy Crazy

Amblin’ Alameda: Driving Miss Daisy Crazy

Morton Chalfy

It is the 800 pound gorilla in the room of my life, the fact that my main occupation nowadays, judged by time spent at it, is driving. Driving to the store for groceries, to the mall for various items, to friends, to restaurants, to doctors, to other doctors and to the pharmacist. This is the short list of destinations and anyone reading this can extend and embellish it to their heart’s content from their own experience.

Driving is how we get around and do things in our present world and civilization and it’s a wonderful improvement over its predecessor technologies. Driving in Alameda provides some areas of interest all its own. First, the side streets are generally narrow with parking allowed on only one side, leaving enough room for two cars to pass with, well, inches to spare. Many drivers I have encountered are shaken enough by the narrow passage that they sometimes will wait at a wide spot to let other cars go by. Others seem to almost close their eyes and trust to luck.

Another interesting feature is the requirement to cross main roads like Santa Clara Avenue from a stop sign. Generally, parked cars cut off the sight line until one “creeps and peeps.” A fraught activity. Cars parked up to the very corner on many streets make the absence of sight lines seem quite normal when driving around the city.

Most Alameda drivers are courteous, though not all. Most pedestrians are equally courteous and careful about stepping into the street, but not all. More than once I have come up to a crosswalk and have seen people stepping into the street trusting that the laws of California will supersede the Law of Inertia and keep them safe. I’m all for the pedestrian having the right of way as I am a frequent pedestrian, but I would like to see common sense more often applied. When the pedestrian loses one of these encounters the resulting sight is not pretty.

I am waiting with bated breath and my eyes on the longevity charts for the advent of the driverless car. They are being tested and I can’t wait to see the technology become dominant. I want to get strapped into the car, tap a screen to indicate my destination and lean back and relax. I want the streets and roadways filled with autos controlled by a computer, in conversation with the other cars on the road, with radar eyes, acoustic ears, maps in its brain and strict orders to avoid all collisions.

Besides saving lives, driverless cars will reduce congestion by always merging seamlessly, by increasing the number of cars on the road because they will be able to tailgate without danger and by removing impaired drivers from control. Technological change like this can take many decades to implement, but the increase in efficiency and the quality of life will be enormous.

And I’ll gladly trade in my chauffeur’s cap for my rakish passenger’s fedora.