Why Some People Don't Drive in San FranciscoSeptember 12, 2010
That is, bar none, my favorite street sign in San Francisco. Click for big and crazy-pants-edness. Which way are you going? (ATTN: NICOLE PEELER: That sign is mere blocks -- BLOCKS! -- from the House of Meat Prime Rib.)
I remember when I didn't like driving in the city. I hated it. I was scared of it. I'm not one of those drivers who worries I'll go the wrong way on a one-way street -- I just didn't know where things were. I was worried I'd accidentally end up on the freeway and shunted out of the freeway into Daly City or something (oh, wait, that happened once).
But somehow, in the past five years or so, I've gotten so that I like driving in San Francisco. There's a kind of thrill to it. When I was growing up, we spent some years in the East Bay, and I remember my dad driving us around the city in one of our many VW vans, careening up and down hills, yelling that old Bill Cosby line, "Come around, idiot, come around!" One of those vans lost its bumper and Dad made one out of wood. I remember thinking that was cool. And he always said that driving in the city took a certain amount of daring, and said that people who drove in San Francisco were CRAZY.
Well, they are crazy, but not including the taxis (who are out of their frikken minds), they're no crazier than anywhere else, and Oakland has WAY crazier drivers. I've lived in Oakland now for thirteen years, and nowhere in the world have I seen some of the things I see there on a regular basis. So when I go to the city, it's almost relaxing in comparison. Sometimes, when I'm a little lost, I get on the tail of a taxi and make their moves, following in their wake, and it's like a carnival ride, all honking and ahOOgahs, and I usually end up figuring out where I need to go eventually.
And I just realized this: I think the reason I'm more relaxed about driving now is the fact that I always have an interactive map in my pocket. When I get lost, I can pull over, figure out where I am, zoom in and out, look at satellite images, and figure it out. Isn't that AMAZING? When we were driving back from Yosemite the other day and took that back road, it wasn't until we were kind of lost that I realized we had neither a cell phone signal nor a California map in the car. So we followed our noses, and asked the advice of a very nice woman at a gas station (just like in the old days!) and found our way home.
But it's nice to be (mostly) unafraid of driving in San Francisco. And I love that crazy-pants sign.