As I sat through my fifth hour of agonizing Los Angeles traffic on my Friday afternoon, scarfing down an In-N-Out double-double that mostly ended up in my lap, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Why do people think California is so great?”
Really, what is the appeal of California (specifically Southern California) that makes it the backdrop for countless films and shows, the ultimate vacation destination, and the life-changing move that drives so many people to make it their home?
The beaches were an obvious answer. Next to tropical destinations like the Bahamas and Hawaii, Southern California beaches are often referenced as some of the best in the world. Though you can’t deny their beauty, the time you take circling parking lots for hours trying to find a spot certainly detracts from the thrill of some fun in the sun -- your day at the beach can easily turn into a mere afternoon when thousands of other people are also trying to enjoy the ocean during the summer.
These same hordes of beach-goers are usually inexperienced swimmers that overflow into the surfing zones, requiring lifeguards to constantly lap the beach, herding clueless tourists or rescuing them from the obvious riptide they traveled into. California beaches aren’t as picturesque as they’re made out to be, considering you can hardly see the sand or the waves because they are so compacted with bodies and wheelbarrows worth of unnecessary beach gear.
It’s not just at the beach that you’re fighting the crowds and struggling to find parking -- it’s everywhere. There are days when I feel like my life revolves around driving because everywhere I go, I experience traffic to my destination, waste time circling lots to find parking, and then sit through traffic on my way back.
I don’t even feel alone in the privacy of my own home because, having grown up in a city, am I really ever alone with the sound of cars, pedestrians, and sirens pouring through my window even as I sleep?
I’ve added up to three hours of travel time just because of traffic. I wait for traffic lights to turn for up to 10 minutes, and still fail to get through it in time. So, I wait another 10 minutes, and then another, until finally, I feel it is time to make that light my permanent address.
And speaking of permanent addresses, living here is expensive. For the amount of rent my mom pays for me to live in a small apartment at school to share a room, I could have a beach house in Thailand to myself.
The coveted parking I’ve mentioned so often? I’ve seen it go for as much as $4.25 for 12 minutes (look at that again -- I swear you didn’t read it wrong).
You could argue that beaches in California are free, while others, such as the Jersey Shore, require you pay a fee to go on them, but surprise! Once again, you would be oh-so-wrong. Beaches aren’t really free considering that Californians pay the highest tax rate of any other state.
But why live here? Who cares how trendy and beautiful Southern California is when you have to endure sky-high prices and suffocating overpopulation?
Because I wouldn’t have it any other way. As frustrating as 40-car In-N-Out lines, and an extra 45 minutes of bumper-to-bumper traffic may be, I would choose it every time over any other option. You just can’t beat animal style fries and gorgeous warm water beaches. I will sit at a crowded lineup to surf some of the most consistent and best waves in the world, no matter how many kids in water shoes on Wavestorms cut me off.
I’ll waste my extremely overpriced gas sitting in traffic because luckily, I have places to go and so many things to do living in such a diverse and exciting place. No matter what, I will pay, and I’ll wait, because the only emotion I feel greater than the hate I often feel for California, is the happiness it brings me calling it my home.