The Persistence of Memory (or Not)

I’ve been under the weather all day. Ergo, a few words about…the weather.

I lived in Los Angeles for 22 years. Each of those 22 years had a rainy season, beginning in about November and ending in the spring. The first rain of the season always loosens a thin layer of dust and oil that has been baked on the pavement of city streets and freeways during the hot, dry summer months. Vehicles moving over a certain speed on pavement in that condition tend to hydroplane. Their tires ride not on the pavement itself but on the surface tension of the newly-freed grime. Braking becomes problematic, because the grime doesn’t offer much traction.

Every Angeleno knows this. Every single one. Local newscasts chatter about it for days before the first expected precipitation. Yet every year, without fail, the first drizzle of the season produces a ridiculous slew traffic accidents, ranging from simple fender benders to freeway pile-ups. For some unfathomable reason, Angelenos *cannot* remember from one year to the next how to drive when the rain comes.

In Las Vegas, we have a similar but slightly weirder problem with memory retention.

Somehow, people in Vegas simply can’t remember from year to year that the desert gets *hot* in the summer. For a couple of weeks every annum, Las Vegans walk out of their homes, get moist and itchy under the collar, climb irritably into their cars, and take out their perspiration on the guy in the next lane.

Birds remember migration patterns from generation to generation. A female cat can deliver a litter of kittens without attending a single Lamaze class. Humans — at least those living west of the Rockies — seemingly can’t remember how to drive in the rain or that the desert is hot.

Offhand, I don’t recall what that suggests about the future of our species.

8 Responses to “The Persistence of Memory (or Not)”

  1. L0N Says:

    Here in Michigan every Winter it seems like people here forget how to drive in snow. They every drive far more cautious than necessary or if they are drive SUV like there is no snow.

  2. Brent Wilcox Says:

    Here in Alaska, I find that in the middle of Winter, I can’t remember what Summer is like,and vice versa.
    But then, Winter lasts a lot longer. On September 1 of the first year I moved here, we had a cold and blustery rainstorm then whitened the tops of the nearest mountains (“termination dust” it’s called because it marks the end of Summer, though that has more of an apocalyptic resonance to me) — and I realized that back in California it would have been a headline-making storm in the dead of Winter. And apparently like Michigan, Anchorage drivers haven’t a clue how to drive in snow, assuming their SUVs will simply prevail. Then they learn the true meaning of “off road”.

  3. Travis Johnson Says:

    I’m with the Alaskan on the memory loss of seasons. In Minnesota we find it hard to recall what Summer is like with Winter being a six month term in hell. But even in the midst of our two month summer, I find it difficult to imagine the snow and the cold. I’ve lived here for 25 years and I still find in my heart to be outraged when the first snow fall hits the area. The memory loss is intentional – it keeps us sane.

  4. Bart Lidofsky Says:

    In New York, every time there’s a rainstorm, one would think that half the drivers are saying, “Hey! There’s water falling from the sky! What’s with that?”

    Aside to Brent: You still with public radio?

  5. Bryan Headley Says:

    Same for Texans (any weather, but especially rain.) and Illini (first snow always the funnest)

    A major portion of what you’re doing with a car is managing reactions to certain things (breaking, steering) so I can see the disconnect with the outside’s conditions.

  6. Jason Sacks Says:

    I live in Seattle and even we have the same problem with rain. Nevermind that Las Vegas=heat in the same way that Seattle=rain, it always seems to happen that when we get rain, the roads come to a standstill.

  7. Brent Wilcox Says:

    Bart – Yes, I’m on “community radio”, KEUL in Girdwood, AK. 1000 watts (more or less), no network affiliation (but we pull some Pacifica items off the internet), free-form, all-volunteer. Used to be a pirate station until the FCC busted it a few years ago. But when they realized there was no other station serving the area, they gave us a licence instead.

    Travis – People move here from Minnesota for the milder winters!

  8. Jim Brocius Says:

    I’ve lived in California, Texas and Michigan and the weather here in Vegas seems better to me. I don’t think weather has anything to do with driving ability – I think the DMV’s of America are entirely too lenient handing out driving certificates and even worse at yanking them from people who clearly should have them yanked.