Tuesday, September 27, 2011

We're not in LA anymore - first in a series.

Our country has gone through a long and slow phase of homogenization.  Doesn't matter where you are in this great land of ours, you will inevitably run into a McDonald's, Burger King, Denny's, and other fast food joints.  Then we started having national chains of clothing stores, such as The Gap, The Limited, Victoria's Secret, and the like.  We also have national department stores, such as the now waning Sears, Target, Bloomingdale's, and K-Mart.  I still remember when Bloomingdale's made their entry into California, and everyone was a buzz.  After all, Angelenos are only truly jealous of New Yorkers, and now we had their department store, too.

However, in many ways, things are different as well.  Walking down the grocery stores, I see varieties of food that reflect more of the local flavor, such as Cuban, English, and Caribbean items, as well as more variety of pork, sweet tea sold by the gallon, and the like.  Most supermarkets don't sell hard liquor because Florida law requires a separate liquor store for distilled beverages (so if a supermarket wants to sell spirits, it needs a "store within a store" thing).

Milk is more expensive here in Florida than in California.  Beef seems to be a bit cheaper.  Go figure.

Traffic lights in Orlando are timed very differently than in Los Angeles.  The lights here are much longer - it is common to see the pedestrian crossing light turn red and start counting down from 29 seconds, whereas in LA, you are lucky to have 8 seconds when the red light starts blinking.  In my observation, this leads to more impatient drivers, since they know that the red light lasts a long time, and I've seen quite a few people cutting it close at the intersection, specially on the dedicated left turn lanes.

Speed limits are a bit odd, too.  In Orlando, the major interstate, Highway 4, has speed limits between 55 and 40 around downtown (there is a stretch of highway where the speed limit is variable, and I swear I've seen it at 35 once).  On large surface streets, like John Young, the speed limit is 45 to 55.  In LA, you rarely have surface streets that reach 55, but the majority of highways are at least a consistent 55, if not 65 - the 101 highway which cuts through downtown LA is 55 in the stretch through downtown, 65 elsewhere.  And of course, here in Orlando we have toll roads everywhere, whereas in LA, they are still a rarity.

Finally, on the subject of traffic and traffic enforcement, Orlando has much better traffic than LA, which is expected since LA has about 10 times more people.  However, insurance surveys to the contrary, I have a distinct impression that people in Orlando drive a bit worse than in LA.  I've seen more accidents here on a weekly basis than in LA.  Moreover, near tourist areas of Orlando, traffic slows to a snails pace.  Which brings us to traffic enforcement.  Florida, it seems, allows unmarked police cars to give traffic citations!  This is unheard of in California.  I was absolutely flabbergasted when I saw a red sedan with flashing lights pull over a speeding motorist.  Since then I've seen SUVs with flashing lights as well as other random cars.  Not fair.

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