NOTE: This column originally appeared in Feb. 2002 on the Paper Bag Review
In my never-ending quest to dispel urban legends of the world, I am often driven (no pun intended) to conduct case studies to provide the good citizens of the world with my often mind-boggling results. Now I am sure that you have all heard the stories about driving in the Los Angeles area. Just in case you haven’t (and if you haven't, then you probably live under a rock and don't own a computer, but I will humor you anyway), let me provide you with some facts-at-a-glance, if you will, of the traffic situation in this fine metropolis:
Here is the current situation on the freeways: Smooth Sailing (Keep in mind that blue > 35mph; a nice speed to be aware of when traveling on a freeway)
Feel free to verify these facts I have provided (they can be found in any almanac that I have written). I wouldn't be surprised if you were skeptical though. There are so many conflicting reports on the news these days that nobody knows what to believe anymore. On top of that, 99% of the news coming out of Hollywood seems so exaggerated... Are they really killing off Jennifer Aniston on Friends? Is Jessica Simpson really marrying that tool from 98 Degrees? Did Ted Casablanca really see the kid from Seventh Heaven sipping a latte at the Coffee Bean in Studio City next to Ahmet Zappa?
Since you obviously can’t take what the tabloids or gossip columnists report as fact, where can you turn? How about the longest running and most successful nighttime drama of all time for viewers between the ages of 12-65: Beverly Hills, 90210. (Note: It would be a wider age demographic, but sometimes they tackled more mature topics not suitable for younger viewing audiences. These are generally filed in the "A Very Special 90210" archives). If any program has accurately portrayed life within the upper class confines of the City of Angels, it is 90210. Or has it? Obviously, the only way to answer this question was to gas up the Accord and embark on what I dubbed "A Day in the Life of 90210—in Real Time."
The premise of this case study was quite simple: to prove or disprove the theory that 90210 provided factual insight into the road conditions and time approximations of driving in the Greater Los Angeles Area (the more I think about it, I really ought to submit this to some sort of scientific journal…just a thought). I would simulate a typical day of activity for one character on the show and calculate the time it takes me to get to each destination against the time it takes the character on the show. It is arbitrary which character was selected for this simulation, but just to give him/her a name (rather than referring to him/her as "the character" for the entire column), I will use Brandon Walsh since he was one of the central characaters on the show. Now this may upset those who feel we should have used Nat Bussicio (owner of the Peach Pit, once again for those living under a rock), but let's be honest, did Nat ever really leave the Peach Pit? Better yet, did he even have a car or know how to drive? (Note: please do not interpret the "knowing how to drive" comment as criteria for the outcome of this study, as "not knowing how to drive" is required for operating a vehicle in California, and thus is viewed as a constant variable) Ok, enough with the jibber-jabber, let's hit the road!
Location: Casa Walsh, the Walsh residence
Scenario: Brandon wakes up, scarfs down a home-cooked Cindy Walsh breakfast, pats Jim on the back and heads off to California University for an early morning student senate meeting.
90210 Time: 15 minutes
Real Time: About 20 minutes to drive the 15 miles from Altadena to Eagle Rock where California University is.
(Note: We are omitting the time that it took to drive from our starting point, Beverly Hills oddly enough, to the actual location of Casa Walsh in Altadena. For those of you who care, and I am not seeing any hands raised, it took about 47 minutes to drive the 25 miles.)
Totals: 90210: 15min Sidearms: 20min
Location #2: California University
Scenario: Brandon implements some tuition reform bills, shoots the breeze with the chancellor and heads to the beach apartment to pick up Kelly Taylor so he can give her a ride to the Peach Pit for some food.
90210 Time: 30 minutes
Real Time: About 1 hour and 34 minutes to drive the 38 miles from Eagle Rock to Hermosa Beach where the beach apartment is. Lucky for me, I missed the mid-"early morning" rush and hit only moderate traffic on the way down.
Totals: 90210: 45min Sidearms: 1h, 54min
Location #3: Kelly and Donna’s Beach Apartment
Scenario: Kelly invites Brandon inside, lectures him on abnormal psychology then shows him some pre-burn modeling photos. Donna comes out of her room and scares everyone away, forcing Brandon and Kelly to head to school without doing a full calisthenic warm-up. (Note: For a proper calisthenic warm-up, please refer to Hartley’s Fitness column)
90210 Time: 20 minutes
Real Time: About 1 hour and 23 minutes gets us the 25 miles from Hermosa Beach to the production warehouse in Van Nuys where they filmed the Peach Pit scenes. Real Time #2: 3 minutes: the time it took before I was asked by security to leave the property.
Totals: 90210:1h, 5min Sidearms:3h, 17min