Los Angeles is the ultimate city of hope in this great land of opportunity, a place of hustlers, would-be stars and immigrants on the move.
But while many of us have approached the town as a giant gift bag -- take what you can get -- it's always good to think of others: Will this be a place you want your children and grandchildren to enjoy? If your relatives came here from out of town would you be proud of our hospitality? Make it better. Pass it on. Do this:
10. Buy an old man a drink. Seeing that L.A. recently ranked as one of America's 10 unfriendliest cities, we need all the help we can get. Our boss recommended buying a stranger a drink. And not just a hot chick or Mr. Six Pack down the bar. Nothing says you care like buying one for the old guy who's put in his time.
9. Change a flat tire. For some of us, changing a flat is a piece of cake. Loosen the lugs. Jack it up. Take the lugs all the way off. Pull off the bad wheel. Replace with the spare. Put the lugs on. If it's a space-saver doughnut that comes with a compressor, give it air. Lower the car. Tighten the lugs. Put the bad wheel in the trunk. Done. For some folks this is foreign and horrifying. But to be stuck on the side of the boulevard in this vast town with a three-wheeled ride is almost worse than getting stuck in our slow-moving traffic.
8. Help an out-of-town neighbor. This is where you can really prove L.A. is a town of benevolent people. Instead of burglarizing, plundering and otherwise taking advantage, the point here is to water plants, tend to gardens and take your neighbor's dog out for walks, pooper-scooper in hand. And make sure to pick up mail, newspapers and fliers, an abundance of which screams I'm not home!
7. Help a friend move. We know, this is a serious commitment. As Jerry Seinfeld noted long ago, helping someone move is what really separates the true friends from the fakes. In L.A., the deed is doubly good because our county is larger than some countries. The driving time alone could take hours. A move could eat up your whole weekend. BFFs? Prove it.
6. Explain our parking rules. Granted, sometimes our parking regulations are so complicated that not even longtime locals fully understand them. But for the most part you're used to seeing and interpreting those red-on-white and green-on-white signs. Help a tourist avoid a $73 welcome-to-L.A. pamphlet. Let them know, for example, that if they park on Hollywood Boulevard at night, there will be a cover charge in the form of a whopping ticket when the bars close. Let them know that yellow curbs are open to all late at night. Tell them where your secret spot is. Do it.
5. Let a drunk friend sleep over. The prospect of housing another human, drunk and perhaps not in full control of his or her capabilities, isn't exactly the ideal form of company, unless that's what you're into. But hear us out: This is an especially sweet favor in L.A. It's quite difficult to get around via public transportation at night. The cost of a taxi is ridiculous. And driving is an invitation to get a $10,000 DUI. A free sleepover, then, is a gift to the whole community.
4. Give good directions. When tourists in a new American sedan so obvious it practically screams Hertz! pull over and yell for directions with desperate faces, they need your help. Don't send them to the nearest gang turf. Don't go all The Californians on 'em and tell them to take the 405 north to the 101 west all the way to Calabasas. Be specific. Recognize that they might not know that the Hollywood Freeway is the 101 or that Pasadena Freeway is the 110. North, south, east and west are not directions when you don't know which way is up. Short cuts are great, but not if they're so complicated your new friends will get lost. And whatever you do, don't send them down Santa Monica Boulevard at 5 p.m. Not nice.
3. Share your joint. Somewhere in history, probably between the free-for-all '60s and the pre-medical '90s, a joint became a precious commodity to be limited only to one's immediate family and/or posse. There's some rationale for that: In the era before the legalization of medical marijuana, pot was more pricey and precious. But now that you can get a gram of medicinal cannabis for the price of a night's cover charge, it's time to pass it on the left hand side again. So remember, the next time you're at the rave, Coachella or the Hollywood Bowl (yeah, we said "bowl"), that attractive person next to you just might have glaucoma. (And, uh, to the recipients of this act of kindness, please keep it dry).
2. Let someone in. When you're in traffic, waiting at the back of the line like a good citizen, and someone snakes your lane, it's a stinging, hot burn, innit? But take that same situation, cool off, back off, and waive them in. It changes the whole dynamic. You weren't snaked. Your not pissed. And you passed on some good vibrations. Try it.
And last but not least ...
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1. Feed a meter. This is practically the easiest good deed to do in L.A., yet it could save someone $73, maybe more, for the cost of a few quarters. Sadly, it doesn't always work anymore. And it's technically against the rules. Santa Monica's newer, high-tech parking spaces can tell if a vehicle has maxed out its time in a spot. Sensors can tell if the vehicle has been moved. They won't allow more time to be purchased until the car has driven off. Still, it's worth a shot. It's like a wishing well for modern times. It says, I believe in a better L.A.