This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

Going from Phoenix to Los Angeles before self-driving cars


It's 2016, and while self-driving cars have been around for years, they aren't yet available for ordinary people like me. So, to get from Phoenix to Los Angeles, I have two choices: driving a car, or flying.

If you've ever driven a non-self-driving car for about six hours straight, I gotta tell you, it's awful. Just imagine someone putting you in a room, in a chair that you can't get out of, and making you hold onto a wheel in front of you, and never allowing your gaze to stray away from looking in front of you except for a few seconds. You can't watch movies, you can't read a book, you certainly can't sleep. What you see of the scenery is very brief as you need to keep the the little mobile room you're in in-between a series of painted lines. For six hours. Yes, you can stop and "stretch your legs" once, maybe twice in those six hours, but that's it. I've done it many times and no matter how I try to keep myself entertained, with audiobooks, or music, it's just the most awfully boring six hours of being trapped in a tiny space that I can imagine.

The alternative is flying. And while it only takes less than an hour to fly from Phoenix to Los Angeles, the entire process is terribly time-consuming. It starts with having to make sure that you have everything packed in a suitcase and a small bag. No, you can't carry anything that isn't absolutely essential, the way you can in the trunk of a car. And it gets worse. In order to get on a plane, you have to buy very expensive tickets about a month in advance. Then, as the time gets closer to your flight, you have to "check in" on a computer or on your phone. And then you have to arrive at a place called an "airport" two hours before the airplane begins its flight. And it just gets worse and worse. To get to the airport, you ride a shuttle van, which means you have to wait around ready to go for at least a half-hour at home. Then, when you get to the airport, you have to stand in a line and give your bag to someone who gives you a piece of paper, and another piece of paper, and then you have to walk to where your airplane is parked. And then you have to stop and take off your shoes (I'm not kidding here), take everything out of your pockets, and walk through an X-Ray machine. Then you keep walking, walking, walking (remember you're carrying a bag, or pulling it behind you, the whole way) until you find another place to stand in line to show a piece of paper, then you stand in another line and show someone else a piece of paper.

Of course, a self-driving car just means that you can pack your stuff in it, tell it the address in Los Angeles, and relax. You can watch a movie, you can eat some snacks. You can enjoy the scenery, take a nap. And you can horrify the "young 'uns" with stories of how difficult it used to be before self-driving cars were invented.