The Wristwatch Factor

Los Angeles has long been considered the capital of the laid-back, take-it-easy life style--at least by those who don't live here. You know, the have-a-nice-day place, the chill-out place, the place where a fully clothed person walking briskly down a busy street draws stares. It is a convenient stereotype for the rest of the country, and, as with all stereotypes, there is an element of truth in it. But Psychology Today has now taken this laid-back image too far. According to an article in the magazine, Los Angeles has taken relaxation to the level of religion, ranking dead last among 36 cities in the measure of the pace of life.

Which are the faster-paced cities? New York? Sure. But according to the article, the Big Apple is sedate compared to number one and two on the list, Boston and Buffalo, N.Y. Los Angeles was beaten out by large, mid-sized and small cities: bustling, frenzied towns such as Salt Lake City (no. 4) Paterson, N.J. (no. 13) Chattanooga, Tenn. (no. 25) and Fresno (no. 31).

If such rankings sound odd, they do not become less so when you look at how the cities were measured. To see if there was a relationship between a city's characteristic pace and its rate of coronary heart disease, a research team looked at four indicators: walking speed, working speed, talking speed and how many people wore watches. The researchers clocked how long it took pedestrians to move 60 feet along uncrowded streets. Then they timed how long bank clerks took to give change. Then they tape-recorded how long it took postal clerks to explain the difference between regular mail, certified mail and insured mail. And then, they considered the percentage of men and women wearing wristwatches.

We suggest a different methodology: How about measuring how many drivers make sudden left turns in front of you? Or how quickly a police officer flags you down for a jay walking ticket? Or how fast an automatic bank teller machine displays the "closed" sign just as you're about to insert your ATM card? Or the percentage of men and women wearing beepers?

Under our set of indicators, we're willing to bet that Los Angeles would rank as the fastest-paced city in the country. But none of this proves much. We were thinking of dictating a letter to Psychology Today, walking it down to the post office and sending it via insured mail, but one of our friends with a wristwatch told us all of this would take too long, even by Los Angeles standards.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World