A Balcony View: Finding the drive to be the worst

I'd like to thank the people of Glendale for not caring at all. And for not protesting a bit. And for not threatening to burn so much as one copy of the Koran. We managed to peacefully allow members of the Islamic Center of Glendale to publicly celebrate their new religious center. And we did it without any of our citizens claiming they got a personal message from God asking them to promote hate.

Look at us! Proving to the rest of the country that people with different belief systems can get along peacefully. Perhaps we are motivated by something deeper than fear and rhetoric. Maybe that something is mutual respect. Whatever it is, I'm truly grateful our little part of the world doesn't include the likes of Florida Pastor Terry Jones, whose sole purpose in life is getting the attention he didn't receive as a child.

For those who haven't heard, Jones is a racist disguised as a preacher, who recently called for people to set fire to copies of the Koran. Curiously, until the media got wind of his verbal stench, he was pushing his interpretation of God's will to about 50 families in Florida. But enough about Jones. I've wasted enough time covering his hateful, ridiculous dribble. He'll be out of our collective memory as soon as the media finds another beacon of stupidity to gaze upon.

Perhaps Sarah Palin will grace us with one of her "gosh darned, down home" theories on economic stability! Those are always fun for a few minutes.

In the meantime, we Glendalians, Glendaleites, Glendalers, whatever … we've got other things to focus on. Like our terrible driving, for starters. Anyone else see the latest "Allstate America's Best Drivers Report," ranking Glendale 191 out of 193 cities for having the worst drivers? We ranked lower than cities with populations much higher than ours. Only Baltimore and Washington, D.C., ranked lower. No wonder we don't bother protesting Islamic centers. We're too busy burning our DMV driving handbooks.

I've stated on numerous occasions that Glendale is the most harrowing eight blocks of my daily 46-mile roundtrip commute. But I had no idea we were that bad. The truth is, collectively we suck, as drivers and evidently yours truly isn't the only one taking notice.

When this story first appeared in the online edition of the Glendale News-Press, it was accompanied by a photo of a car that had crashed into a building on Glenoaks Bouelvard. Seriously, how do you explain that to your insurance company? "I was driving along, minding my own business when this building came out of nowhere and smashed into my car."

Frankly, I'm getting tired of asking that we put down the cell phones, the aftershave and the lattes and start paying a little more attention to the road. I want to suggest something new. I say we forgo any kind of driving responsibility, put the pedal to the proverbial metal and aspire to be the city with the worst drivers in the nation. Forget third-worst. Let's shoot for the bottom of this barrel.

There are only two cities keeping us from being named the worst drivers in the country. Who knows? With a little effort, I'll bet we can make it to worst on planet Earth. Let's aim high! Or low, as the case may be.

And what good could come of claiming this dubious distinction? We'd finally have an ownable brand! That's right, Glendale wouldn't have to wait for Northstar Destinations to figure out whatever it is they are trying to figure out about our overpriced brand statement. We could truthfully claim that Glendale embodies its brand through our relentless pursuit of driving inadequacy. But we have to hurry.

According to BrandGlendale.com, Phase 2 of the Northstar branding plan is about to get underway. That process involves both development and options for bringing our new brand to life. If we decided our poor driving habits were brand-worthy, we should ask Northstar to test it by creating a map of notable driving hazards (like pedestrians, bikes and buildings) around town. We could place bronze markers at the intersections where people spontaneously crash for no apparent reason. Or create a self-guided audio tour narrated by Leonard Nimoy so tourists can drive around Glendale and be just as distracted as the locals!

Maybe the signs coming into Glendale ought to read: Welcome to Glendale. Practice faith without worry. But drive around at your own risk.

GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is senior manager of communications for DIRECTV and a copywriting professor at Pasadena Art Center College of Design. Gary may be reached at garyrhuerta@gmail.com.

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