This article appeared in the on-line magazine for actors The Networker on November 1, 2008
One day I was riding my bike west on Olympic Blvd. to a rehearsal for the theatre production “Voices From Chornobyl.” This required me to wear some frumpy clothes and not wear make-up. As I was cranking up a hill, my phone rang. I pulled onto a sidewalk and saw that it was my agent calling me.
“Enci,” my agent said, “the good news is that you have an audition. The bad news is that you have to be on the Warner Brothers lot within the hour. I hope you are not on your bike.”
“Um, no, I’m not,” I said as I tried to sound calm and not reveal that I was suddenly frantic. “But I won’t have time to go home, since I’m on the west side, and I’m not dressed up or anything. I don’t even have headshots with me. Or make-up.”
My agent said that it didn’t matter as long as I showed up. She gave me my lines over the phone – in German – and wished me good luck. I needed it! There was no way I could make it over the hill and into the Valley to Warner Brothers in an hour. I panicked and rode around in circles for ten minutes until a car rental place caught my attention. I rode my bike in, said, “I need a car now! I take anything you have!” and I drove off into the Hollywood Hills to my audition. Amazingly, I made it on time.
After that incident, I learned to be prepared – always have a headshot, resume, brush and make-up with you at all times –and I also learned not to panic. In L.A., there is a car rental place every few blocks and I learned that it is very, very easy to rent a car. I left my bike at the rental place and they locked it up for me in a back room. The next day, after I dropped off the car, I rode home on my bike.
Since I don’t have a car, I now rent regularly at 699 Rent A Car, the cheapest place in LA. They rent real beaters: don’t even try to play your CD or tape in these cars, and don’t be surprised if your dashboard has a hole in it. My motto is that as long as it has four wheels, a steering wheel, a gas pedal and functioning brakes, I’m happy. I only need the car to get me from point A to point B, not to show off. I ride my bike to show off. 🙂
Sometimes when I don’t feel like renting, I call up my friends who own a car and live near me. They are always happy to share their car while they’re at work, since it sits in a parking lot all day anyway. Also, my friends know that when I borrow their car it will be returned with $10 to $20 worth of extra gas and the windows will be clean. I return a car in better shape than when I got it, so it works out for everyone!
I know that some of you would like to “go green” but don’t want to give up your car. Have no fear – there are many ways for you to avoid ditching your good, old metal box.
- Consider buying an old car instead of a new one. If you need a “new car,” or if you want to buy a green car, Wired Magazine maintains that you are better off buying an old car rather than a hybrid. You will not only save the raw natural resources required to manufacture a new vehicle, you will also keep more green in your wallet. Of course, this topic is hotly debated online. If you look, you’ll find lots of forums and discussions about whether buying a hybrid is more green than buying an old car.
- Carpool. When you go to acting class, a theatre production, a rehearsal or to do background work, find out who lives in your area and ride with them. There are plenty of forums online that will help you find a driving partner. You can make new friends this way, you will be polluting less, you will leave a parking space open for somebody else, and you can split the cost of parking wherever you’re going.
- Go shopping with your neighbor. Yes, this might seem odd, but why not? I go with my neighbor once in awhile to buy groceries. It’s a lot of fun. We help each other carry bags and we don’t have to walk alone through a dark, empty parking lot. This might be a big incentive for some ladies out there. 🙂
- Don’t use the drive-through at restaurants. When you do, your car sits and idles (thus polluting) for as long as it takes to order and receive your food. Park your car and go inside.
- Turn off your engines whenever you can. This is a big pet peeve of mine. When you wait for someone, when you are at a railroad crossing or when you stop at a long light, turn off your engine and stop polluting! One day I timed every red light I hit. The average wait was about 30 seconds. According to the link above, if you sit for more than 30 seconds at a light you can save money by turning off your engine – not to mention the pollution you will avoid spewing into the air.
- Take your lunch breaks inside an air-conditioned building. Don’t sit inside your idling, air-conditioned car to eat.
- Check your tire pressure and keep them inflated. You’d be shocked at how much money you will save on gas.
- Recycle your oil, car battery, old windshield wiper blades, tires, Windex bottles, etc., at hazardous waste centers. Don’t drop any of these in the regular trash, since they are very harmful to the environment if they end up in the landfill.
- Try to drive when there is moderate traffic or no traffic!
- Lastly, drive at a moderate speed instead of accelerating to red lights. You will save gas and decrease the amount of exhaust your car spits out into the atmosphere.
It’s my opinion that if we drive more respectfully and treat pedestrians and cyclists well, more people will feel safer walking and biking. Don’t block intersections so that pedestrians have to step into oncoming traffic to cross the street, slow down in residential neighborhoods and business districts and check for cyclists before you open your car door.
Additionally, we should all be calling our city leaders and asking them to re-pave bad roads, fix broken streetlights and repair sidewalks. All of these things will encourage people to walk or bike and mean we’re taking small steps forward to create greener streets, neighborhoods and cities.
I’ve been renting a car for a week because some of my rehearsals for “Death and the Maiden” go until 2:00 in the morning. We are also in tech week, so I have to schlep wardrobe and props to the theatre. Having said this, I really don’t like driving. I don’t get any exercise, I’m not as relaxed as I am when I ride my bike, and I hate being stuck in traffic and feeling “average.”
I’m used to riding my bike and I can’t wait to be back in the saddle again. Of course, there are many of you out there who would never give up driving and I don’t expect you to. But as long as we respect each other on the road and learn to co-exist, we will make our city a better place to live.
We are lucky that we live in a country where we have choices and can advocate for ourselves. Be safe on the road and wave at me when you see me on my bike. You will make my day!