Point of View

Artist or Plumber, Kirk or Spock, Ginger or Mary Ann?

April, 2018

John Van Horn

There is a theory that everyone can be slotted into one of two camps. Are you an artist or a plumber, are you Kirk or Spock? (OK ďGinger or Mary AnnĒ was clickbait and has nothing to do with this column.)

People can be creative, outside the box thinkers (artists) or can be analytical, get it done, builders (plumbers). But is it possible to be both? The theory says ďno!Ē

Think about it, the very things that make a person an artist, the free thinking, the scatterbrain approach to life, the constant differences, are the very things that drive plumbers nuts. A plumber sees a job and looks for a way to do it. A plumber actually builds something. An artist canít be bothered with building. By the time a Mac was on the market, Steve Jobs had moved on to the next thing.

Some see this conversation as denigrating one person or another. I see it as understanding reality and capitalizing on your strengths.

When I first got into the parking business, I worked at a company that built gates, ticket spitters, computers, cashier terminals and the like. Our biggest problem was actually making the stuff. We were run by artists. I decided one day to solve the problem and jumped into the manufacturing process. The next day my boss came in and said: ďJohn, you may be a great salesperson, but you canít manage manufacturing. Keep out of it.Ē Of course, he was right. My skills were down a different path. They were more esoteric, less analytical. They were more artist, less plumber.

Kirk was a free thinker, he would bend the rules when it suited, he would change the rules if they kept him from winning (remember the Kobayshi Maru?), he didnít think outside the box, he denied the box existed. Spock was Mr. Analysis. Data and fact driven, he was the one that made the Enterprise work. He got it fixed when it was broken, he kept it on course, he was the glue that held it together. However, without his friend, he was lost. Kirk, too, would have nothing without Spock.

You can, if you are a plumber, reach outside your comfort zone and brush up against art. You can, if you like, expand your horizons. No need to be so analytical and boxed in that you feel trapped. And likewise, as an artist, you can realize that you have limits and spend some time actually doing the paperwork you have put off for weeks. It is necessary.

Neither is better. They are complementary. You canít have one without the other. They are Ying and Yang. Together they succeed, alone they are mediocre. So, which are you?

Whatever you decide, take pride in it. The world would be a lesser place without you.

Hereís the deal. An article from USA Today says that autonomous vehicles coming off the assembly line will be light colored. It seems that the sensors on existing vehicles canít see darker colors quite as well. Oh, they can add additional sensors to see darker cars, but thatís expensive and drives up the cost of the cars.

We are assuming that autonomous vehicles are going to be driving on the same streets as existing vehicles. As I look out my window into Neutrogenaís parking lot I see that easily half of the cars are black, or some other dark color. What are these new autonomous vehicles going to do, only see other autonomous vehicles and hope to miss the regular cars already on the street? Or, as mentioned in the article, are we going to channel Henry Ford and allow you to buy any car you want EXCEPT black.

Then thereís this interesting little paragraph:

In addition to color considerations, paint companies must also adapt their products to help vehicles avoid dirt buildup,†which can clutter†sensors and give†false signals to self-driving cars.

Look, Iím as into technology as the next guy, but please. To be safe, only drive when surrounded by light colored vehicles, or pay the premium and buy the AV with and Ďextraí set of sensors. And for goodness sake, donít drive through that mud puddle, gotta keep those sensors clean and clear. Iím told rain and snow cause AV problems. But rain might just wash mud off the sensors or it might add to it.

GM, the article says, wants to begin testing AVís with no back up driver or steering wheel. Yikes. Where will they be testing these, in Phoenix with nice clean streets? I think Waymo has the valley of the sun locked up.

I know Iím a cynic. But wouldnít it be better if the auto companies solved all these issues before they issued the press release.

Note: In keeping with my theory that everyone has an ax to grind, the article quoted a company that provides paint for automobiles.

Men like trains. I think itís in our genes. I actually hope the LA Metro train will come by and Iíll have to wait at the level crossing and watch it pass. (OK, maybe some women like trains, too, I just donít know any.) Lately my lyiní eyes have told me that something was wrong. As the trains pass, even at rush hours, they are empty.

Barbara Chance has been telling me for decades that the percentage of people riding rapid transit hasnít changed for what, 50 years. My guess is that she is right. Witness the headline in todayís LA Times:

Ridership on Metro fell to the lowest level in more than a decade last year

Wow! I told you that you could learn all you needed by just looking out the window.

The question, of course, is: Why? According to that fountain of all knowledge, LAís broadsheet daily, the answer is (emphasis mine):

Experts and officials have no firm answers but have attributed the decline to a combination of factors, including changes to immigration policy, competition from Uber and Lyft and more people buying cars ó as well as perceived problems with existing transit service and security.

Well, what do you know? More people are buying cars. Wonder where they are going to park them. LA (and the Feds) is investing a billion dollars a mile to build rapid transit so I can have fun watching it roll by. Oh, itís great too to drive to a station and ride to Santa Monica to the beach or Downtown to a show. But is it taking traffic from the freeway? Not so much.

Cities like LA donít lend themselves to rapid transit. Itís a first mile/last mile problem. The nearest station is a mile from my office, and a mile from my house. At best thatís a 20-minute walk on each end.

A few months ago, a reporter for the Times (and a proponent of mass transit) tested the new Expo line. She took Uber to the station, took the train to the station nearest her office, then walked to her desk. It took 30 minutes longer than driving, even taking into consideration the traffic on the 405 and 10. She went back to driving.

Maybe our betters should rethink just how to get people out of cars and into other types of transportation. Simply providing an alternative, even a very expensive one, doesnít seem to be working. Donít close your parking structure just yet.

See you at PIE in Chicago. Letís Talk Parking!