2012 Fiat 500 Sport Vs. The Black Lagoon
August 08, 2011
They say that sameness every day does your brain no favors. Something as simple as taking a new route home can help improve mental functioning by guiding you to use more of your mind.
New routes might be great for your brain but last night I discovered they can be hell on your tires.
1: A Dark Turn
It's Sunday night at about 9:15. The Walgreens nearby is out of bottled water. I'm okay with that -- I'll get the water tomorrow. But then I change my mind and decide to get it at Ralph's. By then I've missed the turn on Pico, the street I usually take. So I head to the grocery store via a different, unfamiliar route -- I make a quick left on Whitworth and drive a few blocks before making another left on La Peer.
La Peer is bathed in shadows and the pavement is wet even though it hasn't been raining. The darkness of the street plus all the water on the road conspire to provide the perfect hiding place for a gang of potholes, which lie in wait, like snakes concealed by tall grass. I travel just a few feet past the intersection when I feel it -- the awful jolt you feel when rim hits crater.
I'm not going very fast, under 15 miles per hour -- this takes place on a residential street and the ruts are so close to the intersection that there isn't time to gather speed after the turn. Still, the impact feels cruel and tremendous.
The 500 is such a cheery little car you don't think anything unpleasant can happen while you're driving it. The jolt takes me by surprise -- it's like I've just witnessed someone kicking the cutest, most defenseless puppy.
Almost immediately after the impact, I get a warning on the dash telling me to check the front left tire. Fortunately I'm just a couple minutes from home and I make it there before the tire goes completely flat.
2: Second Look
After the 500 is safely in my carport I return to the black lagoon by foot, armed with my camera; it's a brisk 10-minute walk in the crisp night air. I snap a few photos and then notice a woman heading toward the potholes in an older Toyota Corolla. I flail my arms, trying to warn her, but she hits the potholes anyway, with a jolt that is all too familiar. She keeps going, though. I wonder if her tire survives the impact.
Another car approaches and by the way it gingerly skirts the chasm I can tell the driver lives on this street. He parks by a nearby curb; as he exits, I ask him if anyone has reported the potholes, and tell him they just gave me a flat. He doesn't answer my question about whether the potholes have been reported, but says they cause at least "one flat a month," and that he's sorry I damaged my tire.
Back home I go online to report the pothole. Via the City of Los Angeles website, I locate and complete an Online Services Request Form.
I think about filing a claim with the city for the damage. In cases where the pothole has already been reported and the city is aware of the problem, drivers may be entitled to some restitution. It might seem like a losing battle, but I find examples online in which those with wounded vehicles have won reimbursement. However, I can't find any examples of such drivers finding victory in the cash-strapped state of California.
My chances of success may be iffy at best but that doesn't stop me from deciding to file a claim. I locate a claim form on the City of Los Angeles site and resolve to print it, complete it and mail it to the Office of the City Clerk.
We'll keep you posted on how the claim develops. Please don't hold your breath. With all the city's furloughs and cost-cutting, I'm expecting the whole thing to be resolved sometime in 2032 or so.
Next up: the trip to the tire shop the following morning.
Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 6,880 miles