by Mavis Manus
March 12, 1984
Although a visit to Los Angeles is not necessarily a dangerous undertaking, there are some basic codes in dressing, eating, drinking and driving that the sensitive tourist should observe to avoid marring a perfect vacation.
It is a common fallacy that Los Angeles has no dress code. While it professes to be casual about fashion, woe betide anyone who dares show up at a function in the slightest way overdressed for the occasion. Sports has moved into second place after godliness, and wearing inappropriate sneakers for a tennis or other sports game may send your partner into a trauma that could cost the game. A restaurateur will forbid entrance to his restaurant if the name tag on your jeans is less than modish. To save embarrassment, always telephone to check which designer is currently acceptable.
The glass of water on the table may look tempting, but, as in most countries, is not drinkable if it comes from the tap. It is a common sight to see people lined up drawing water at a super-market dispenser. Unfortunately the water takes on a plastic taste from the containers and it is advisable for adults to drink only the local wine. Judicious sampling at Trader Joes and The Wine House will soon help you find something to your taste and pocket.
At the expensive and moderate level of restaurants a traveler has no fear of digestive disturbances, but do be careful at the street level. Greasy chunks of ersatz meat are thrown between bread the texture of blotting paper, or chopped lettuce is stuffed into a cardboard casing. Also, unless stopped in time, cooks will add mayonnaise to just about everything except ice cream.
If, in spite of all precautions you should become ill, dont worry, Los Angeles has a pill for everything. A friendly druggist is usually willing to give advice: but if you feel you need a doctor, any Los Angeles medic worth his weight in real estate will gladly prescribe four pills where one would suffice. You should perhaps, avoid purchasing little packets of white powder from street vendors who claim they have a panacea for all ills.
Unless you are prepared to spend most of your vacation in a bus, you will be renting a car for your stay in Los Angeles, and here again this class-conscious society has its rules. A Mercedes, Porsche, even a Cadillac will do but the all-important name tag must again be taken into consideration. Beverly Hills Autos or Classic Cars are safe. Anything less will evoke sneers in parking attendants and provoke them to leave your car in a far corner of the lot, wedged in by delivery trucks.
Driving in Los Angeles is not the same as the rest of America. Granted people drive on the right hand side, but while you can turn right on a red light, the left turn is the poor sister and you will need to squeeze one in between amber and red. Another important difference is the motorist should not hit a pedestrian. This minority group has rights in this city possibly because they are considered an endangered species.
With a little care, Los Angeles will give you a wonderful, sun-filled holiday. The natives are friendly and you will be surprised at how many will order you to have a nice day.