Monday, January 24, 2011

A Mixed Blessing

When Alma and I were on our way down to the beach this afternoon, a Los Angeles Police Department officer diverted our vehicle off of Centinela and into a residential neighborhood we had never driven through before. We ended up using Slauson to get on the 90 Freeway and took it into Marina Del Rey, exiting on Lincoln Blvd where the 90 ends and taking Lincoln to Washington Boulevard and from there to the beach. Ended up taking an extra 30 minutes because so much traffic was diverted onto this narrow residential street.

No big deal. We reached our beach, found ready parking and took our customary 3-mile walk. It was a glorious day and we ended our walk about 5 minutes before a glorious sunset. On our way back to the car, we got to see our favorite beach dog, a golden Labrador named Zoe, whose owner had been out of town for several days and had just returned. We gave Zoe a couple tennis balls we had found on the beach and she enjoyed chasing them and bringing them back to us.

On our way home, we wondered whether our regular route would be open. It was open but Alma was watching as we were driving. Sure enough, at a certain point on Centinela, one lane had been roped off although traffic was now travelling in both directions. Alma looked and observed a Los Angeles Fire Department truck parked in the street and police tape up across the entrance to a gas station and to a public storage facility directly across the street.

We both thought that someone had illegally stored a hazardous substance or explosive at the storage facility and resolved to find out when we got home by going onto the internet.

You know something? The internet has become a real pain in the ass. Between us, we spent about an hour on the internet using Google, Bing and Yahoo search engines, using every possible search string. And there was absolutely no mention of any problem at that location. No mention on any site, not on any of the local news sites, not on Twitter, not on the LA Fire Department or the LA Police Department sites. So whom were we going to believe? The interent or our own lying eyes?

Well, as it happens, after an hour of fruitless searching on the internet and much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments by your humble narrator, Alma picked up the old-fashioned phone, called the gas station and spoke to one of the clerks there. Turns out there was a chemical spill at the gas station that required the road be closed and the Fire Department Hazardous Materials unit be summoned.

I am very disappointed in today's internet. The fact that this incident showed up nowhere online despite an hour of the most diligent searching by two very web-savvy adults speaks volumes about how much of real value the internet provides. Sure, you can use Twitter to keep up with your fav celebrities. You can use any of our local news media's sites to find stuff to buy in a global strip mall. You can use the LAPD's site to become a police booster. Presumably you can do something similar for the Fire Department. But you can't use those sites to find out what is going on in your own neighborhood. Un-friggin-believable.

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