Nightwalking Back to Hikes
first appeared in the June 2001 issue

I'm walking, it's dark, but really, it's about 3:30 in the morning. So it should really be "Very Early Morning Walking" - but then I'd lose the catchy gothic horror/sex industry-esque title...

...and how would I trick you into reading this then?

This isn't something that happens very often - me being up and about at 3:30 a.m. But occasionally I do wake up and can't get back to sleep, so I figure I might as well be up doing something with my time. And sometimes - very "sometimes" - what I do is go out walking.

At 3:30 in the morning, Pasadena and Altadena are very different places. For one thing, it's empty. I saw not a single person out in the hour or so I was walking about (admittedly, up in purely residential neighborhoods) and a mere four cars passed me - and three of those weren't until I got back on Washington.

This particular morning it was nice and cool (or in Dee Dee speak: "It's Freezing!") which I like when I'm walking, hiking, or otherwise exercising, 'cause I can overheat fairly easily.

It's also very quiet. Oh, not "out in the middle of the desert fifty miles from the nearest highway" quiet (which I haven't "heard" since my last trip to Arizona), but it is quiet enough that what noises you hear can come from miles and miles away. A dog barking at - probably - nothing. A train clear down near Valley Blvd hooting its horn. A car alarm going off for fifteen minutes...

Nightwalkin' ...Okay, this really isn't my usual type of hike report. Basically, I'm using the experience of walking about for five miles in the pre-dawn hours to vent about some things that annoy the heck out of me. One of these is car alarms.

Somewhere, I suppose, someone's made a study that shows having a car alarm reduces its chance of theft. At least, I'm assuming such a study, otherwise insurers wouldn't give you a discount for having one. But quite frankly, even if I saw that study, I'm not sure I'd believe it.

The sole purpose of car alarms - as far as I can see - is to annoy other people. The ratio of "going off because someone's breaking in" to "going off because someone walked by" is probably up in the 10,000 to 1 range - and that "1" is the "breaking in" alarm. Quite frankly, even if someone really was stealing a car and the alarm went off, my first reaction is going to be "come on, steal the darn thing faster so I can get back to sleep" (my second reaction is, of course, "you know, high explosives will shut that thing up...").

I'd actually be interested in hearing of any car thefts (or even simple break-ins) stopped by a car alarm - assuming I can hear it over the car alarms...

...anywho, I'm working my way roughly northwest and the car alarm keeps getting louder. It's quite some time, actually, before I pass the house where the car sits, so I've been hearing the thing for over a mile! Very annoying.

Finally, about five minutes after I pass it, someone finally shuts the darn thing off and silence returns. Now I can return to just being annoyed by all the bright porch lights...

Hang on - 'nother rant.

The whole walk, I keep passing houses with really bright porch lights putting out huge circles of glare into my dark-adapted eyes as I go by. Why are they on? We're supposed to be saving energy and all that - and even if you don't go in for that, saving money should affect you somehow.

(don't even get me started about the people who still have their Christmas lights up - and on!)

Who are those lights for? They expecting visitors at 4 a.m.? The dog needs a nightlight (so that it can see to bark at me as I walk by)? Squirrels are having an all-night party?

Okay, I do know the reason most have their lights on. It's supposed to deter burglars. After all, the idea goes, no one's going to break into a house when they might be seen!

"By whom?" Is my question.

Go back a few paragraphs. Read that one where it says just how many people I saw out on my walk. Add in how many people you think are up, staring out their windows in case they might see a burglar.

The number is effectively zero.

From what I can see, the lights do just three things:

  • They waste electricity - a bad thing at the best of times, and these aren't them
  • They blind people out walking in the dark - admittedly, a small group (mainly me, it seems)
  • They make it easier for burglars to see while they're picking the lock
So, turn the darn things off!

In spite of these annoyances, though, I do find walking this late at night/early in the morning relaxing. The alarms and lights really just emphasize how quiet and dark it is. You're not dodging cars every time you want to cross a street - or bikes, strollers, scooters, or other walkers on the sidewalks, for that matter! It can be a nice time for reflection, working over problems, or just letting your mind go calm.

Mind, I probably won't see many (any?) of you out on those few occasions when I'm walking about, but if I do, I hope you turned off your car alarm before you left...