Arriving in Las Vegas from California involves a long, slow descent from broad, rain-soaked mountain passes that smell of wet earth and moist Joshua Trees. The highway drops through the rainclouds, leaving the slick tarmac behind in exchange for a drier, more vacant-looking landscape, defined by distant mountains, enormous white power poles, and a glistening feature in the distance that is Las Vegas.
The empty roads of Nevada’s hinterlands fill up quickly in the city, apparently at the peril of pedestrians. Most of Las Vegas’ buses are adorned with signs which begin, “Too many pedestrians are being killed on our streets…” So far so good. They continue, “Look before you cross”. A classic case of blaming the victims instead of focusing on the perpetrators of the crimes. Maybe driver should be looking before they pull through crosswalks or rush through red lights and stop signs?
And the city’s streets are full of would-be killers, all eager for their chance to up the number of pedestrians pushing up daisies. It’s convention elsewhere in the world to stop at red lights, and so I can only conclude that drivers in Las Vegas are either mostly colour blind, or else are possessed of a rather bovine mien, because rather than coming to a stop when confronted by a red light, here as many cars as possible try to rush through them.
Perhaps the reckless drivers--who give their demented Kampalan counterparts a run for their money--are onto something though. Because any pedestrian who is stupid enough to think the “walk” sign actually means “walk” is also walking outside in 100+ degree weather. A non-driver myself, I stumbled along the streets, avoiding murderous drivers, and gasping after a series of mirages which became ripples in the road, and then the kind of surface on which you could cook an artery-clogging fry-up.
For students at the Las Vegas campus of the University of Nevada, there is some consolation for the dreadful heat. Unlike UC Berkeley, which at its worst moments increasingly resembles a few vestigial structures of an institution of education attached to an outsized corporate body, the library at UNLV actually stays open during the summer months for more than a few hours a day, offering a sanctuary from the weather. Imagine that…a university library which serves students at convenient hours!
Nevada voters are also luckier than their California counterparts in that they are considered mature enough to vote for members of their university system’s governing board, instead of the members being appointed as part of the Governor’s squalid patronage system.