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The Sun's Out, but Where Are the Shades?


Living in the Information Age, it's so easy to forget about the basics. When we get in our cars, for instance, we worry about drivers distracted by cell phones and e-mail and CDs; we plot our routes based on information provided by Internet traffic sites and up-to-the-minute radio reports; we watch for red flags, orange cones and the telltale brake lights in the left lane, and we forget completely about the sun.

Or at least, I forget about the sun.

Twice last week, I forgot how unbelievably painful it is to drive into the sun.

On Wednesday, the sun rose right before, and directly into, my eyes as I inched toward Irvine on the 405, completely disorienting me--for one thing, I thought I had been headed south; for another, I simply could not see. Then two days later, I caught the evening show, heading west on Beverly Boulevard at 6:30 p.m. Eventually, I had to pull over and wait it out.

Two things occurred to me as I waited for the sun to set. First, I now see a reason and a purpose for daylight saving time and second, any self-respecting Angeleno should always have at least three pairs of sunglasses in the car.

Three working pairs of sunglasses.

What I had was: one pair of wraparounds for my 2-year-old, one pair of cheap black promotional giveaways, one pair with fingerprints distinct enough to assure a conviction and one pair of enormous amber psycho-driver goggles that my husband wears only when I am not around to pluck them from his head.

Essentially, what I had was: no working sunglasses.

I don't know how this happened, how it keeps happening. During the years I have lived in Los Angeles I have spent hundreds, possibly thousands, of dollars on sunglasses. I buy them by the handful, good ones and cheap ones, and tuck them in pairs in my purse, my backpack, my car.

And yet, there I was squinting my way down Beverly, frantically pawing through my briefcase, my glove compartment and coming up only with the dregs. The last-chance, in-event-of-nuclear-disaster sunglasses. Others have shared their bewilderment ("They were just on my head, are they on my head? Where are they?") and their frustration ("Seventy-five bucks I paid, figuring I'd keep track of them if they were expensive. Lost them, Day Two.").

Where do all the sunglasses go? They are not easily deconstructable; they do occupy space and time. The ones I've lost would make a not inconsiderable pile--if you add those of all my friends and relatives, you could build a sports arena. Hmmmmm.

I have a theory . . . well, several theories, one of which is: There is a finite number of sunglasses in the world and they simply circulate from one person to another--you lose a pair in Culver City, someone finds a pair in Istanbul. Another theory: Sunglasses are made with tiny homing devices; when we're not looking, they are drawn back to the factory, ensuring a perpetual demand for sunglasses.

But what I really think is that there is something living in Los Angeles that comes out at night and eats sunglasses. Possibly a creature composed of anti-matter, possibly an army of very deft mice.

And in a city where gridlock waxes and wanes based on the sun's participation in the commute, where lives depend on our ability to see that offramp sign, where an ill-timed squint can lose a deal, wreck an audition, this is no small thing.


Mary McNamara can be reached at

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