When I moved to Portland I knew about all the waterfalls, and the pretty mountain views. I had heard about the rain and the darkness and the fact that people get offended if you look at them funny. What I didn't know was that people out here drive like freaks. I grew up in Milford, MI so I am familiar with driving in suburbia. I went to school in Chicago and learned to cope with crazy city drivers. But even with all my trips across the country I was totally unprepared for Portland's madness.
I know that everyone at sometime or another has been distracted when a light turns green. In Portland, however, this is no rare occurrence. Several times on a normal day going to and from school I will hear other drivers honk to signal the man on the starting line to start his engine. But this is only the first of several peculiarities.
The most irritating thing about Portland drivers is that they always pull out in front of you. I will compare this to my Chicago experience even though the comparison might be a little unfair because I am talking about highway driving in Chicago and city driving in Portland. In Chicago I got used to getting cut off on the highway. This might sound irritating but cutting off people is a virtual necessity of switching lanes. If someone gives you enough room to squeak your car into the next lane you take it. In Portland there is no such need. I do not live in downtown Portland so the only heavy traffic is during rush hour. I could cope with someone pulling out in front of me then. Oddly enough during rush hour most drivers are strangely are courteous so you do not need to butt in to get onto an adjacent street. No, the only time someone will pull out in front of you, forcing you to slam on the breaks, is when you are the only other car in sight. And everyone here drives the same. They will inch out past their stop sign as if they're looking both ways, and then go anyway. You might think that in such a courteous town they would at least accelerate quickly, but no. It is as though they imagined a sudden emergency that is alleviated as soon as they are in front of you.
I hate to complain about other drivers, honestly, but the consistent insanity warrants it. In a city that has a rainy season you would think that the drivers would get used to driving in the rain. Again, no. Whenever it rains everyone drives 10 under the speed limit already set low at 35. Madness. And to top it all off they frequently run red lights, not in busy traffic of course but often enough that I have seen it done several times in just three months.
So, last Friday I was driving to a friends birthday party and it was raining. Traffic was slow as usual and I was contemplating this as I pulled up to a red light. This intersection is busier than most and I knew it would be a little while before I could go. I needed to make a right turn, but there was enough traffic that I would have to wait for the light to turn green. As I watched I saw the cross traffic slow and their light change to red in the reflection on the traffic signal. I turned to look at my signal waiting for it to turn green. As soon as it did I looked to my left and and one of the cars that I watched stop decided to run the red light. â€œTypical,â€ I thought to myself. I was making a right turn into a two lane street and the violator was in the second lane so I watched him as I turned to make sure he did not drift into me. Chrissy yelled out â€œAdamâ€ and I turned to acknowledge that I had seen the violator when I saw a man spinning to avoid landing on the hood of my car. Between the rain and my meditations on the driving habits of my fellow men I completely forgot to look out for pedestrian madness. We have all three forms of chaos in Portland: driving, pedestrian and biking. Needless to say when I saw the pedestrian hastily avoiding pain in the form of my car I slammed on the breaks. He spun to Chrissy window and she opened the door to make sure he was okay. He was young, like us, and nice enough considering the rain and the fact that I almost ran over him. We made it to the party and had a great time.
In the future I'll try to complain less about how people drive in the rain.