Driving in Portland

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. “Typical,” 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 “Adam” 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.

This entry was posted in Irritation. Bookmark the permalink.
  • I agree that driving can be very caotic. Often times I find people driving slow or stopped at a green light. However, it does not seem to compare to the madness you have had to put up with. It seems that where ever one goes there is always some type of problem with driving.

  • Steven K

    Did anyone ever stop to think that it may be driving itself as the problem (no, I have not turned into an anti-car Nazi, but there is, none the less, a reoccurring theme here, it has four wheels an engine and, yes, a gas pedal (see my post If this reminds you of yourself when driving) No, I’m not promoting my blog on another’s, I just recently wrote something similar to this, just from another point of view. Glad you didn’t hit the guy, Adam, actually, the fact that you stopped to see if he was okay even though you didn’t hit him serves to help balance the vast imbalance caused by all the hit-and-runs, bravo.

  • Ok, I am going to be an ass in this post: beware…

    1. Ninrai, it is spelled Chaotic.

    2. Steven, don’t be dumb. You of all people know it is not the cars… it is the idiots driving them…

    3. Adam, you are supposed to drive slower in the rain. Nothing is worse than the idiot who drives normal in the rain…thus increasing his chances of an accident and mine of dying.

    That being said…you should carry a baseball bat in your car to take out those crazies in Portland.

  • Steven K

    See my aforementioned post, cars make you crazy.

  • Steven…I think if we took pedestrians, bikers, and auto drivers, and we filtered out all the nice people, and non assholes…I think we would definately find the ratios for each catagory to be much the same…guns don’t kill people, cars don’t make assholes, and the internet doesn’t make you a good writer…

    oh, and anyone else notice how sometimes it is IMPOSSIBLE it is to read the word verification word on this website? Not because I don’t have the formatting, but because the letters are sooo distorted that it makes me cry?

  • Sorry the word verification is making you cry. There are two important question here; 1. Does power corrupt? and 2. Is there such a thing as group insanity? It is axiomatic that power corrupts most people, and the automobile is lots of power with little effort, like a gun. Okay, guns don’t kill people, but if how many murders would not happen if a person had to go through all the effort and fear of using a knife? Not all drivers are mad, or gun owners of course, but the power accentuates their dormant insanity. I think groups have the same effect on people. This is where pedestrian madness comes in. Cars combine power and the group.

    I think another reason for driving madness is that it is not face to face. In most cases if you are rude on the road you will not have any type of confrontation. Its kind of like commenting on a site where no one knows who you are. You can say and do what you want and there is no responsibility.

    Hmmm… People acting how they want. The perfect formula for madness.

  • Steven K

    Two words: Chat Room

  • Sorry for being an ass…

    In my defence I did warn you guys before I continued my post.

  • Yes, I agree on the observations. I thought this myself before and it only gets confirmed when I hear other people talk about it. Lonnie I want you to be an ass on my blog. Please O Please. Steven I know you can’t write in anything but a block, but please block on my blog block head.

    Actually I know blogging is a two way street – SO I linked you both to mine AND favored you with genius comments on your blogs.

  • To Adam–yes Portlanders drive like idiots. I am a big fan of slowing down in the rain, but going 5 miles an hour on a highway with no wrecks, carnage or even a hint of stopped cars is ridiculous!!! Didn’t these people grow up driving in the rain? Shouldn’t they know how to drive by now on a slick street? Argh! People from snowy areas know how to drive in snow, people from Texas know to hide inside at any hint of snow. Why can’t these people learn how to drive in rain?

    And to Lonnie’s critique of the verification word-yes i have to click it multiple times to find another one.

  • Okay, fine! Next time I update my blog (the functionality, not just my next blog) I will check to see if there is an easier way to do the word verification.