Monday, January 19, 2009

Seattle Tip of the Week

Today I'm starting another regular feature of this little blog of mine. It'll be a general tip to living in our fair city of Seattle.

Unlike most other urban places in the country, Seattle has remained pretty provincial. I don't mean this in the derogatory way that some people do when discussing Seattle, but I do think it's true. This causes some strange occurrences for those who are used to other large cities.

Traffic, for instance. We deal with it, if you've spent any time in cities, you hate it but it happens. Seattle is not terribly difficult to navigate, really, but it boggles the minds of people who attempt to drive here. After living in Osaka, and getting around large east coast cities, I find Seattle relatively tame. But the average Seattle motorist is appalled that anyone else is driving on their roads. They shake fists, and express comic disgust when you wait for people at crosswalks, or pull to the right for a fire engine. Being good Northwesterners, they don't do anything as garish as honking or squealing tires; but you can tell they want to scream at you. On the rare occasions they do honk I usually jump in surprise. I never did that in Osaka. Viri: "That car's talking." Nordic reserve prevents any outward display of emotion beyond a toss of the hand, or an exaggerated "What?" face in your direction. (If you ever challenged them on this I bet they'd tell you they had been rehearsing a play.)

There is also no use of the turn signal in any circumstance. You can take a left turn at sixty from a busy street across four lanes, no worries. I wonder if motorists occasionally wonder why the stick that turns the light on moves, and makes funny clicking noises when it does. I imagine they incorporate it into their reverie as they cruise. This is so bad that it has inspired a bit of urban legend that Washington state does not require use of turn signals. (Note: it does.)

Despite this apparent concern over traffic, however, everyone drives slowly. The rare transplant who speeds along city streets is treated with disgust. I have caught this behavior like a virus; I'm the slowest driver on Earth now. Grandmothers in east coast towns would roar past me in droves.

So, when you come to Seattle, drive leisurely. Take your time, don't bother with signaling or noticing fire engines or pedestrians. Be mellow, don't have any baggage or hang ups. We're all fine here. Everything's fine. How are you?


Herc said...

We were at an intersection today, wanting to turn left. We had our signal on. Across from us was a car also wanting to turn left (their left). They also had their signal on.

Now, in places that aren't Seattle, we both would have made our respective left turns and hardly thought about it.

But Smartz and this other driver made eye contact and both waited to see if the other driver was actually going to make the signaled turn. Were the blinkers just a psych-out? Did one of the drivers accidentally signal for a left turn when really the desire was to go straight? How can one really, truly know?

After ten seconds of each driver edging out onto the street, Smartz finally made up her mind to just go for it.

Luckily, both cars survived a situation where clearly ANYTHING was possible.

This is a weird ass town. I really dig it.

goodstorysarah said...

we've been at intersections countless times now where something like that has happened. sometimes it's a four way stop sign and the car in question got to the stop sign before me. they're still waiting to continue through the stop sign by the time i get there. when i do get there, they motion for me to go instead. NO! no! i won't stand for that! YOU were at the stop sign first...YOU go.

when there's a traffic situation that no one can seem to sort out while i'm driving, i'm usually the one to take action.

watch out for the crazy northeastern female in the white car!!! she can repair things with her mind you know!