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Portland, OR
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(503) 272-1842

Brian Ryer's Personal Blog

 

 

Oh no, we might die. Please, after you.

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Oh no, we might die. Please, after you.

Brian Ryer

Does danger make people more polite?

I’ve been lucky enough to get to work by walking, bicycling, or take public transportation for practically my entire working life. This changed a few weeks ago when I started a gig across a river, and a state line, that I must get to by car. It’s a typical commute, about 25 minutes, the bulk of which is on the highway.

I’ve never been a fan of driving exactly, but I don’t mind it either, especially when the weather is pleasant and the road mostly unoccupied. Atypically for October in Portland, the weather has been pleasant these last weeks for my daily motoring adventure. The road, however, has been ram-a-jam full, both up I205 in the morning and down it again in the evening.

The morning strategy, get all the way left and stay there until the middle of the Glen L. Jackson bridge, works reliably well. Everyone is going to wherever they need to, to do all the things they must do, so they are somehow more resigned than aggresive. In the evening, however, there is no reliable strategy. The freedom of going to wherever they want to go, to do whatever they like to do, is obviously being restricted by every other driver, especially, apparently, me. This has folks riding bumpers, jumping lanes sans signal, deciding the emergency lane is for lessening a possible reduction, however small, in their right to leisure time. Which results more often than not in a slow crawl from right after the airport exits to right before my exit, and sometimes beyond.

But not the last two nights. On the last two nights the traffic flowed like craft brewed beer, smooth and bubbly from door to door. Why?

A storm off the Alaskan coast has created the opportunity for the polar vortex to have a spin through the northern mid-west again. The effect here in western Oregon has been a sudden drop in temperature and, importantly, very gusty winds. Semi-trailers, and little weebly minivans like mine, get buffeted around pretty well -- especially on the highway, especially on a highway bridge over a river.

So everyone slows down a bit, everyone leaves a little more room between themselves and the next guy, everyone remembers that they have more entertainment available instantly, on-demand, than most of civilization has ever had, ever, so 10 minutes either way is really not that important is it? Now that there’s a little danger in the air, everyone is a bit more civil. All they have to do is not die before they get home.

Please, after you.