Thursday, July 26, 2012

normal is the new normal



I'm sitting in Broadway Toyota waiting for an oil change. So far I've counted at least four silver Priuses exactly like our Silver Bullet, plus at least three exactly like the metallic-blue Prius we used to own. Metallic Priuses are to Portland what white Ford pickups were to the Texas panhandle.

Not that I plan to drive it much. Everyone drove in Texas and I always felt like there was something off about me for hating doing so so much. My wife, Montana, and I would sometimes try to walk someplace close and people would actually stop and ask us what was wrong and if we needed a ride. It takes about a minute to walk a city block here, so the formula is: find out how long until the next bus or streetcar. If it's more minutes away than blocks to your destination, you walk.

No one stops to ask what's wrong, of course, but they often stop to let you pass. The rules and customs governing pedestrians and cars in PDX are as complicated and arcane as a game of Dungeons and Dragons, but basically pedestrians have the right-of-way. As opposed to Texas, where you apparently got these "points" for hitting pedestrians. I never understood what those points were for, or how you cashed them in.

Here, trucks yield to Priuses yield to smart cars yield to bicycles yield to pedestrians. The reverse of Texas, of course, when the biggest vehicles go wherever they want and everyone else has to get out of the way. And speaking of right-of-way, I actually misspoke.  According to the Oregon Driver Manual no one has right-of-way, right-of-way is something you yield. Again the reverse of Texas: when I used to complain about people driving in the right lane on I-40 and making impossible to merge into traffic, I was often told, "I have right of way in that lane, I'll drive there if I want."

Everything here is upside-down compared to Texas. Montana's dad and uncle drove the moving truck up here, and one morning while they were here we overhead her uncle telling someone on the phone that it was like being "on Mars". He meant it in a good way, and if it's true, I've always been a Martian. There's a part of me that should chafe at being so ordinary here. And I did enjoy cultivating the outsider role in Texas, living among them without being of them.   But, abnormal was the old normal. Screw that. I'm ready to fit in somewhere. Normal is the new normal.

1 comment:

  1. I like Portland. It's not Seattle, but then what is?

    ReplyDelete

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Upside Down on Mars by Barry J. Cochran is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.