“Darby, you are not in Portland anymore.” My friend in Atlanta felt compelled to remind me of this because I actually expect traffic to stop for pedestrians in cross walks. I left Georgia in 1982 on the “see America and get someone else to pay for it” plan. Does anyone still remember the days when companies paid for your relocation? Better yet does anyone remember when companies had employees? But I digress.
I spent the last fourteen years living in Portland, Oregon, before returning to Georgia recently. What the heck happened while I was gone? Clearly I am no longer in the South where courtesy ruled the day in all circumstances. Outside of their cars I have to hand it to Georgians, you really are nice people. Stepping into a motor vehicle, however, starts a transformation worthy of the Incredible Hulk. The people of manners become lead footed aliens. No wonder Miss Daisy needed a driver. It is the law to stop for pedestrians in a cross walk, yes, but moreover, it is just plain polite. Maybe there is not enough crime in Portland to keep the police busy, but one of their favorite pastimes is to set up stings and nail drivers failing to stop for pedestrians. I thought it was a little silly while living there and not the best use of my tax dollars but I am writing a thank you note this week.
I expect everyone to drive fast on Atlanta freeways as I am a realist. I have driven in New York City and held my own with fast aggressive cab drivers. Would that every fast Atlanta driver take to the road with the skill of a New York cab driver! Now that would give my nerves a break. Since I am complaining, you moved the freeway while I was gone, and I need a second or two for reading the confusing exit signs. I let a confused driver from Michigan over the other day (barely easing up on the accelerator to do so) and despite all of the horn honking and waving, even I was pretty sure I wasn’t being given a friendly welcome home.
I am currently dividing my time between Columbus and Atlanta. I have no idea if people stop for pedestrians in Columbus because I never see anyone walking. In Columbus you can drive fast, just not very far. Here drivers have another really bad habit. By the looks of things, while they wait for red lights they dump their car ashtrays out on the road. At every curb on every major road there are piles and piles of cigarette butts. I don’t mean to be the green police just because I have been living in Oregon, but come on people!
In Portland a large number of people commute by bike. They take away car lanes to create bike lanes. Sharing the road on a dark rainy night at 4 p.m. during rush hour is a challenge every driver hates. There are things called bike boxes at intersections and as a driver or biker you had better know how they work. The bike commuters are an energetic, action oriented, and vocal group. The mayor and other city leaders ride bikes and so believe me when I say they have created a bike friendly city. I do not see anyone commuting to work by bicycle in Atlanta or Columbus; a wise choice by bike enthusiasts if you ask me.
I am happy to be back in the warm sunny south. I am enjoying my time in Georgia with old friends and I love making new friends with the ease true to the culture here. I have missed the genuinely nice and friendly people of my younger days. Please don’t change just because you are in your car and have to get somewhere. It is, “Y’all come back.” Not, “Y’all hurry back.”