“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.”

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Darby Britto

Darby Britto

I was raised in the south by a pair of Yankees, and everyone around me wore combat boots. I think this explains a lot. A childhood spent working in little theatre and a professional career in television, tends to give me a point of view not often shared by others.

5 Comments
  1. When I was last in Atlanta, some years ago (now living in Portland), I was driving a friend about when he suddenly tossed out a bag of trash he had been working on in the car. He seemed genuinely confused when I called him on it. I do not know if it is still that way, or if he is still that way! I also recently read a fb post of a friend who still lives in Georgia that she just doesn’t see the point of recycling. My mind nearly popped out of my head! It really does seem to be a culturally differing mentality depending on the geographical location.

  2. I drive down the roads of Middle and Southern Georgia and continually imagine what I would do “IF I WERE IN CHARGE”. For example, I would totally eliminate litter, not through punitive measures but through education. After all, if it was done with smoking then it can be done with litter and littering. In a generation there wouldn’t be littering, because it would simply be unacceptable to throw things out of cars and dump trash. Then next,I would declare a 5 to 10 year moratorium on tree cutting and along creeks and river bottoms from further intrusions by greedy man. I would also enact a ban on roadside billboards and have them go away in 10 years. I would replant the tree buffers that once existed along our Interstates which have now been cut so as to open the views of travelers to the mostly ugly businesses along the perimeters of our interstates. This latter problem is one that I really do lay at the feet of our Republican controlled state government of the last 10 years. They have degraded the beauty of our interstates and added to the stress of traveling them.

  3. As a native Oregonian, I have come to realize that people living here take a lot for granted; recycling, clean highways, bike paths, crosswalks… Thank you for this article. I think it should be reprinted in a Portland paper…in fact, I just might send it along to one.

    I had a similar culture clash experience in Yakima, Washington visiting my sister. I asked her where they kept the recycling bins. She looked at me as if I was crazy. She retorted, “We don’t do that here.” As I have visited over the years with her, I can truly say “Obviously.”

    Everyone has some difficulty with change, but let me tell you, I recycle, I brake for pedestrians, I observe crosswalks, I go 20mph in school zones, I share the road with cyclists, and I enjoy my freeway commute to work and back without the threat of being run over…and even see an occasional smile on drivers’ faces. “Y’all come back now.”

  4. I live below the fall line that reaches from Augusta to Columbus through the middle of Georgia. We have gnats that fly from a dog’s rectum to your face, near the coast we have gnats that are like flying vampire teeth and in the summer it gets to be 110 degrees here @ 80% humidity. Stay in Oregon.
    Ms. Britto in this part of Georgia we still say “mam”, we still say “sir”, we pull over for a funeral procession , we stop at cross walks and pedestrians , and watch for animal crossing traffic and try to dodge all. I do have to admit since the lottery started in Georgia litter side of the road has grown but we do have a prisoner group that clean up my part of Georgia.
    I live and graduated high school in Atlanta but the only way for me to move back there would be in the prison system when I didn’t have a choice.

  5. Hello Ms Britto,

    I read in one of the articles about you that you wanted to travel the country while someone else is paying for it. Well I am I joined a company in Beaverton that does portraits that was almost 2 years ago. I have been on the move ever since. Alaska twice, to Arizona from Washington to the shores of Delaware. and many points in between. It has been a marvelous adventure. I hope you find what you are looking for. I the way you had a note on one of the web sites you had that said that you would post a resume on it once you were satisfied with it and had TWO proof readers to check it.. As I remember you memos that is a good thing to do. LOL
    Hope Georgia treats you well.

    Best wishes,

    Dave Gaylor

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