Is everyone ready to revisit the dialogue on public behavior? Good. Me, too. Living in Seattle makes it impossible for me to not use this portion of my little series on behavior as a commentary on the general driving conditions here in this beautiful city. Let me just say this to open: if it weren’t for the absolutely horrendous traffic situation here, Seattle would be the perfect city. We have mountains, we have water, we have kickass urban neighborhoods, pretty suburbs, the sun, the greenery, the kayaking and skiing really nearby! The culture, the music, the coffee, the bookstores! *Sigh* Seattle has it all. It also has the most aggravating traffic, making all these great activities and sights pretty fucking difficult to get to. Pardon the language, but you know what I’m talking about—we’ve all felt that kind of no-rhyme-or-reason traffic that makes you want to abandon your car and run for the hills off-the-grid-style. Ugh.
I have to issue a brief disclaimer to this post, because it is only fair. I work from home and therefore don’t need to drive nearly as much as most people who live in the Seattle-area do. And because my schedule is so flexible, I’m not in as much of a rush to get wherever I’m going. Allow me to address this by acknowledging how easy I have it in this arena, compared to how I might if I worked at say, Microsoft or Weyerhaeuser.
There are some logistical elements that make bad traffic here inevitable, i.e. too many people + no room to expand the roads = gridlock. That much is undeniable. I can only hope that the number of bikers, bus-riders, and light rail-riders will increase in the future and work to ease the traffic conditions, or at least hold them steady. However, I believe there are some things we all might easily do to make the roads a little friendlier.
Rule #1. Always give the thank-you wave. If I go out of my way to let you into my lane, or signal to you that it’s ok to cut in front of me, please don’t forget to give a camaraderie-laden wave on your way out. Hell, I like to give a wave and a nod.
Rule #2. We have this thing called the passing lane. It’s pretty cool. If you want to go slow, hang to the right. If you want to go faster than the pace of traffic for a moment, you move to the left. You know that cliché “Living life in the fast lane?” Yeah—that’s a real-life thing. Use it. And by “use it” I mean that you shouldn’t be in the far left lane if you plan to drive one mile below the speed limit on cruise control for three hours. Going much slower than all the other vehicles around you can be just as dangerous as speeding. It tends to make vehicles bunch up behind you, and then we’re all screwed.
Rule #3. Be polite with your space. In general, I’d like to say that we should all try to have a better awareness of personal space both on the road and on foot, but that’s clearly asking too much. Instead, I’d like to reestablish the importance of a seemingly old-fashioned courtesy. If you see a car pulled over on the side of the road with a flat tire or some such thing, and if you cannot be of assistance (or are a small girl driving alone with no defenses who is afraid of strangers on the side of the road) please do slow down, approach with caution, and veer as far over as safely possible, to give that car or person a little space. It’s no fun having a flat tire or a smoking engine, and having cars plow past you going 85 mph doesn’t make it any better. Also, can we try to back off on the rubbernecking? I can think of far too many instances where I was trapped in bumper-to-bumper hell for several hours only because everyone decided that they needed to stop and stare at the bits of glass and metal left behind by an accident on the road. Really, people? Really?
Rule #4. Don’t Merge Like a Moron. You’re supposed to enter traffic moving at the same pace as the other cars. As long as you actually look where you’re going, it’s actually quite simple. Please don’t try to make it hard.
Rule #5. Here’s one for pedestrians: Um, we use the crosswalks in this city. Don’t be a dumbass.
Rule #6. Speaking of dumbasses, Never, never, never, forget to get out of the way of emergency vehicles. I can’t even believe this happens as often as it does. When I see people just carry on like the king of the road and even sometimes actively obstruct the path of an ambulance or fire truck, I want to follow that car honking my horn and screaming Yiddish obscenities. I doubt that you want me to do that to you, so please just move to the right when sirens approach. Also, do those of you who fail to yield to emergency vehicles not realize that they tend to be much larger than you, and will crush you if you don’t get out of the way in time? Food for thought.
Rule #7. Back the fuck up when you pull up behind my stick-shift car on a hill in the middle of downtown on a rainy day. Again with the language, I know. Sorry, Mom. But this is my blog and I can say what I want to, and right now I feel pretty fired up about people who creep up within two inches of my rear bumper on a hill. Chances are that I’m going to need space when stopped on a hill or incline, and since no one ever enjoys getting in fender benders, please everyone—let’s give our neighbors that space.
Rule #8. Finally, Don’t try to prove a point with your driving. On the rare occasions that I am in a hurry, I seem to come across a lot of people who see me trying to pass, safely of course, and who then think “Oh, you think I’m driving slow, do you? Well, I will drive slower to make you suck it.” We’re all out there on the road together, trying to get from A to B. Let’s leave it as simple as that, okay?
This is by no means a complete list of the things I would like to say about drivers here, but I can’t legally copy and paste the Washington State Driver’s Guide on my blog, so this will have to do. I would like to invite my neighbors to make their own comments about Seattle driving endeavors like trying to get from Magnolia to Redmond at, say, 9 am for example. I also wonder what my peeps who live elsewhere have noticed about Seattle traffic compared to their home cities. Be safe out there, people, and try to be friendly, too.