Sunday, November 7, 2010

Driving: a comparative anthropology

I moved to Seattle in September. So part of the idea behind the blog is documenting and trying to understand this new life. As a new comer the strangest thing about my new home-- the thing that makes me feel farthest from home is actually positive.

I grew up in Anchorage, Ak which to put it mildly has a very different driving culture than Seattle. Anchorage drivers are, ahem, assertive drivers. They are assertive with each other, and any one else who happens to encroach on their space. Encroaching on their space can include such offences as walking on the sidewalk, or crossing an intersection in a cross walk, when it is legal to do so. I've never particularly liked driving, and I have spent the first thirty years of my life preferring to walk or ride my bike when it's practical. I've been hit, cut off, and yelled at. Mostly I've been ignored. It's scary being effectively invisible when I'm crossing the street, and how a very tall woman in a bright red jacket can be invisible is one puzzle I've never solved. I've made eye contact with drivers who then have rolled forward and nearly hit me.

It is unpleasant, but it is predictable. An expected danger is one I can plan for.

What unnerves me every day in Seattle is the upsetting of my protocols for surviving as a pedestrian in my hometown. Drivers respect cross walks at lighted intersections. They respect crosswalks at unlighted intersections. But the really weird thing they do? If I'm at an unlighted intersection without a cross walk and I look like I might be contemplating thinking about crossing? Someone will still stop.

Culinary news is thin on the ground just this instant. My parents were down, and we passed a lovely weekend in a most familial fashion: we went to IKEA and ate meatballs. Which are both cheap and comforting, but not really discussable except to say that a plate of meatballs and potatoes warms the cockles of my Swedish heart, especially if there is gravy. Later this week however you can look forward to me being opinionated about cheap wine, tools, and probably a recipe for a halfway decent bean and rice casserole.

Edit to add: One of my friends reminds me that, in his words, "Anchorage drivers are famously friendly to unicyclists." Personally I feel that Anchorage drivers are merely giving the unicyclists the latitude that one would give any potentially dangerous lunatic.

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