Photo from a wreck that occurred on I5 near the Tacoma Dome back in June. What do you expect, dumb asses?
Just got back from a trip up through beautiful Washington state, where I stood by the side of David Thompson when he married lovely Nicole Thompson (née Chatfield). The wedding took place in the San Juan islands, amid the beauty of Puget Sound waters and Pacific Madrona (Arbutus menziesii). An exhausting, but rewarding trip.
I must say, as Maty and I trekked along the I5 corridor, through Olympia, Tacoma, and Seattle, I was left with a sour taste in my mouth. As much as I love my neighbors to the north, it must be said: SeaTac drivers suck.
I'm not ashamed to admit I was more than a little nervous on the drive home when, on the stretch that runs from Fife, Washington, past the Tacoma Dome and on to south Tacoma, an 18-wheeler took offense at my driving a mere 60 miles per hour (which was 5 mph in excess of the speed limit). I was in the middle lane, trying to keep a safe distance between our car and the car ahead of us. But this truck driver took no such precautions. He tail-gated me for several miles, to the point that the grill of his truck filled my rear view mirror.
Meanwhile, other drivers in their appalling SUVs and minivans were dodging in and out of traffic, changing lanes without signals, riding in my blind spot, crowding me on all sides. An aggressiveness pervaded. I got the feeling that every driver around me was looking for an opportunity to screw the others, cutting them off, tail-gating. It was a hair-raising experience. Even Maty, who does not drive, noticed the difference from slow-paced Portland.
This aggression probably stems from Seattle's utter intransigence vis-a-vis a workable public transportation system. They recently implemented a European-style active traffic management system, in which signs provide up-to-the-minute traffic information. But this is 2010! The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported in 2001 that Seattle was 2nd in the nation for lousy traffic problems.
I usually endure SeaTac traffic a couple of times per year, and it is always scary. One Christmas, as I was heading north from Tacoma, I passed an accident on the southbound side of the freeway. The police were zipping up a body bag as I drove past. The traffic beyond was backed-up for miles.
Church steeple: I5 northbound somewhere along the SeaTac wasteland
Don't get me wrong. I love Seattle, but she's a far cry from my home, where the pace is much slower and the people are friendlier. Of the major cities in my part of the continent, (bounded by San Francisco in the south up through British Columbia) Seattle would be my last choice for a place to make a home.
For a time, Seattle was the nation's favorite up-and-coming city. At least, it seemed that way, back in the 90s when grunge rock was surging, and everyone drank Starbuck's Coffee. But nowadays the sheen has come off the emerald, as it were. The only real Big City trait I can discern in Seattle is the poor attitudes of the drivers.
So to all those SeaTac drivers with their hostility and aggression toward people who are just trying to get through their sh*thole traffic system: You suck!
In Portland, we're not burdened with any pretensions of being a "Big City." And I'm thankful for that.