Thursday, July 12, 2012

I Am the Politest, Damnit!

There’s a stereotype floated every now and then about us Oregonians that I, for one, am proud of--we’re polite. We look out for each other, and make sure that we’re all doing okay.

And while I admire and strive to embody such a trait, I can’t help but be annoyed sometimes at our tendency to out-polite one another. Such situations--for example, a car waiting for a pedestrian, who doesn’t want to cross the street, to make way from one side of the road to the other--result in a hostility unlike any other. I actually had a guy start with a smile as he slowed his car down for me, and when I motioned for him to cross the road, his face soured and pinched and he sped off with a “Fuck you and just cross the goddamned road!”

My politeness felt betrayed.

That kind of stuff ever happen to you, Christian?

Christian: I wasn’t aware Oregonians had a reputation for being polite. That sounds like a rumor started by a bunch of sissies.

However, I have experienced the whole coming-to-a-four-way-stop-and-trying-to-let-the-other-car-go-first fiasco which is a plague on our city*.

In fact I think the show Portlandia** did a skit about it. I remember while watching it thinking that maybe people living outside of Portland**** might find this funny but to me it was like watching a documentary.

Yes I have found myself in that type of situation many times - where I motion to the other person to go first, they then motion back to me to go, I motion back “no you go”, and then someone is outraged.

I eventually came up with the solution to immediately go the second someone motions me to. Even if I was the first to motion them to go. I usually also yell out my window “IN YOUR FACE SUCKER!!!” as I drive through the intersection so I’m not sure where this polite Oregonians rumor came from.

But even this strategy isn’t full proof. I’ve been in a situation where the other person gets to the stop before me but then waits as I come to a stop. I eventually have to motion them to go but they just sit there for a few seconds. So I start going forward but of course the second I start moving they start going forward too so we both stop. We then repeat the entire process.

To remedy this scenario I typically apply the rule that if you do NOT take me up on my offer to go, within a second, then I’m going. There will be no polite second or third motions of “no, really you go, I insist” coming from me. However I will be shouting “IN YOUR FACE LOSER!!!” as I drive by.

Pat:   I didn’t know that was you. Nor did I know our paths had crossed. Hmm.

Well...what you describe sounds exactly like what I WANT to do, but I think I am a tried and true Oregon “sissy”, as you say, and I just can’t bring myself to do it. Maybe we’re not polite...maybe we’re just passive aggressive. Come to think of it, I’ve never been really good about telling people that I can’t stand them. I usually just stifle my resentment and then throw an egg at their house in the middle of the night.

Christian:  But remember Pat, if you are not part of the solution you are part of the group that is calling the kettle black from within a glass house.

And second, why are you walking around? Couldn’t you get to where you were going in a car? Maybe you are more to blame here than I first thought.

It’s hard to be assertive with somebody when they are driving and you are a pedestrian. And to be honest, you shouldn’t be assertive in that situation. They are in a 4000 pound steel machine while you are only in your clothes. I’m guessing in a lot of khaki. You need to be the one that is careful.  

At this point I would like to mention that another thing I can’t stand are pedestrians.

Sure there are plenty out there that obey all traffic laws and only cross the street at crosswalks and are good people etc, but similarly to bicyclists, I deeply hate them all.

I don’t know how many times I see idiots jaywalking across a busy street with their eyes solely focused on their cell phone, just assuming all drivers will see them and stop. Or those morons that hold up traffic on a busy street as they slowly jaywalk across it. And nine times out of ten they are only about 20 feet from a stoplight where there is a crosswalk they should be using.

You’re not one of these imbeciles are you Pat?

Pat:  Cars made of steel? What decade are you living in, man?

What’s a cell phone? I don’t think I’m the imbecile you’re talking about.

Christian: Are cars not made of steel anymore? Or are you having one of your old-timey flashbacks again? Fine. To make it easier for you how about this - I don’t want to hit you with my horse drawn buggy while you’re winding your mechanical water clock. It would be a major inconvenience for us all. Including the horse.

* We live in Portland, dearest cherished readers.

** Portlandia is a pseudo-skit comedy show on IFC that is filmed and takes place in our city***.

*** We live in Portland, dearest cherished readers.

**** The city we live in, cherished dearest readers.


  1. I don't know about Oregonians being super polite, but I do know that *some* of them are slightly aggressive in their state pride.

    I can totally relate to this post; I despise being told what to do under the guise of helpfulness. Having a dog comes in handy. If it looks like someone is going to stop and wave me on, I start talking to her, trying to make her sit and basically make it look I'm deep into a dog training moment.

    As a bonus, the whole time I'm actually saying bad words about the driver. I'll probably get beat up by a lip reader one day.

    1. I'm only slightly aggressive with my state pride when it comes to comparing Oregon to Maine. And maybe a few dozen of the other states.

  2. We have a similar problem where I live, except instead of everyone spending a lot of time stopped and waving each other on politely, we all come to a rolling stop, assume we have the right of way, nearly collide in the intersection, and then try to spit on each other's vehicles as we weave past each other, shouting obscenities about how awful the other person's driving is, sometimes ending with a poorly researched factoid about their mother.

  3. I used to think I was really polite... then someone pointed out that I was in fact, extremely passive aggressive. It was at this point that I noticed, for the first time, the subtle cynicism in my voice as I thanked him for "enlightening" me.

    It was something to consider.

  4. I'm sensing Pat is going to be mowed down by Christian and then we'll be reading just Point Counter-Point? That sounds weird.

    1. No, don't worry I wouldn't run over Pat. I mean, the amount of money it would cost to change to Point Counter-Point on all of our business cards and letter head we just be outrageous.

  5. Wait, what are cars made out of now?

    I took a picture of a car from Ohio (mid westy area is considered very polite too) because the license plate was "xcuseme" Now that's polite.

    1. Hmmmm, I wonder how well they do at getting through 4-way stops efficiently.

  6. PS: I had the HUGEST crush on Starbuck from Battlestar Gallactica when I was a kid and it kills me every time I see his smiling face here!

    1. Oh yeah, Starbuck was the essence of cool back then. Actually, and now.

  7. I didn't learn anything this time. Good work guys!

    I think Fargo proved that the Minesotans are the best at being polite. Being polite at 4-way stops, no big thing. Being polite while hiring someone to murder your wife...

    1. Oh yes, the people of Fargo win hands down at the whole politeness thing. And talking funny.

  8. "If you are not part of the solution you are part of the group that is calling the kettle black from within a glass house."

    LOVE this line.

    I adore Portland, and almost moved there with my husband. We drove by the Pittock Mansion and thought all the houses were like that. Guess what? They're not. That was a very sad day for me when I realized the people who owned the Pittock Mansion/ Museum would not sell it to us, and certainly not for the $17.44 that I had in my pocket. Who said the Portland exchange rate was great? not me.

    Awesome post, as always.

    ps-- the tv show Portlandia rocks my world

    1. Thanks! I love Pittock Mansion too. In fact, my wife and I had our wedding photos taken there. You would think that that would make us part owners or something, but no. Life is cruel.

  9. I hate pedestrians too. And four way stops. And mechanical water clocks.

    Loved that you said it felt like you were watching a documentary when watching Portlandia. Snort. Ellen


    1. Oh yeah aren't mechanical water clocks the worst? They're almost as bad as elastic moccasin weavers.