Saturday, August 14, 2010

NE x NW: A Excercise in Comparative Travel

Having traveling to Portland, OR recently, the differences between the northwest and the northeast crystallized in my mind in a way that they haven't before. Let me share some snapshots of my epiphany:
  • Air Travel: At Boston Logan airport (a notoriously terrible, dirty, ugly airport which is ALWAYS under construction through it never seems to get any more attractive or accessible) there is LITERALLY a person whose job it is to stand in the security line and SCREAM at the confused, fearful crowd like a belligerent, angry shepherd: LAPTOPS OUT, YOU'VE GOT TO GET YOUR LAPTOPS OUT, PEOPLE. GET THEM OUT. YOU CANNOT HAVE THEM IN YOUR BAG. BAGS ON THE BELT. SHOES OFF. GET THOSE SHOES OFF. C'MON PEOPLE. GET IT TOGETHER. TAKE THOSE LAPTOPS OUT. This mantra is on a continuous loop which mostly only functions to heighten the anxiety of everyone involved and give me a massive headache, as if the probability of stress and headache is not high enough given the travel culture, shoe removal policy and general severity of the TSA these days. BUT at the Portland International Airport, I almost laughed aloud when I observed the man who functionally had the same job there. But HE was calmly circulating through the crowd and speaking in a low, soothing voice: "Does anyone have any questions? Does everyone understand what will happen when you get to the front of the line? Does anyone need an extra ziplock bag?" Once at the front, the ticket checkers were courteous and helpful. Folks were helping to put others bags on the belt and everything was going down in a generally courteous and well-mannered way. I also noticed they actually had a station set up to explain the security procedures which included brochures in multiple languages, extra ziplock baggies, labels for your laptop and luggage tags.
  • Driving: I've often joked that I'll never be able to move away from Boston because I've become such an obscene driver since being here that I'd never survive elsewhere. In Boston, the name of the game is aggression, rule-breaking and each man for himself (What's the gender neutral way to say that? Each person for him or herself? Awkward.) ANYWAY, it is not uncommon here to see people blatantly ignore common traffic laws and regular courtesies such as not honking 2 nano-seconds after the light turns green. I have seen people honk at pedestrians crossing the street who had the right of way, elderly people taking to long at a crosswalk and, on several occasions, other cars stopped at a red light. (Actually, it seems the ONLY violation that will not be tolerated here in Boston is an illegal left turn. All others are assessed on a sliding scale from okay to slightly annoying.) But Portland is like a fairly land of driver respect. You might pull up to a stop sign at the same time as another car and, instead of playing chicken in a 'No, it's my turn" standoff, you'd see both cars (probably Priuses of different colors) wave each other along as if to say, "No, you go." To which the other responds: "No, you go." And the first, with a wave, "No, really, you go ahead." And you stay there until everyone smiles and laughs a bit and someone goes but with an apologetic wave at having gone first.
  • Bikes: They have bikes in Portland. Thousands of them. That people actually use to get places. And they periodically shut down the streets so the bikes can get around. And the buses have bike racks on the front. In Boston, if you are lucky enough to not have your bike stolen in the first five minutes you have it out, you have a 75% chance of getting killed by a Boston driver. (See above.)
  • Trash: While the ditches of Boston are filled with Styrofoam Dunkin' Donuts cups (Bostonians believe all of America "runs on Dunkin'"), I actually checked out a Portland parking strip on a Saturday morning to find a discarded beer bottle......of organic micro-brew. Enough said.
  • The pubs are already full in Portland by 4 p.m. on a weekday. This may be because of the 14% unemployment, but it is cool!
  • Oregon state law permits CRAZY things like taking your dog to the beach. Or going to the beach at all.
  • Parking rates in Portland were just raised: $1.25 an hour downtown. I am sad to admit that I have paid $40 a night in Boston for parking. Just in case you're not a math geek, that would be 32 hours of parking. But I was only there for 3.
  • It gets cool at night in Oregon, even in the summer. It NEVER gets cool in Boston in the summer. Actually, even when it is cool the humidity is still so high you somehow have the strange experience of being cool and sweating at the same time. Awesome! OR the universe might cool off but the cement building have a unique conductive property that allows them to store heat all day and release it all night to create a cementy-night-heat that cannot be replicated outside of the city.
So those are my reflections on comparative travel (which I believe should be a new field of employment....I'm available if anyone's hiring!). I think you know where my heart lies.

1 comment:

  1. Love that coast!

    p.s. why do I get 4 of your posts updated all at once on my blogger? Do you put them up at once?