Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Portland has its Darwinian moment today

I grew up in the Midwest, so snow isn't that big a deal to me. Been there, done that. Although the rainy winters in Oregon will start to wear me down by early March, I can't deny that I'm grateful all that precipitation isn't snow.

A couple of snowy days a year is about all that Portland gets (not counting Mt. Hood and the other higher elevations), and when it happens--as it did today--it's quite a spectacle. Local TV screens, anticipating 1.5-to-2 inches of snow this morning, began to run crawls with school closing information last night. The local radio station took about 5 minutes to get through all the closings and delayed openings this morning.

When I left the house at about 7am, I have to say, it was very lovely. The sun wasn't up, so the snow--mostly unblemished by cars and pedestrians--was nice and smooth and pristine by the glow of the streetlights.

But it wasn't long until I was reminded that it really is good sense to shut Portland down when it snows. True, an inch or two of the white stuff probably doesn't seem like much to residents of Indianapolis--certainly not to the poor folks in Denver this winter. But it's not the snow, per se, it's the fact that most Portlanders haven't a clue how to drive safely in it.

As a general rule, when there's snow on the streets here, I don't drive for a couple of days, just to let natural selection work its magic, thinning out the herd a little.

I saw two near-miss fender-benders by 7.15am, and in both cases it was because a driver clearly believed that 4-wheel drive and anti-lock brakes placed them above the basic laws of physics. I watched drivers running at speeds, and following at distances, that might have been safe on dry pavement in daylight, suddenly swirling and wafting along like the snowflakes in "Fantasia" when their tires no longer connected with the pavement beneath the snowpack.

Ah, but don't take my culturally snobbish word for it. Watch this home video captured this morning at Goose Hollow, on the edge of downtown Portland.

I sincerely hope no one was hurt--but I also hope those drivers were frightened and embarrassed enough to stay off the streets next time we get a snowfall (which might be a year or two from now).

Special schadenfreude moment: With the exception of the fire engine, most of the cars "featured" in the video clip linked to above were sport utility-type vehicles, the kind that advertise themselves on TV going up the side of a mountain without spilling a drop of the driver's tall skinny mocha latte.

In fairness, I should add that by mid-afternoon the snow was just damp enough, yet just cold enough, to make magnificent snowballs. Warm enough to pack well, but still cold enough that your gloves stayed dry. (Ask me how I know.)

(Tip of the wool hat to Blue Oregon for taking a moment off from Oregon politics long enough to point me to the video clip, although by now it must be the most-linked-to clip in town.)


Chuck Butcher said...

I have to admit that it looked pretty harmless to this NE OR boy. But then I drive a 4 ton 4x4 utility bed pickup with studs on all 4. But, you're right, I wouldn't venture into Portland, either. (or some other places I've lived: Tacoma, WA; North SF Bay, CA) It makes a difference to have grown up with it and to then have lived where it really snows - Keewenaw Penninsula, MI : avg 300 inches. Not a typo. 300 inches

Anonymous said...

flipping thru these blogs about today and yours struck a cord. I don't really drive, but prefer to do my commuting on tri-met and today I was reassured of my constant decision to leave my car at home. I don't necessary think it's Original Portlander's that find it hard to drive in the snow, but also the transplants from California and Arizona that have multiplied over the years. We're all in the same boat with the experience of snow driving, but people need to use their head and not take mother nature for granted.

Thank God my boyfriend is a professional driver! I don't fear his driving but the morons around us that can't drive when it's sunny let alone when there are 4inches of snow and 1inch of ice.

Anonymous said...

Been there, done that? Get a new slogan dude. That one is worn and tired out.

I know your type. You're average intelligence at best and are a product of your environment. You run with the herd and you truly are a dip shit.

Anonymous said...

"Thank God my boyfriend is a professional driver! I don't fear his driving but the morons around us that can't drive when it's sunny let alone when there are 4inches of snow and 1inch of ice."

Get a life lady. You're dumber than a post and the only true moron is you.