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Thursday, June 21, 2007
Bridgetown vs. the 30-foot sailboat
Last night I tried to meet up with a colleague for beer and dinner on the Eastside. What should have been a mildly annoying trip across town during rush hour turned into a 70-minute endurance test. The first delay hit on US-26 on the slope leading up to Sylvan, pretty typical for a weeknight. After a slow slog downtown, I ran into another bottleneck near the Bus Mall revamp. Ever find yourself hanging in an intersection after traffic abruptly halts? At 5:45 on a Wednesday night in the middle of downtown, it can land you on the receiving end of road rage. Last night, a lane of commuters slowly nudged their way into another lane to get around my car. A few years ago though, someone in a gigantic Ford responded to my bad luck by slamming on their accelerator, blasting through the intersection and slamming their brakes mere inches from impact with the side of my car. Then they spent the next few minutes laying waste to their truck's horn.
I figured I was in the clear once I made it to Naito Parkway but, nope, the Hawthorne Bridge was up. Hundreds of cars and bicyclists, were all delayed on a sun-soaked summer evening by...a single sailboat with a tall mast. I moved back into the middle lane and hoped to beat the boat to the Morrison. No such luck, that bridge was also raised. I tried for the Steel Bridge but the barrier had already dropped. The boat had managed to shut down all passage from downtown to the Eastside for a good fifteen minutes at the height of rush hour. As it passed under the Steel, two people were standing on its deck, taking in the city they had managed to shut down so they could slowly saunter up the Willamette. I couldn't make out their faces from the bridge's onramp but I’m sure they were smiling wickedly.
Across the river, I ran into one last delay: a few dozen geriatrics outside the Convention Center, all crossing the street and completely indifferent to the little, neon hand advising them to stay on the sidewalk and wait for the light to change. 25 minutes late, I arrived at my colleague's office, now the epitome of a super-pissed commuter. A while back someone asked me why I don't live on the Eastside, considering that it's home to everything that makes Portland so Portland-y. I guess this reason is as good as any.