Something happened today that firmly confirmed that I’m more Philadelphian than Portlander. I was driving down West Burnside, the street that marks the divide between the north and south sides of the city. I had just sold a bunch of books at Powell’s and was feeling pretty good about it. Heading back to the east side of the river, I was enjoying the beautiful day and driving along. All of the sudden, a man stepped out and started to cross the street.
It took me a second to realize what was going on, and I couldn’t believe that he would be bold enough to cross without a light. I came to a screeching halt, sending the books in the back of the car flying. He looked at me like I was a crazy person, which was when I realized that he was actually crossing at a crosswalk. However, it was a crosswalk without a light or a flashing light or even a “Yield to Pedestrians” sign. Just white painted strips on the street.
I have never seen a crosswalk in Philadelphia that was just white strips on asphalt. It would be a death trap, because there’s no way anyone would actually stop. But here, all you need to stop traffic is indicators painted on the street that it is a safe place for people to cross. Because I haven’t seen anything like it in so long, it was momentarily unrecognizable to me.
I’ve had other moments this week when I’ve realized that my style of driving has gotten markedly more agressive since I moved to Philly, but this was the confirmation I needed that I have turned into an east coaster. I’m afraid it might be irreversible.