SnowBunny vs SnowBird
December 7, 2019
Small Gestures, Huge Results
Friday afternoon during a holiday season is not the time to do a Costco run. That being said, we needed stuff….and while we were there a fill-up of cheaper-ish gas was in order. By way of explaining driving in our hometown, we are a desert, resort, warm-weather destination. We are populated by senior citizens (with a sigh, I must include myself here but I have far better driving skills than most my age…..or that’s what I tell myself) and an inordinate amount of what we call Snowbirds; an active, mobile, community of seniors from other shores, a lot Canadian, a lot Upper Midwest, and a whole lot from our most recent past in the Great Northwest, Oregon and Washington.
A word about drivers from Washington and Oregon. Two more dissimilar and incongruous groups of vehicular operators do not exist in such close proximity as these two neighboring states anywhere else in America. The East Coast is a cluster from Maine to Key West. They are the singular result of overcrowding, in life and on the highway, and drive as if their very existence depends upon it…and it might. Their brake-foot is biologically linked to the horn-hand thus, when brake is applied, horn is sounded. On the West Coast, we consider this rude, full stop; except maybe in LA and a few more raucous outposts like Bakersfield and Corona but those examples also come with the inherent risk of a loaded weapon somewhere in the mix, so cautious people refrain.
But drilling down on Washington and Oregon, we lived just across the Columbia River from Washington State in Portland, Oregon. The oft-heard joke at Oregonian cocktail parties goes something along the lines of the dead bodies found in cars at the four-way stop, their withered hands still gesticulating over the steering wheel for someone, ANYone, to go on through before them. Horns are never heard, traffic is sedate by almost any American standard, polite to the point of passive-aggressiveness.
Nowhere is this more apparent than the I-5 freeway that connects the two states and meanders through the heart of downtown Portland, off-ramps and all. Washingtonians fairly fly across the Interstate Bridge (when the draw is not up for passing ships…which might tend to add a soupçon of aggravation to their auto-angst, who can say?) only to be confronted with the antiquated design of a freeway that acts as a city street, disappearing lanes and all. Oregonians, identified by their pine tree-logoed plates, line up, single-file, patient; NPR and Terry Gross consuming all their attention. The soon-to-be-gone right lane sits empty, signage indicating its imminent demise, flashing lights even pointing out this fact. But hark! Who is this miscreant in the huge pickup zooming past the row of penitents? The plate is the proof. Everyone who lives in Oregon just knows, they place friendly wagers in their cars (during commercial breaks from NPR) on the odds of the offending auto being from their offensive neighbors to the north. It’s really not a wager, it’s a sure thing; oddsmakers could clean up with this gambit alone.
But I digress a bit more than usual. The point of departure for us was the impending gas line at Costco. As I maneuvered through yet another bat-shit-crazy design of a parking lot (something we seem known for here and considering the sheer volume of dementia-impaired drivers seems like something someone might address <digression>)
I position myself as next in line to turn into the actual gas queuing arena, my eye firmly on the near empty pump line on the far left (my favorite) and only blocked by one car; a shiny new, 4-door Porche Panemera with…….you’ve been led here, bite…..Washington plates. My mood darkened a bit but was still open to the possibility of a miracle.
And there it happened. The young woman (mid 40’s?) driver saw that she was my only obstacle to the lane of desire and she acknowledged it! She did so with a really genuine smile and a shrug of shoulders as there was nothing for either of us to do but wait. I smiled and waved back; a “No Worries” Canadian-ish response learned from her neighbors even farther north.
There was a bit more jockeying as the cars inched forward and, she, having position precedence, pulled to our far-left lane and I followed suit. Once more she astounded me by getting OUT of the car and again, shrugging her apologies for being in front of me I suppose, genuinely smiled and waved! I checked the plate to make sure.
She was the last of two cars to pull up pump-side. She began her fill-up. After maybe 5 minutes, the car in front of her finished and pulled away. Once more she gob-smacked me by pointing to the car and mouthing “Sorry! HUGE tank!” By now, I’m simply a grinning maniac, happy to have been proven wrong…even once…about snowbirds, Washington drivers, and life in a gas line. Costco was very, very good to me today.
Humanity: The Good Side