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How to spot a Seattle native in traffic

Seattle is a pretty cosmopolitan place. With Boeing, Microsoft, and hundreds of smaller high tech and bio tech companies, there are people here who grew up all over the US and the rest of the world. Nearly everyone, it seems, is a transplant - myself included. I have been here since 1991 and I have met a number of the rare Seattle natives. They were here before all of this growth. They remember when the mall used to be a field and the time before all of these transplants moved in and clogged up the roads and drove up housing prices. If you take "The Underground Tour" of the historic Seattle underground, you will be reminded of the classic phrase that Seattle natives like to tell visitors, "Spend your money, and then go home." Even the road signs seem to support this anti newcomer feeling. I have been to most major cities in North America and Seattle has the worst road signs of any place I have ever been. It seems that the city expects you to already know where you are going, and if you don't then you shouldn't be there. Throw in all kinds of natural barriers like hills, rivers, lakes, and The Sound, and finding your way can be a real challenge some times.

If road signs were the only problem, then we could all buy GPS units and the problem would be solved. A great hindrance to normal traffic flow, however, is The Native Driver. How does one spot a Seattle native? Here are some tips. Suppose you are driving on a 5 lane freeway and it happens to be a weekend or some other time when traffic is light. Have a look at the left lane. In every other city in North America it would be called "the fast lane" since we all know that we are supposed to "keep right except to pass." Not in Seattle. In Seattle if you travel any distance at all you will see a Seattle native in the left lane. They will be in a clapped out Subaru wagon with a lot of bumper stickers - one might even proclaim that they are a native. They could also be in a Chrysler "K" car from the 80's, a very old Chrysler mini van, or an ancient Honda. They will be traveling at least 10 miles an hour below the speed limit. If you have the misfortune to see them enter the freeway, they will cross 4 or 5 lanes of traffic - cutting off drivers and almost causing multi car pile-ups - just to get into that left lane. They will stay there even if there is no one in any of the other lanes. It is as if to say that they are tax payers, dammit, they were here first, and they can drive in whatever lane they want. It is just all of us pain-in-the-neck transplants that clogged up the roads, anyway, and if we were not here then they would be driving on a 2 lane road and wouldn't need all of these freeways. Now, add a bit of traffic and a handful of natives create rolling roadblocks wherever they go.

Seattle has made a big deal about cracking down on aggressive drivers - people that drive too fast and follow too closely. The State Patrol does not, however, seem to notice Seattle natives. There is a law that says that if you are blocking 5 cars you are required to pull over and let them pass. Does anyone ever get a ticket for this? How about keeping right except to pass? I don't think so. I think that a special permit needs to be required for the left lane. If you have a clapped out Subaru wagon with more than 5 bumper stickers on it you are automatically disqualified from getting a permit. I think that the State Patrol should pull over people who are going 10 miles an hour under the speed limit in "the fast lane" and give them a huge ticket and a wedgie. Also a dope slap. A second offense gets pepper spray. A third offense is an instant seizure of the vehicle and the State issues the driver a bus pass. I think that there would be a lot less aggressive drivers if we would implement this modest proposal.


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