The Dead, and Un-Dead Streets Of Eugene

Eugene Celebration parade, hippie bus, band on boat, boat on top of bus, downtown traffic

During the economic downturn following the events of the early 2000s, the company I worked for took a big hit; rather than face a layoff, I accepted a temporary reassignment at their offices in Southern California. Besides having to be away from my family for a few months, the one thing I was not looking forward to was having to negotiate the traffic around Los Angeles, which I'd heard was full of the worst drivers in the country, maybe the entire world.

So were the driving conditions in L.A. as awful as they were made out to be? Well, yes... and no. For one thing, the place is freaking huge, and people there don't think twice about jumping on a freeway and rocket sledding at high speed 40 or 50 miles to go buy a book and have some ice cream. And death on the roads, a routine daily thing there I guess, is treated pretty nonchalantly - Newscaster: "Fatal 15 car pileup on the inbound 605! Our sky cam shows traffic backed up for miles! Boy, I wouldn't want to be stuck in THAT on my way home, ha ha!"  Co-anchor: "Yeah, it's a mess alright! Ha ha ha!" (Note: this was an actual 6:00 news broadcast. I'm not making this up.)

Anyone who has ever driven in any city in Italy, Mexico, or Japan would laugh at the idea of Southern California traffic being unusually bad, because really, it isn't. I did notice however, that the drivers there didn't want to slow down and stop for fire engines and ambulances, a behavior just as sad, sociopathic, dumb, and actively working against their own better interest as what Tea Bagger Republican types do. That's about it; for the most part driving in and around L.A. isn't any worse than being in Portland or Seattle. Except it's freaking huge.

After being awhile in Southern California, I built up an idyllic false memory of how peaceful and calm the streets of Eugene were in comparison to L.A. I was wrong. After getting back to Oregon I realized how bad the overall level of driving skill, caution, and courtesy is here. Eugene/Springfield is a fairly compact urban area, and it doesn't take long to get from one side of town to the other, but that doesn't stop a lot of people from going way too fast, and since there are so few dedicated arterial streets, and a large river dividing the town with even fewer bridges, it just worsens the situation.

A further complication is that there are three Walmarts, and that gets Walmart shoppers confused, since it's an odd number, and larger than two.

But simple geography doesn't explain why things are so crummy on the streets here, so over the last couple of years I've done some semi-serious study, and developed a semi-theory, and it goes something like this:

Eugene, and to a lesser extent, Springfield, is a melting pot of sorts, and for various reasons a lot of different types of folks have settled here lately. First off, there's a major university (Duck U!), and as everyone knows, college students, especially the teenage ones, are the worst drivers, ever. Secondly, like the rest of the country, there's a sizable, and growing, percentage of the population that are, to be polite, "aging", and you have to agree, senior citizens are the worst drivers around.  

Also, as in the rest of the western US, there is an expanding immigrant population here. Except for the illegals, who drive very carefully so they won't get caught, everybody knows that people from south of the border are the worst drivers anywhere. Add to that the large number of people from Asia that have come here recently, either university staff and faculty members, or as part of the South China/Hong Kong diaspora, and really, Asians are the worst drivers in the world, period.  

In fact, due to the university, there are a lot of just plain Foreigners here, and since they can't read the street signs, which of course are in American, that automatically makes them really bad drivers. We can't forget that there are a lot of native Oregonians that have moved here from rural areas of the state to pursue the greater economic opportunities available, and as everyone knows, rednecks are the worst drivers in the country.  

For some time now, Eugene has consistently been included in many of the "Top Ten Most Livable Cities" lists in various magazines and websites catering to the upwardly mobile, hipster, living on investment portfolios social leech classes. Now the streets are increasingly choked with latte swilling, cell-phone yakking, sun-glass wearing, iPhone texting, get-out-of-my-way SUV drivers from all over the country that have descended on this city like a horde of buzz-word spewing locusts, and they truly are the worst drivers anyone has ever seen.

And because the school system (actually, the school board itself) here is seriously fu messed up and fixated on "choice", the morning streets are packed with mobs of harassed, over caffeinated moms in mini-vans, desperately trying to stay on schedule while shuttling Buffy to the French Academe, Ken-Do to the Japanese Gakkuen, and little Truman-Angela to the Diversity Sensitivity Training Gender Studies school, all of which are on opposite ends of town. And it's established fact that moms in mini-vans are the suckiest drivers of all time.

And lastly, there are the old hippies: thank goodness for the medical marijuana program, because without it there would be a heck of a lot more of them out there, driving around looking for their 1/4 ounces, and everyone knows that stoners are the worst, uh... whatever... uh, drivers? Cosmic truth, like, whoa - flashes! And... "Peace", ya know?

So that's it, that's my theory. And if I haven't insulted like, you know, everybody already, if I've left anybody out, get in touch and let me know, and I'll insult you, too.

Now here are a few more snapshots taken at various past Eugene Celebration parades, all with a Lumix TZ-3. Click or tap on any picture for larger, higher resolution images.

Eugene Celebration parade float, Corvallis Da Vinci Days Kinetic Challenge, downtown traffic
Eugene Celebration parade float, big fish, downtown traffic
Eugene Celebration parade, float, hippie bus, boat on bus, downtown traffic
Eugene, slug queen, parade float

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