Portlandish: Walk Buttons

July 25, 2013

I had one of those “Yep, I’m from Philadelphia moments” last weekend when I was walking to the Beaverton Farmers Market from my parking spot.

I was patiently waiting for the light to turn green so I could walk across the street. I stood next to the street lamp and looked around, trying not to grow oh-so-incredibly-bored while waiting the 180 seconds for the light to turn and I could be on my way. 😉

Apparently, I am a Portland loser for waiting.

An older guy rushed past me and jammed the pedestrian button in at least 10 times in about three seconds’ time. He then looked at me and sighed. I can only assume the sigh was for me because a) I was the only other person besides his wife / lady friend within earshot and b) I had arrived about 12 seconds before him and didn’t push the button. So, we had to wait to cross the street for a few more seconds. Together. Me, a non-pedestrian-button-pusher and Grumpy Anxiouspants, who was no doubt that way because he had to wait on the corner due to my ineptitude. To pass the remaining few seconds for the light to change and avoid all eye contact, I mentally thought-bubbled his venom for me:

  • Don’t you know all the good peaches sell by 8:15?
  • It’s 8:08 for chrissake! We’re going to have to get re-stocked tomatoes! You’ve ruined my dinner!
  • I might as well not even go to the market now! We’re eight minutes past opening! It will be at least eight minutes and 46 seconds by the time I get there now!

Here’s the thing, though – in my defense, these buttons are a joke in Philadelphia. So, I typically think nothing of standing at a red light until it turns green on its own, without a little prodding from me or anyone else who feels compelled to push the button.

I don’t think I have ever pushed one that worked.  Really. Pushing them in Philadelphia was always merely an exercise in futility for the mild-mannered and one in frustration for the hot-heads. So, over the course of my 35 years in Philadelphia, I just got used to ignoring them.  I don’t just ignore them in Philadelphia, I ignore them in all cities.  I figure lights aren’t that long anyway, so I can just stand there and wait.

Apparently not this guy. He wanted the right of way right then. And I was holding him back. Had I pushed the button when I first got to the corner, he could have just kept stride. I ruined his Saturday. I could tell by the tone of his sigh. And the thought bubbles I scripted for him.

But really, he clearly knew something I didn’t: the buttons in Portland work. Hahaha. Now that I think about it, I do see people pushing them when we’re driving around town. I guess this was my first opportunity to use one…and I failed. And made a fellow Portlander cranky in doing so. Might as well tattoo “I’m from Philadelphia” on my forearm to warn others that I stink at local stuff everyone else knows. 🙂

So…now you know. Always push the pedestrian button – even if they don’t work in your home town – hahaha.

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