I have a couple memories of moving from Utah to Washington when I was in 1st grade. One is that what was called “butting” in line in Utah was called “cutting” in Washington (and you can imagine the looks I got in Washington when I first pointed out that someone “butt” in line). Also, saying bad words in Utah was “swearing,” and in Washington it was “cussing.” I also had to learn a new way to write the letter “a” in my new Washington school.

After a few weeks here in Utah those memories came back to me, and I asked my school age kids about them. They write the letter “a” the same way as in Washington now, but they had definitely noticed, and laughed at in their elementary-school-aged-boy way, the use of “butt” here. They also confirmed that nobody talks about cussing, it’s swearing. Some things never change I guess.

Driving behavior is another big difference between these states. I remember thinking how slow everyone drove in Portland when we first moved there from Utah, and how strange it was that when you signaled to change lanes the car next to you would slow down and make room for you. In Utah, driving fast on the highway is the norm. If you bother to signal before changing lanes the person behind you in the next lane generally speeds up and makes sure you don’t have room to merge. We were so spoiled in Portland. I will point out, though, that the the highways are so narrow and confusing through Portland that driving fast isn’t really an option. No two interchanges are the same in Portland, so you always have to be watching. Is it a right exit, or a left exit? Will there be an exit-only lane? Can you get back on the highway at the same place you got off? You never can be sure. In Utah the highways are nice and wide, the on and off ramps all work the same.

Getting directions from someone to someplace is different in both areas. In the Portland area it’s all about the names. Not just the names on the map either, there are semi-secret insider names to a lot of roads, bridges, and landmarks. I’m sure I still don’t know them all, but I was pretty grateful when someone sat me down and explained, the I-205 bridge is the Glenn Jackson Bridge, and I-84 between 205 and I-5 is The Banfield Expressway. Just knowing those two explained a lot of what I was hearing on radio traffic reports. You still have to know what The Sunset is, where the T-curves are (and that T stand for Terwilliger), and then the bridges: Marquam, Morris, Burnside, and Broadway, just to name a few. Ily had it down way better than me by the time we left.

In Utah, it’s simple, as long as you know your cardinal directions. Right and Left are words that are rarely spoken. Everything is North, South, East, or West. People tell you things like: Drive east and turn south. It’ll be on the west side of the street. That’s north of the highway. Park on the southwest side of the building. You always have to be aware of your directions. Highways and streets all have consistent numbers, and every street you pass adds or subtracts 100 from the address depending which direction you are driving. It’s really easy.

The weather, of course, is a big difference between the Pacific Northwest and Utah. We immediately had to start using chapstick and lotion on a daily basis when we moved here. A few times a day actually. I’m hoping we adapt eventually and don’t need it, or we might have to finally join Costco so we can buy lotion in bulk. We also noticed that there is this bright yellow ball in the sky here, and it makes us feel unexplainably happy. Except on “bad air days.” I wasn’t aware of how bad those get in Utah. I think we had them in Portland sometimes, but usually it was just normal clouds that dominated the skies there in the winter. And rain, of course. Stuff still falls from the sky in Utah occasionally, but it’s this white fluffy stuff that makes it hard to walk and drive. It’s pretty fun for sledding and skiing, but we never had to shovel rain off of our driveway and sidewalks in Vancouver.

Lastly, advertising. Both places have your typical billboards and radio ads for common things like auto repair, banks, dentists, cell phone service, and other local businesses. In each place there are also billboards and radio ads that are particularly weird, offensive, or just seem out of place. In Portland for a while there was the 10 story tall bikini girl ad on the side of a building along the Banfield, or the radio ads for “professional” body piercing and tattooing. In Utah it’s the seemingly disproportionate number of ads for liposuction and laser hair removal. I even heard an ad on the radio for a hair removal club that you could join for $10 a month, like a fitness club or something. I guess each place has its own kind of vanity.


Karen January 27, 2010 at 1:27 p.m.

The narrow roads, inconsistant highway interchanges, and the slow drivers still bother me about this area. And you can't forget the stupid red turn arrows for the left lane. Epecially when there are only two lanes and sometimes only one lane of on coming traffic. Why do they have to be red when traffic in your direction and on coming traffic get green? You should be able to turn left when there is no on coming traffic!!!!!!!! But no, we have to wait for a stupid green arrow. Can you tell I'm a little upset about this even after a couple of years? And why do people not go when it is their turn at stop signs?!

Ily January 27, 2010 at 9:34 p.m.

It is the Morrison Bridge, not the Morris Bryan.

And for the record, I avoid the highways now in Utah because of how many stinking breast augmentation billboards there are. That one that says " Finally Getting D never felt so good- Come see Dr Heidi for a breast augmentation" really irks me.

And yes Karen, I can think of times that I was annoyed to not be able to turn because I had the red arrow in WA... but seriously, here there is never a time when you CAN turn without an arrow. There is a steady flow of drivers EVERYWHERE! Republican laissez faire in UT vs. Liberal Democrat controlling of traffic patterns in WA... I would still choose the WA way of doing things at this point.

Jennifer Wise January 28, 2010 at 6:15 a.m.

Having lived both places, I know exactly what you're talking about! (And I grew up saying "butting" in line, too. I guess it's like "butting in" to a conversation.) Anyway, I'd choose WA, too. Going back to visit UT, I always notice the "weird" billboards, too. They ALL seem weird to me, no matter what they're about. Dr. Heidi would really irk me, too, Ily!

Bryan January 28, 2010 at 4:25 p.m.

I never thought about how old you were when you moved from Utah to Washington.. . I never knew anything but Washington. It was fun to hear your memories. I'll have to write something up like this comparing Utah to Tampa... haha

dad murdock January 30, 2010 at 3:30 p.m.

Great story about two very different locations. Isn't this a great country! Beware of the dreaded Utah accent. We will listening if you start saying things like "please pass the carn."