Here’s an example of why the Portland ethos is such a ridiculous charade where people make a self-aggrandizing show of having checked out from dealing with the imperfect ebbs and flows that constitutes daily life.
Last week I placed an order with Newegg because my two work computers desperately need to be upgraded. As I tracked the package over the weekend I found myself getting excited because I knew I’d bought some great components and was about to breathe new life into these workhorses.
The package was scheduled for delivery by the carrier OnTrac yesterday but as the day progressed I saw no new scans indicating it had even left their local warehouse let alone been delivered to my P.O. Box. Around 6 pm the status updated to say it would be delivered today, but this morning’s scan indicated it still had not left the facility so I called OnTrac to see what was going on.
As an aside, I looked this company up and any Google search will reveal that this is one of the most irresponsible and hated delivery companies around. Recently Amazon Prime customers were subjected to the incompetence, stupidity, and downright laziness of their drivers, and now apparently the once-great Newegg is driving its own reputation into the ground using the “service,” all in the name of saving a few bucks.
Now, one of the few wise things I’ve learned in life is that when you want something from a customer service gatekeeper it always pays to be either charming or play dumb, and never to be angry or mean. So this morning I got an OnTrac rep on the phone and in my most innocent tone of voice was able to find out from her that my package did not go out today because it had either been misplaced in the warehouse or put on the wrong truck. I gently asked if I could pick it up myself and the rep suggested I call the local warehouse later in the day to see if it had been located.
Around midday I did just that, being just as agreeable as I could be, and lo and behold the package was indeed there and the guy on the phone said it would be waiting in the office for me. So I got in my car as calm and sanguine as I could possibly be, not even close to fuming justifiably over OnTrac’s incompetence in performing their job in a timely manner. My goal was to get the computer parts in my hand so as to go about my business on schedule.
I made the half hour drive in heavy traffic across the bridge into Vancouver, WA, picked up my package in a matter of minutes, then on my way back past downtown Portland decided to hit my P.O. Box since it was just a few minutes away. I normally dive into downtown from the east and take the Steel Bridge so I whenever I come from the north I don’t know the route perfectly and kind of wind my way to the post office after getting off the 405 freeway.
About 2 blocks away from the post office I pulled up to cross Glisan Street, which runs one way at that location, and stopped halfway into the crosswalk because a) a wave of cars was approaching, and b) a pedestrian was near. But this was not just any old pedestrian, this was a forty-five-year-old man in full body Hare Krisha style outfit wearing a bike helmet and holding a small skateboard under his arm. He wore black-rimmed glasses and had a goofy Woody Allen expression on his face. Something like this.
We made eye contact and I promptly put my truck in reverse to clear the crosswalk for him. He just stood there so I waved my arm and said out the passenger window, “Do you want to go?” He closed his eyes ever so slowly then with a little frown shook his head back and forth as if to scold me! I kept waiting then said, “Are you gonna go or just be a baby?” He said nothing, just looked at me pityingly and waited, as if to shame me by making me go before he did. So finally I drove across and yelled at him as I passed, “Fine, be a big baby!!!”
The point of all this? Life is a constant struggle against waves of bullshit that rise up to knock you off course and test your patience. My having to deal with Newegg’s using OnTrac instead of UPS, FedEx, or even the USPS cost me a couple hours that I could have otherwise used in a productive manner—but I sucked it up, didn’t make the situation worse, and kept focused on the end goal of getting the computer parts into my hands.
So when I came across this clown in the street who wanted to teach me a lesson in classic Portland passive aggressive style, I abandoned all of the wonderful tact and patience I’d previously shown in order to call him out on his holier-than-thou foolishness.
When you don’t participate in the daily scrum of life, you don’t get my respect or the benefit of the doubt. Instead, you get a taste of the Southern California prick that I’ve done great work these last two years in Portland to keep quiet and in check. But sometimes I let him out of his cage to speak a powerful truth that is sorely needed as we get softer and softer as a culture: Be a man, not a whiny little bitch!
FOLLOW UP, Mid-January 2015: There is a narrow park that runs between two streets near the original showdown location which in warmer months tends to be infested by the homeless-by-choice who annually descend upon Portland’s generosity. There is also a basketball court, lawn bowling area, and kids play area.
Well, a couple weeks ago I was walking through this park back to my car and as I neared the playground filled with moms and their happy tykes, who did I see but my buddy from the crosswalk! He was sitting on a bench five feet from the kids, mini-skateboard and bike helmet at his side, playing a goddamned recorder! As he improvised a random fluttering melody I couldn’t help but be shocked by the absence of any Mama Bear protective reactions. My mind was screaming, “Someone call the cops!”
But I guess Rape Culture only applies to functional white males, not creepy potential child molesters. Because in Portland anything goes, they’re just keepin’ it weird…