Maybe I’m the only native Seattleite who has found herself suddenly having to drive across three lanes of traffic to make it to a turnoff that I’ve consistently missed for the last 12 years, or who always remembers too late, on the way to my parents’ house, that the right lane ends two blocks ahead and I’m stuck in it now.
Just getting from some point North of downtown to some point in SoDo is enough to give me hives: Do I stay on I-5 the whole time or is this one of those streets where I briefly merge onto 90 to get to the exit? Or is this one of those exits where I follow signs to merge onto 90 but then don’t merge at the last minute?
Part of my driving chaos stems from my taking the bus most of the time (and vice versa). A lot of the rest of it comes from Seattle’s unique geographic layout which means there are seven ways to get to any one place across the city, and none of them are ideal.
But there are also places in the city where street signs are tiny, blurry or entirely obscured by tree branches, or lanes abruptly end or you just can’t tell if that arrow is directing you to go straight or make a slight right. (Check out the Seattle sign gallery at Morgan Wick’s site. )
My family affectionately refers to this as Seattle sign snobbery because really the best way–sometimes the only way– to get around this city is to know it by heart. Many drivers here have little sympathy for you if you have to wait for a sign to tell you that a lane is ending.
But maybe we’re wrong. A recent comment thread over at the Times has some readers mocking those who admit they think Seattle’s intersection signage is confusing. Maybe it’s my problem. But I get lost in the city of my birth more than I’ve ever been lost on vacation.