This week, I was lucky enough to spend the Easter Holiday with my younger brother. The two of us haven’t seen each other much as of late, due to our college careers taking us to two completely different cities. My brother attends Boston College while I attend the Universtiy of Washington. While the trip was enjoyable for numerous reasons, I could not help but notice the drastic differences that exist between our respective cities. Of course, that is to be expected with our two colleges being on opposite ends of the country.
Perhaps the most apparent difference between the two cities was the drivers. Roads in Boston don’t exactly make sense in that they refuse to go straight. Looking at the map of Boston reminded me a bit of those circular mazes we used to do in coloring books as kids. The winding roads snake around the cobblestone city seemingly without rhyme or reason. Because of the serpentine nature of the roads, cars cannot go as fast as they can in other cities I’ve visited, such as Seattle or Los Angeles. Instead, the Boston driver is forced to rapidly decrease their speed at a moments notice, often coming shockingly close to other cars on the road. Because most cars cannot pick up as much speed, driving is completely different than other cities. For example, cars don’t yield. Instead of waiting for all cars to pass when turning against a red light, drivers simply wait for an opening large enough to accommodate them. Drivers who would traditionally have the right of way in other cities are forced to slow down rapidly to avoid colliding with the driver who should, by law, be yielding to other drivers.
By all means, I’m not saying this method of driving is necessarily bad. I believe I went the entire trip without hearing a car honk once out of anger or desperation. Drivers seemed well-adjusted to the aggressive merging and lane changes that occurred regularly. However, while drivers did not seem bothered with the unusual way of driving, I did notice a good amount of cars with damage to either their front or rear bumpers.
The city of Boston screams history. Buildings appear monolithic and ancient, most being constructed over a hundred years ago. The roads have a colonial feel to them as well, some even utilizing patches of cobblestone as substitutes for speed bumps. The stretch of land near Fenway marks a blend of the old and new Boston, with the muddy, green wall of Fenway sitting next to the modern skyscrapers that appear to be massive walls of windows and steel.
Bars and restaurants actually reminded me of Seattle. Nightlife was vibrant early at night and dissipated quickly as the night grew colder. Bartenders were friendly enough but remained somewhat aloof, as they do in Seattle. Overall, the city of Boston seems to be where Seattle was twenty years ago. They are beginning to renovate the city, adding more modern touches to it while continuing to preserve the rich history that drives tourism in that market. While antiquated trains continue to mull their way around the city, certain modern amenities are clearly making their way into the flourishing city.
My brother is continuing to struggle with the drastic shift in weather that Boston provides to the Los Angeles native. I experienced chilly 45 degree days and 30 some degree nights that are relatively normal in Seattle. So when my brother described these days as the best he had seen in months, I felt a clear sense of gratitude for my new home city of Seattle. Overall I feel that the city of Boston does not differ all that much from Seattle. We both live in our own bubbles, each feeling that our respective coasts are the center of the country. I’ve come to realize that most cities are going to have mostly similar dispositions and worldviews. Most of us will be friendly when it suits us and aggressive when civility fails us. But perhaps most importantly, cities are communities where countless people with little in common can share space and live with varying degrees of civility.