If you are now or have ever been a pedestrian, this has happened to you: You’re walking. You stop at an intersection to wait for a break in traffic. Cars are coming and going. You observe, “It’s cool that they’re all taking the ‘20 Is Plenty’ yard signs seriously.” As the last car in the line approaches, it slows. It stops. You look around. Are they picking up a rideshare client? Is there a child capering dangerously nearby? NO. They’re doing the little half-hand wave like the fucking Queen of England. This magnanimous regent of the road has deigned to upend the rules of ordinary traffic flow and give you the inappropriate right-of-way!

In Portland I encounter the inappropriate right-of-way DAILY. At lunch there was an Acura covered in mountain bikes that STOPPED at a GREEN LIGHT, waiting for me to jaywalk. I offered a gamut of incredulous expressions before I just gave up and looked at my phone. They left at some point. I’m still standing at that street corner because I’m afraid of getting run over.

You see, in a situation such as this, as soon as you begin to cross the road, the car in question—this half rebel/half regent—will start easing into the intersection. They wanted to give you the road, but they didn’t think it would TAKE SO LONG. You stop. They wave again. Their eyebrows form a severe “V.” You wiggle your fingers like, “You’re the big car that can do murder/manslaughter. Why don’t you go first?” And sure, that was the original idea. But I’m not trying to bruise the ego of a three-ton metal battering ram. Sometimes, at this juncture, they just go. OR THEY RAISE THEIR TINY ARMS IN CONSTERNATION AND ROAR “GO GO GO GO” like a small, red-faced king of the lizards.

So you step into the road. And they do a start-stop that sounds like a coach’s whistle farted. “I want to hug my family once more before I die!” you shout. “I don’t like your shoooes!” they scream back. As you parkour over their hood, flipping them off, a different car passes them on the left and creams you good.

The inappropriate right of way is an unusual traffic problem because it’s not rooted in impatience. It feels very Portland-specific—our city’s notorious flakiness and overwrought examination of social situations is on full display. (Guilty as charged!) Another contributing factor: Most of Portland has 200-square-foot blocks. This makes us a walkable city with lots of retail space, but also gives people more intersections to traverse. I feel bad for anyone trying to drive downtown at lunch, after work, or—the true gauntlet—around a sports game.

On one memorable occasion I was in a crosswalk, and a car screeched to a halt. “Make eye contact with me!” the driver shouted. “Sir, I am married,” I said, but he was right. Communication between cars and drivers is like a mini cotillion and as impossible as it feels to have 100 meet-cutes with drivers at intersections, the best approach is probably to calm down and communicate. But cars—oh my god—just go already!