Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lost In Translation

There are probably a million dumb-ass stories in the Naked City of Portland. This is just one of them.

I moved to Portland in the summer of 1990. When the van loaded with household goods, me, and my ex-wife rolled to a stop it was way out in darkest Beaverton in the western suburbs of Portland proper. We lived there for almost a decade, so I didn't get to know the city the way I do now.

But driving about the town in that first autumn I noticed two things; that there were a LOT of homeless people in Portland for a place that gets something like 200 days of rain a year. And probably because of that every freeway underpass had big white signs that read "No Trespassing" in English and Spanish.

Sort of.

Because here is one of those signs;Now I drove past these things for what must have been several years without really "seeing" them. They were just part of the scenery, like the scruffy winos, the pierced hipsters, and the coffee kiosks that are "Portland". So I never really thought about them. And neither, apparently, did anyone else including the people who made and set them up.

Until the World's Worst Newspaper printed a letter that read something like;
"I'm bilingual in English and Spanish and just moved here from (blank). So imagine my surprise when driving on I-405 the other day to spot a sign that advises me that "Traspasan" is prohibited. Now I have no idea what "Traspasan" is, but I know what it isn't, and that's a Spanish translation of the word "Trespassing". Just thought that you might want to let someone at the Department of Transportation know that."
So you can imagine the result. A whole bunch of people at the City and the Oregon DOT had to go on record as saying, basically "Ummm...errr...gubaduh!"

The "No Traspasan" signs began to disappear later that year, without publicity, and it's been probably five years since I've seen one. I thought that they were all gone. Until I biked downtown with my bride (whose replacement of the woman I was married to when I first saw one, the woman we like to call "pre-mommy", is one of the great miracles and blessings of my life - you know that, right, honey?) who knew my love for the ridiculous No Traspasan story and saved this little sign as a special treat for me.

And indeed it was.

And now I pass it on as a special treat to you.

Portland; the City That Works But Not On Its Spanish Language Skills.

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