Even the cops have tattoos

It’s August, as we all know, so there are still a lot of sunny days here in Seattle; I’ve heard but not experienced the loss of direct sunlight that arrives in fall and sticks around until the next summer. That’s how it worked in Syracuse, New York, so I can steady myself for the little bits of insanity that pop up as human beings go through vitamin D withdrawal. It gets weird, that’s for sure.

But if I don’t have the lack of sun to remind me I’m in Seattle, there are other hints:

  • Nobody carries an umbrella in the rain, but everyone wears raincoats, even when the sun’s out
  • Black and brown are the top choices for clothing, unless one has opted to select a bit of hot pink
  • There is apparently some contest to see who can plaster the most bumper stickers on their car
  • People wear jeans to business meetings
  • No glasses frames are “too retro” to wear out in public
  • Instead of just garbage and recycling bins, there are bins marked Garbage, Recycling, Compost, and Hopeless

It is its own little city. I enjoy seeing skyscrapers once again, not for the earth-destroying resources they consume, of course, but for the fact that it signifies there are a lot of people here. In New York City, they seem to touch the clouds but never make it; in Seattle the clouds like to dive in from time to time, I suppose to take in a show or slam poetry event. Even the volcanoes hide behind gray blobs of cloud. It’s almost as if Mt. St. Helens is embarrassed that it threw up all over eastern Washington in 1980. Girl, 30 years later, you can be okay with it. We all see you blew your stack, and it’s okay.

Some folks warned me that Seattlites are passive-aggressive, and so far, this has held up to be fairly accurate. Back when Susanne and I first moved to Walla Walla, I was shocked at how indirect people were. For example, if I am staring at cans of beans in the grocery store, assessing which I should procure, and someone from the Northeast comes up behind me, they’ll either say, “excuse me” and reach in around me, reach in around me without saying anything, or push me aside to get their damn beans. But in the Northwest they’ll just stand behind me, waiting, quiet as a door mouse, until I finish thinking about whatever it was that brought me to this corner of the store in the first place. I find this unnerving, because I need and expect directness. But what I didn’t understand until this last week of living here, is that they’re really just fuming behind me, wishing they could say something, wholly unable to break their social contract.

Another story: I used to commute into DC on the Metro, taking a bus to the Pentagon station and traveling by the subway up to Foggy Bottom near the George Washington University campus. When I was on my morning schedule I saw the same people, also heading to work, which included one nice lady who was aided by a seeing eye dog. We got to know each other a little, in that way that repeat commuters do. Because she got off at the same station as me, she’d often take hold of my elbow as we walked to the escalator. It wasn’t anything I said she could do, but it didn’t bother me, either. One day, heading up the escalator, a businessman in a hurry mashed her dog’s foot into the step, severely injuring the animal. I was shocked that he didn’t lose one step on his mighty important commute to Satan Company, Ltd., and I rushed over to him and yanked him aside before he hit the turnstiles, yelling at him to see what he’d done. It was clear he didn’t want to deal with the aftermath—the woman trying to figure out how badly her dog had been maimed, the dog doing its best to be calm but crying and whimpering all the same—but me and the other commuters got his card out of him. I later found out that he’d ponied up the money for the veterinarian, as well as the re-training the dog needed to get back on moving stairs. Cornered, he had no option but to admit his liability, even as he’d tried to just sneak away.

Fast forward to Monday night, here in Seattle, and while we were at the trivia game in a local bar, a woman stepped on a service dog’s foot while meeting up with her friends. Her initial response was, “oh, there’s a dog there?” A few words were exchanged with the dog’s owner, but then she walked over to her group of pals, muttering, “I don’t know why someone brings a dog in here, anyway.” Lady, it’s a service dog. It’s wearing a bright orange back harness that reads: Service Dog.

That was a primo passive aggressive response as far as I am concerned. Damn that dog for being under my feet!

Lest I sound like I don’t like Seattle, let me list a few wonderful aspects:

  • Great, self-contained neighborhoods that nestle lovely little eateries, like Moka Coffee, the Baguette Box, and Sushi Whore
  • Water, water, everywhere one looks
  • People aren’t afraid to play wonderful music—everything from old Sonic Youth to Average White Band, to contemporary indie rock
  • Few places can support many people wearing socks and Birkenstock sandals
  • Even the cops have tribal tattoos

I went ahead and subscribed to the Sunday newspaper because I still believe, even in this anti-paper world, that a subscription to the local rag provides great insight into a place’s culture, people, and environment. And yes, I’ll note that I’ve been quite unwilling to purchase the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. I don’t find that it actually contains news or much else of interest.

So Seattle, I want to get to know you. We’ve had a few dates here and there, but it’s time to take our relationship to the next level. Where will we go together, oh city of wet weather and shades of green?

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