Major cities, as well as the people within them, all have their distinctive collective characteristics. These can be geographical, climatological, cultural, psychological, economic, law-abiding, political, racial, behavioral, culinary or of other dimensions too numerous to list but which are daily fodder for rants on cable TV and talk radio.
Seattle–along with its residents–is certainly no exception. Indeed, I think the peculiarities of the self-styled Emerald City (a surprisingly unoriginal moniker, officially adopted less than 30 years ago, which Seattle shares with Eugene, Syracuse and a place in a certain movie starring Judy Garland) are so numerous there may be more defining elements here per capita than just about any big city that comes to mind.
And I say this as someone New To Seattle from the Los Angeles area, where there is no shortage of trenchant observations (many from the lips of Jay Leno) about how the City of Angels is, uh, a little different than other places. But, of course, L.A. has a whole lot more people to help make it so.
In my three months here, I have been compiling a list of how Seattle and Seattleites are cut from a different cloth. Here are my primary sources: (1) asking people I encounter, (2) using my own senses (eyes, ears, etc.), and (3) trolling the Internet. Okay, my research methods won’t win any of the science Nobel Prizes being awarded this week, and certainly not the Nobel Peace Prize. But at least I am still alive. And it’s really all just opinion. In any event I will have material aplenty for the next party that someone dares to invite me to.
So, you know you’re from Seattle when you:
- Get up in darkness and get home from work in darkness.
- Welcome the jobs Amazon.com has created but are still mad you have to pay a sales tax when purchasing a book online.
- See no contradiction between holding very liberal political beliefs and working for a defense contractor.
- See no contradiction between being very green and driving a very large SUV.
- Complain about society’s unmet needs but nevertheless vote against a state income tax.
- Love bicyclists.
- Hate bicyclists.
- Freak out at an eighth of an inch of snow.
- Can talk knowledgeably about the local professional soccer team.
- Have actually paid to watch a professional soccer match.
- Have seen the police ticket a jaywalker.
- Have shown visitors where Kurt Cobain killed himself.
- Eat ice cream all winter.
- Know a dozen words for coffee.
- Can distinguish the taste of different kinds of salmon.
- Personally know someone from both Alaska and Hawaii.
- Eat lutefish.
- Navigate by landmarks rather than street signs.
- Think anyone on the street using an umbrella is either a visitor, a wimp or a loser–or maybe all three.
- Know someone who works for either Boeing, Microsoft or Amazon.com.
- Worry about running low on vitamin D.
- Think it amusing that Mount Rainier is named for a military officer who fought against the United States.
- Understand there’s a difference in a weather forecast between rain and showers.
- Think that every big city has leveled part of its downtown terrain.
- Feel going to an outdoor pool is fine even if the air temperature is barely 50 degrees.
- Proclaim Washington State wine just as good as California wine.
- Tell jokes about the Ballard neighborhood.
- Tell jokes about Spokane.
- Think Bellevue is part of the “Great Beyond.”
- Note nostalgically that the Black Panthers once had a regional field office in the Madrona neighborhood.
- Miss the P-I.
- Deflect any criticism of Seattle by saying it’s the same everywhere else.