Since moving to the Emerald City, I’ve noticed a few odd things. I don’t know if they are pure coincidence, or if they’re some form of Pacific Northwest culture that I’m finding hard to comprehend.
The first is eye contact. It seems that you get one of two extremes from people here. Either you get no eye contact at all, or you get someone who pins you down with this non-blinking, inescapable stare that makes you want to hide behind something large. Even if you bob and weave those staring eyes follow you.
I tested the no eye contact type of person today. I wore antlers to work. I had a 10 minute shift change with my supervisor in a small room, and sure enough, she didn’t even notice. No, she wasn’t ignoring it. She never even looked up. How do you overlook antlers?
Another thing is either a strong sense of privacy or a total lack of curiosity. I’ve been wearing this big brace on my wrist for several weeks now. It makes it hard to sign credit card receipts or put on jackets or carry groceries. And yet not one single person has said, “What happened to you?” In Florida, total strangers would have been stopping me in the street to inquire. Every cashier would have wanted to know. I’d have gotten sick of hearing, “Well, bless your heart” after telling the story.
The third thing kind of makes sense. It’s a total lack of acknowledgement of rain in any form. I’ve seen people gardening in the rain. Jogging, rowing, playing sports… they’re not going to let a little rain slow them down. This is probably coupled with the fact that not once since I’ve been out here have I heard a crash of thunder or seen a flash of lightning. In Florida when it rains we take cover. Storms in Florida can kill you. Here they just benevolently drive you crazy.
The final thing I find kind of hard to describe. It’s like… nice, but not. You meet someone, and they’re so incredibly friendly that you start thinking you’ve really hit it off with this person. It seems like you’re making a friend. You get all happy. And then they say, “Nice meeting you! Bye!” and off they go. Are friendships a dime a dozen here, where you can just dismiss someone you click with like that? Or is the friendliness insincere? It’s very disconcerting, and makes me question every connection I think I make.
Half the time I have no idea what the cultural subtext is in this amazing city. But I’m looking forward to getting to the bottom of it. If I figure these things out I’ll be sure to let you know.
[Image credit: flickrhivemind.net]