Eleven years ago this month I moved to the Pacific Northwest. Though I had bounced around some prior to that the large majority of my life up to that point had been spent in the Midwest. In the time that I’ve been here I’ve adopted many local customs and ways of thinking, as evidenced by the following.
- I own at least four rain-jackets and not one umbrella. If it’s cooler than 40-degrees I complain about the cold and if it’s warmer than 85 I bitch about the heat-wave.
- I do not talk to strangers when I pass them on the streets; however, if the stars align and I’m not wearing headphones and feeling social, occasionally I will nod.
- I get around town by walking, riding the bus and peddling my bicycle. I do not own a car and look down on those who do, though I will never complain if offered a ride.
- When throwing something out in public I take time to seriously ponder the options—Recycle, Compost or Trash—and do everything I can not to place something in the latter container.
- I enjoy the outdoors but own far more camping gear than my daily activities necessitate. However, in a pinch (say a winter snow-storm) I possess sufficient gear to outfit my entire apartment building (not that I’d ever talk to my neighbors; see above).
- I carry reusable canvas bags to the grocery store with me. If I forget to bring one, I feel terrible about myself and try to cram my purchases into my pockets rather than waste a bag. If I have to take one, I always choose paper and later use it to take out my recycling.
- I’ve given up on local sports except for the Storm, the WNBA team, which I support on general principle because I think women’s sports are just as important as men’s, even if they’re often less graceful to witness.
- I have participated in a political caucus, which was really fun as it felt like a publicly held version of Jr. High mock-elections. I always mail in my political ballots, which is great because it allows me to feel a sense of superiority (I vote!) while also freeing me of having to interact with others who would probably annoy me.
- I know the locations of too many local restaurants. I know the names of too many local head-chefs. I refuse to eat at chain restaurants and look down on those who do. Unless I’m getting something soupy I find it offensive to order bread with a meal. The other night when I overhead a woman sitting next to me ask her dining partner, What are boquerones?, I first scoffed in my head then knowingly leaned across the table and informed them that they’re Spanish Anchovies. I order my Manhattans by not only specifying the bourbon but the sweet vermouth. When I drink a locally-brewed IPA I can talk about IBU content and hop variations, and others listen as if this were somehow important. I’m completely aware that none of this means anything of value.
- I am no longer shocked when I see two men holding hands. I support gay marriage. Sometimes to prove how politically ahead of the curve I am while also fulfilling the requisite amount of reclamation-irony, I call my gay friends “fags”. I feel both good and self-amused by this, and when I’ve been challenged by outraged gays who take offense at my comment by rebutting, That’s like calling a black person a nigger—do you think that’s appropriate?!?, I reply with a strong, Good god no—they’d kill me for that!
My adoption of the Northwest mindset hasn’t been carte-blanche. I’ve held out on a couple items and certainly differ from my peers in the following ways.
- I regularly jaywalk and think it’s absurd when people wait at empty intersections because a sign tells them to.
- I don’t care for large swaths of Washington wine, mostly because I believe wine is intended to be enjoyed with food and I simply cannot eat steak for every meal.
- I don’t ski or snowboard and while it’s great that you do, you will not impress me with tales of back-country tele-skiing so do us both a favor and shut it about the sweet pow-pow you found last weekend.
- I rarely drink locally brewed beers because they’re generally so big that I feel like I’m struggling to accomplish something rather than enjoying myself. And yes, people who can talk about IBU’s and hop-variations a) display an impressive amount of knowledge that b) scores pertinent nerd-based points that c) like most nerd-based knowledge is something d) the average person doesn’t give a shit about.
- In theory I support the local food cooperative but in reality I shop elsewhere. I tell others that I buy organic, locally raised and sustainable food when in truth I will eat just about anything regardless its origin.
- I have a love-hate relationship with the local radio station, KEX. I love that they play music you don’t hear on most other stations even while I hate that large portions of it sucks.
- I never really got into the hushy-folk music scene that was indie rock for several years and will live happily if I’m never shushed at a concert again. I think bands that are recycling synth-driven 80’s pop-sounds should call it quits and I’m excited that once again angry loud guitars are reemerging.
- I view neo-hippies and their stomach-souring blather the way one looks with tender condescension upon mentally retarded people. I have little interest in anyone’s stories about Burning Man and if there’s a merciful god I’ll never live in a communal house again.
In case I’m starting to sound curmudgeonly allow me to end with an affirmation: I actually like the rain. A lot. It’s part of why I moved here and its presence makes me feel good. To those who complain about it: please stop. For god’s sake it’s not like it’s a surprise (My goodness it’s raining—Who could have predicted that happening here??), and if you really truly can’t stand it then please, move to Arizona.