Becoming a Seattleite
By Jean Godden
Seattle is back in the headlines with the news that Seattle is one of only five cities able to boast that more people are moving here than are heading out. That means we're seeing a net increase of 21,000 per year or an average of 57 newbies each day.
The gain is noteworthy since the other cities with net gains are all located in the Sun Belt. Besides, there are other cities -- Chicago for one -- where people are fleeing and they're losing population.
All of this gives us incentive to get those thousands of newcomers up to speed. Let's help them on the way to becoming Real Seattleites. Here are the most important lifestyle changes that the would-be-natives need to adopt:
Wardrobe: Real Seattleites dress mainly for the weather: gloom, mist, drizzle, flurry, showers and occasional deluge. A proper Seattle wardrobe will have two well-used raincoats, heavier for winter and lighter for summer. Residents need a collection of flannel-lined jeans for winter, stone-washed denim for summer and, of course, a fleece vest and a Seahawks' hoodie. Footgear should be a variation on hiking boots with lug soles and waterproofing.
Driving: Seattleites do own cars, even if they don't always use them for commuting. How else will they get to the ski slopes in winter and the coast in summer? But there are arcane rules of the road when driving inside city limits. Most important is to navigate like the legendary Ballard driver, once known for forgetting to cancel turn signals, allowing a raincoat belt to trail alongside the driver's door and poking along at five miles below the speed limit. Seattleites never sound a horn except when losing their brakes on downhill inclines like Queen Anne's Counterbalance, Magnolia's West Dravus and Southwest College in Alki. Real Seattleites also know how to handle four-way stops where it's important to let the other driver go first, even if it means catching 40 winks while waiting your turn.
Bicycling: Seattle veteran bike riders are among the most fearless athletes alive; they have to be to survive the city's daily crush of autos, buses and delivery trucks. They also have to guess when, without prior notice, bicycle lanes will be shut down to accommodate the latest out-of-scale construction project. On the good side, bicyclists are seldom asked to obey rules like respecting traffic lights and stop signs, wearing helmets or observing downhill speed limits.
Walking: Real Seattleites religiously obey Walk/Don't Walk signs. They have been known to stand in torrential rainstorms, waiting for the "walk" light at traffic-free intersections at 3 a.m. They almost always stroll with eyes cast downward, knowing that it's the only way to keep from tripping over sidewalk potholes, tree root invasions, misplaced sandwich boards and unused newspaper boxes.
Recyling: Seattleites not only believe in recycling, they insist others recycle as well. Never toss an empty pop bottle or can into a trash container; save it for the recycling bin, even if it means carrying it around for blocks. Don't want to finish that Seattle hotdog (the one with excess cream cheese and onions)? Deposit any leftovers in the proper food waste/compost receptacle. Or else.
Sports: Real Seattleites are still stung over losing the Seattle Sonics basketball team a decade ago. But fans exhibit tremendous pride in the sports teams they do have ("Go Hawks!" and "How about those M's?") and they're apparently hankering for a new franchise or two. If you want to gain instant points, start talking up the Chinooks -- which may or may not be the name of a new NHL team. It helps to realize Chinook is a native word that means "ice eater."
Reading: Real Seattleites, their noses stuck in a book or waterproof e-reader, are a bookseller's dream. Prepare for Seattle citizenship by brushing up on local bestsellers and be prepared to discuss this year's selection for "Seattle Reads." The Seattle Public Library program, celebrating its 20th year of all Seattle reading a single book, has been copied across the U.S. and in several other nations.
Eating: Real Seattleites have culturally acquired tastebuds, favoring such regional delicacies as library-paste chowder, sandy clams and crabmeat dental floss. Fortunately, dozen of ethnic restaurants featuring exotic foods like pizza and tacos have moved into town and are supplementing the native fare. When it comes to gourmet establishments, be prepared to order the ultimate Northwest dish: geoduck (pronounced "gooey-duck") sushi.