the swift kick

Because you care what I think.

Regarding the ‘Seattle Freeze’

Yesterday, I had coffee with a friend who’s moving to Austin in two weeks. She raved about the place (and the weather), the people (and the weather), the food (and the weather). I’ve been to Austin twice and loved it. I do remember the weather being relentlessly sunny, which is something I can only dream about nowadays. And I also remember the people being really friendly. My friend noticed that too.

Seattle natives take issue with the whole “Seattle Freeze”  thing, but it’s true: Washingtonians (and maybe Oregonians too, I don’t know) have a layer of reserve that’s hard to assign an adjective to. Once you’ve lived here awhile, you start acting that way too. It’s kill or be killed. Law of the jungle.

I suppose it could be argued that I’m only running into unfriendly people, but I just don’t buy that. In the eight years I’ve lived here, I’ve been in all kinds of situations, and around all different kinds of people. And we’re here for the duration, on account of Steve’s job. So I’m desperate to meet people who are not chilly. Here are two recent examples of what I’ve found instead:

  • I’m sitting at a gymnastics studio, surrounded by about 20 other parents. We’re sitting 2 inches from each other, me and these other parents. And everyone’s either immersed in their smartphones (because it gives them an excuse not to make eye contact — I know, I’ve done it) or staring straight ahead, through the big viewing window. So, I decide to try an experiment, and strike up a conversation with someone. The woman next to me drops her gaze from the window for a second, and so I catch her eye. “Those instructors really have their work cut out for them, don’t they?” The woman nods, gives a brief smile and says, “Yes.” And then goes back to looking out the window. No one else chimes in, though everyone’s heard my pathetic attempt. It’s as silent as a church. So I pull out my iPhone.
  • Yesterday, I was waiting for Bini, Nora and Timmy in front of the school. Oh, the awkwardness of the parent-assembling before school gets out. You’ve got the people who know each other and … the rest of us. I recognize, from volunteering in Bini’s class on Halloween, one woman who has a daughter in his class. She’s painfully thin, has pale, pale powdery-white skin and is dressed in all black. I walk over. “Hi there. I think your daughter and my son are in the same class.” She looks at me with suspicion. “Really?” This was not the response I expected. “Yes. Mrs. Bailie’s class, right? Your daughter is Serena?” She nods grimly, affirming. “Yes. Serena is in Mrs. Bailie’s class.” And that’s … it. I stand there, mortified, for the remaining three minutes until the kids mercifully burst through the front door and I can beat it the hell out of there.

Now that Bini’s in kindergarten, I often feel like I did when we first moved here. I was working from home and man, that was miserable. I got a dog in the hopes that I would meet people at the dog park. Nope. When I went to work at msnbc.com, I was so relieved to finally be around people who HAD to talk to me. And becoming a mom brought me new opportunities to meet people. I  had a great tribe there, for four-and-a-half years, and now, I’m back to square one. I’m feeling The Freeze again, and I’m weary of it.

Maybe I can convince Steve to move to Austin.

Categories: Living in a rain cloud

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4 replies

  1. Sounds like the mom scene is very much like the dating scene in this town: frozen. I’ve been doing the put-away-my-iPhone experiment for a while now, forcing eye contact and holding it as long as possible. I thought it would be a good challenge for me, you know, to practice not looking away, and that it might open doors in the dating world. Well, turns out the challenge isn’t actually maintaining eye contact, it’s getting some in the first place. Brr, Seattle. Brr. And thank you, smart phones, for making it even chillier. I guess social media is truly the “eye contact” of the 21st century. *sigh*

  2. I think that kind of behavior happens everywhere. It’s certainly not exclusive to the Pacific Northwest.

  3. what if you have loud fake but interesting conversations on your phone? and then you can “hang up” and engage people around you in your exciting life. might be problematic if you do actually become friends with these people and they call you out on your lies. invite snow white out for coffee though – she sounds like a lot of fun.

  4. Snow White actually said “good morning!” to me at kindergarten dropoff. So, this whole post is bullshit.

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