It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the the east coast. People are simple and direct.You are rarely confused about who your best friends are, and are even less confused when it comes to identifying your enemies. And you will sabotage those enemies, often with the aid of the aforementioned best friends. It’s just how it works.
The Pacific Northwest, however, is a completely different ball game. In fact, it’s an obscure game no one wants to play. Like field hockey, or soccer. I’ve found myself time and time again surprised to find that when I ask others to do things or get together – the response “definitely” means anything but. In reality, the response is more like “I’ll just nod and smile through my teeth agreeing to whatever you say because I’m not sure how to interact with another human being. And oh yeah, the friends I’ve had since 7th grade are all I’ll ever need.” I know I know, it’s a lot to convey in one word.
But this creates problems in social affairs. While books have been written about the myth of “Seattle nice’” (Pugetopolis comes to mind), it is not my intention to add to that library through this post. Instead, I will illustrate the contrast between east and west coast with a story.
Last weekend I was in Manhattan on business. After a visit to Bumble & Bumble’s Joey the girl for a haircut (she’d call it a ‘hair style’, mostly due to her vision that I could have Daniel Craig hair) – I was hungry for a burrito. Famished in Tribeca, I found myself at the closest Qdoba I could find. My veggie burrito and I were sat there, alone on the bar stool looking out the window. Out of the corner of my eye I notice a girl eyeing the only open seat, one that happened to be next to me. Despite the fact she was mid-twenties, she had a kiddie meal. I heart NY.
Kiddie meal took a seat next to me, and I began the dialog in the most creative way I could muster…
“So, what are your plans for the rapture?”
(I wish the crazies would declare every day the rapture, because that was a darn good line. Ok, maybe I’m over-confident, but you have to admit it has a certain disarming quality to it, no?)
So from there our conversation bloomed – cities of origin, upbringing, Italian family life, Italian mothers, fashion faux pas, and careers. I ‘m so glad careers came last, by the way, I feel as though that is all too often the appetizer of getting to know someone, not the dessert.
And after about 45 minutes, it was time to go our separate ways. She was off to shop in midtown, I was off to do the same in SoHo. And so it ended…
“Hi, I’m Derek.” “Hi, I’m Vanessa.” And we left.
Now, keep in mind a few things. this girl could have answered my initial inquiry about the rapture with an awkward half-laugh and then bury her head in her iPhone. But she didn’t. She engaged. Also notice that neither of us had an agenda, an ulterior motive, nothing to be gained or lost by having a conversation – just a desire to get to know someone new. This interaction would never happen in Seattle. The default posture of Seattleites is far too closed off, anti-social, passive aggressive – the girl would assume that I was only out to start a romantic association with her.
The next night I was on Facebook. And low and behold a new friend request and short message came in from Vanessa. Mind you, she only knew my first name and where I worked, but that was apparently enough to find me among the over half a billion people on Facebook (props Zuckerberg).
And about 36 hours after meeting, two complete strangers, who share a love for franchise Mexican food, found themselves out to dinner. At 10:00pm. See, Seattle? That wasn’t so hard.