It's A Seattle State of Mind


When I moved from St. Louis to Seattle, I left behind more than high humidity and the baseball Cardinals.  I said good-by to the conservative Heartland and hello to the progressive Northwest.  No more cursing at pesky cyclists trying to squeeze out a piece of pavement for themselves.  In Seattle, they get their own lanes and a position of respect.  And they seem to typify the basic heartiness of the Pacific Northwesterners.  No one is too old to be caught riding a bike in Seattle.  And if you want to take the bus or ride the train, there's always a designated space for you to store your bike.

What I didn't expect when I moved to Seattle was the Carpool Lane.  Talk about traveling first class!  While there are no meals or drinks served, life in the carpool lane is definitely a superior place to be, as you zip by the miles of clogged traffic lanes that are famous in Seattle.

We may be called the Rainy City, but it's only the wimps from Somewhere Else who grab an umbrella.  We all have raincoats with hoods, and that's good enough for us.  Washington is a state of 502 health clubs,  at last count.  Missouri, on the other hand, isn't publishing their number.  Suffice it to say, Seattleites are outside.  They're walking and running and cycling, and they'll do it in the rain if they have to.  If you're walking or running in Missouri, you need to look both ways before crossing the street.  Washington pedestrians, on the other hand, are treated like an endangered species and don't even have to look.  They can just cross.

You've probably heard that Seattle is the Land of Green.  For navigating icy, snow-packed streets in Seattle, we're told to use tire chains.  Never mind that they tear up the streets.  But don't try using them in Missouri or you'll be getting a hefty fine for breaking the law. Missouri uses lots of salt on its winter roadways, preferring to harm the environment rather than the streets.

But never more loudly do I hear the clash of cultures than while grocery shopping.  I can still recall my purchases being scanned at the cash register in St. Louis and that familiar question "...paper or plastic?"  Well, there's no such talk at Whole Foods.  "Plastic" there is not an option.  They even credit you 5¢ off your bill if you bring in your own bag.  And so, I try very hard to be part of this socially-conscious landscape, to overcome my many years of brutish Midwestern training.  I travel with extra cloth bags in my trunk.  And when I forget to bring one into the store, I do my best to juggle my purchases without a bag.

Like today, when I realized I had forgotten to bring a bag with me. I first perused my purchases, which consisted of a bunch of bananas, carton of orange juice, celery, carrots, carton of blueberries and rotisserie chicken.  Then, I looked back at the checker, who seemed to be staring into my very soul.

"Do you need a bag?" he asked.  I knew he was hoping I would say no. I gathered up my purchases in my arms to make sure I could handle them all, plus my purse, cell phone and keys without dropping anything.

"No, thank you.  I'll be fine without one," I answered.  He smiled a reassuring smile and gently nodded two or three times, as if reassuring me I had done the right thing.  He and I were on the same page.  It was right for the environment.  I've got that Seattle state of mind.

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