Sips of Seattle

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

Just got back from an all-to-brief west coast swing.  This trip also marked the 5th to last US State I have left to visit (Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, and North Dakota remain).  And my wife astutely pointed out that it was really wonderful to be in an entirely new place for the first time in quite some time.  We rarely vacation outside of the Virgin Islands (don't cry for me Argentina), but this is despite having adventurous souls.  Taking in the ever-present evergreens alongside the expressway made it clear we were in virgin territory.  But lest you mistake the surrounding forests for the rolling hills of New England, those illusions are dissed as you crest the hill to spot the breathtaking snow-capped mountains not native to the east coast.  Those are some real ass peaks.  For a second, I am transported to Switzerland, riding along the twists and turns of the country roads, Alps outlining the way ahead.

There is no question to Seattle's natural beauty, and we were lucky enough to have a few sunny days where its majesty was fully on display.  But in this first Seattle related blog post I want to talk about two specific things: Seattle driving & Seattle coffee.

I was only in the northwest for 7 days, and I'm pretty sure I could direct a hilarious YouTube Video entitled: Seattle Driving.  I'm not sure if the west coast would find the video particularly laughable, but i know the east coast would.  Let's get specific.

1) To set the paradigm.  In Seattle, a yellow light means stop.  Not speed up.  Not "determine whether or not I can get my vehicle even close to the point of no return so as to be 'forced' to go by common decency".  Not even slow down and cruise through the intersection.  Yellow is a full on stop.

The blow my poor defenseless brain into tiny itty-bity pieces.  As a learner's permit, born of New York and Chicago drivers, and born into Massachusetts, I can't wrap my head or car around the concept of slamming on the brakes so as not to run a Yellow.  A Yellow!!!!!  In Massachusetts, when you get pulled over for running a red, the state friggin motto is, "I'm sorry officer, but I'm pretty sure it was Yellow."  We argue for Yellow.  Yellow is our ally.  Its banana beauty standing for truth, justice, and no more points on our license.   Watching 8 cars all throw on the brakes as the light touches yellow is the love equivalent to breaking my heart.

2) Seattle drivers have a need to be liked.   They are polite to the point of creating accidents.  A 4-way stop sign is essentially a coffee shop.  Everyone is trying to do right by their neighbor and it turns into an absurdist play of "you go," "no, you go," Ad infinitum.  The only thing I've seen that comes close to this level of manners is rural Japanese drivers, who bow politely from their cars while letting others merge.

If you get, understandably, impatient as the car in front of you continues to idle at the now solid green light, *don't honk*!  I know this is counter-intuitive, but stay with me.  In NYC, if you honk at another car, it's like a fart in the wind.  In Amherst, if you honk, everyone turns to see who the car is waiving "hello" to.  In Seattle, if you honk, the car in front of you comes to a full stop, to suss out what horrid problem has occurred, and how they can fix it.  They look left.  They look right.  Only then will the car realize that the noise originated in it's own lack of momentum.  And so, from a full stop now, the process begins again.

3) People brake to let you merge.  Like on the highway.  People are all, "oh you want to change lanes?  I'm sorry to be blocking you at 75 mph.  Let me brake a bit to let you get directly in front of me."  This, in and of itself sounds like a solid move.  But when you get so many people braking for each other, it means that the traffic is always slow moving.  And, the slower the traffic gets, the more rule #2 applies, which slows it down more.  Rush hour is not a fun time.  But it is friendly.

4) The rotaries say it all.  In Mass, we pride ourself on our ability to navigate 3-lane deep, high speed, multi-exit rotaries.  We can keep you in, we can box you out, we own the rotary.  Seattle's rotaries are . . . well . . . . so Seattle.  The rotaries in Seattle have a little island in the middle, are one lane, and are generally used to make U-turns around.  It's more a modified 4-way intersection than a rotary.  But then I realized that the road design was germane to the city itself.  Designed for ease of flow and  a lack of potential conflict.  Their rotaries are really just vehicular meeting places, and isn't that adorable.

And of course, the coffee. Everyone always asks about the coffee.  I saw the Starbucks flagship store.  I didn't get a coffee there.  I did drink some very nice brews of the drip, espresso, machiatto, and latte variety.  All were good, though my espresso was inexplicably put in a paper cup for no apparent reason.  Here are a sample of my cups of coffee from Seattle, with the exception of the paper cup:

At a fancy cupcake shoppe.  tagline: "I am a Frostitute"
Good message, good coffee, great breakfast (and a 5 lbs. cinnamon roll!!!)
simple perfection
Bottoms up.

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