Tag Archives: Seattle

Snow Daze

A funny thing happens when it snows in Seattle like it has in the last week:  everything stops.

Plans, commitments, meetings, driving, working (except for me).  This sounds terribly inconvenient, but in fact, it is glorious.

Nothing excites me more than normal life coming to an absolute halt.  Do I have appointments that I wish I could have kept?  Of course.  But do I love that we all have to hunker down and do nothing more than be at home?  Absolutely.

In the last five days it has snowed off and on, accumulating to about four inches in Kirkland, two in Seattle, and many more further north and south of us.  That is not a significant amount of snow.  But when you live in a city that operates approximately three snow plows and sits on more hills than I can count, there is a lockdown situation.

And I couldn’t be happier.

I have the privilege of wielding a double-edged sword called “I Get to Work from Home.”  I am grateful that I get paid to sit at home with my laptop, but I am a little bummed that a “snow day” for me doesn’t mean I can frolic outside for six hours.

And I am fully aware of how obnoxious that attitude is for those who can’t work from home and have to take a vacation day or who just won’t get paid.  Three cheers for whining about blessings!

One of the funniest parts of witnessing a Seattle snowstorm is watching the residents’ reactions.  For those of you who inhabit a colder climate than ours, you would find yourself wishing you could bottle Seattleites’ hollers of terror and drink them later for a nice buzz.

Facebook is always the first thing to explode. 

“Weatherman says 2 – 4 inches!  OMG how am I going to get to work!?!?”

“I just stocked up on enough food and water for a year!!”

“I purchased tire chains and can’t freaking figure out how to put them on!”

“I just drove home from the store and it was the CRAZIEST SCARIEST ride of my life!!!  Don’t do it!!”

And then the one jaded Northeast native always chimes in, “Seriously?  You call this snow?”

Listen, I am a Northeast native, and despite the snows of my childhood being measured in feet rather than inches, I can honestly say that my feelings for Seattle snow run deep.  I love that any amount of snow in Seattle means that my days will stretch from one relaxing evening to the next.  I love that when I go to the store, half the aisles are empty because people are planning for the apocalypse.  I love that no one so much as questions your inability to get anywhere.  I love that people take to the streets like gold is floating down from the sky instead of snowflakes.

I also love it because of what it forces us to do — slow down.  Mike’s classes were canceled for the week, I work from home every day, and every afternoon we take a walk to enjoy the winter wonderland.  We stay home at night, we eat in, we have silly meals to celebrate a special week (last night: a Parisian picnic in the living room, with cheese, a baguette, olives, salami and wine).  We both look at each other like “Why do we ever make mid-week plans?”

Snow in Seattle also easily shaves about fifteen years off your life.  Immediately you’re throwing on hats, gloves, heavy boots that are used once a year (and usually then it’s at a local ski slope), and heading out the door to smile at every person you see as you all converge to marvel at the transformed landscape. 

That and make snow angels like it’s your job. 

Mike and Phil decided that the pristine layer of snow on our building’s second story patio needed their impressions.  Shortly after that, they spotted a friend of ours on his deck in the condo building across from us, and a snowball fight ensued — from building to building.

Seattle snow days — yes, I’m all for Seattle snow days.

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Filed under One WORD (Current Events)

Elbow Grease

Even though Mike and I have yet to experience unemployment in our marriage, I am still overly conservative and penny-pinching in our daily lives.  Call it my nature, but I wish I could sweep our funds into a nice little pile in the middle of the floor before stuffing it all in a pillowcase and hiding it where Mike can’t find it. 

I don’t do this without cause.  Mike’s spendthrift ways are thoroughly documented somewhere in a book called “There’s Always More Money Where That Came From,” a book I failed to read before signing the marriage certificate, by the way.  Similarly, my frugality is the stuff of legends, legends that felt like a myth to Michael before he married me and realized I would circle the block for days for a free parking space.

So it’s easy to picture the clash of ideals when one of us carries a homemade lunch to work every day and the other frequents the local Nordstrom for a refreshing cafe lunch and a shoe shine.

Mike has long argued that a shoe shine is a great decompressant, and he always tells me about his engaging conversations with his favorite shine artist, Kim.  To avoid any raised eyebrows, Kim is a man.

I have always lamented Mike’s shoe shines as a needless extravagance, and he has always defended them by pointing out that they cost a mere $2.50.  Well, $2.50 plus a $5 tip.  And, he points out, it’s helping out his main man Kim, and who can argue with that?

This is the point in the conversation when I roll my eyes.

Well, I used to roll my eyes.  All of that changed one Sunday when Mike invited me to get my boots shined after church.  I asked if we could really shoot the moon and get that cafe lunch, too.  Needless to say, he agreed.

After enjoying a bowl of crab bisque and too many slices of sourdough, we meandered downstairs to the shoe shine room near the entrance of Nordstrom.  I started to ask Mike just how often this little shoe shine date with Kim really takes place…is it once a month?  Every two weeks?

“Kim!” he hollers to the man furiously buffing a gentlemen’s shoes.

Kim turns around, leans in toward Mike until he’s inches from his face, and says, “My man!”

Must be every week.  At least.

“What do you want today?” he asks Mike.  He hasn’t noticed me standing with him yet, and that’s when I remember that Mike once told me that Kim is nearly blind.  All at once I’m realizing the implications of a blind man shining shoes all day, and I’m stunned silent.

“We’d both love a shine,” Mike replies, gesturing toward me.  “This is my wife, Abby.” 

We exchange hello’s and he invites us to sit while he finishes with his current customer.

“I been slammed today, man,” he says to Mike.  “It’s almost the holidays and people are coming in a mile a minute.  This one woman walked off in a huff when I said I was backed up five pairs.  People don’t get it.  I’m the only one working here today!” 

Mike sympathizes with him and assures him we’re in no hurry, so he can take his time with other things.  He asks if we’d like to change the TV station or choose from the reading materials.  A feeling begins to creep up on me, a feeling of being mortified that someone thirty years my elder is about to wait on me.  I feel a sweat-inducing class-consciousness, and I realize I’d rather run naked through the store than have him shine my shoes. 

It occurs to me that the feeling harks back longer than I can consciously recall.  My parents always raised me never to have others do for me what I could do for myself.  This includes things like housework, landscaping, washing the car, laundry, and apparently, shoeshining.  Part of it is about not spending money on those things, but the other part of it is the fact that what is my responsibility is my responsibility.  I made my shoes scuffy, therefore I should have to buff them myself.  Case closed.

“Ma’am are these boots black or brown?” he says, leaning over my feet.  It’s the worst reminder of his lack of sight.

“They’re black,” I reply, “and I’ve never had a shoe-shine in my life.  I haven’t taken good care of them,” I admit. 

“Well, you’ve got to come in here,” he says.  “You’ve got to get your shoes done, not just to make them shine but to treat the leather.  Especially in Seattle!  The water dries out the leather and you have to have them oiled.”

I feel both gently chastised and justified by what he’s said.  Yes, I need to take better care of them, and yes, it is my problem.  But it also occurs to me that he’s emphasizing that this is just part of owning shoes — you go get them shined.  It’s not about pretentiousness, it’s about caring for the things you purchased six feet away in the shoe department.  It’s the same as getting an oil change (which my dad has always done himself by the way…poor example, then).  My making this a class issue is really my issue — I’m uncomfortable; he’s not.  After all, the shoe shine costs $2.50 — it’s designed for every shoe owner to take care of their shoes.

I look over at Mike, who couldn’t be more at ease.  He’s telling Kim about church today, since he asked what we’ve been doing this morning.

Kim apparently agrees with our morning choice.

“So you’re paying attention, you’re tuned in,” he says.  “People I meet here always think that their days are not numbered, but let me tell you, they are.  You’ve got to get to know the Lord before you meet Him, am I right?!” 

Kim steps into the back room to gather different supplies, and I turn to Mike and tell him something about how utterly ungrateful I am for having an easy job sitting at a desk all day while Kim is on his feet, working his tail off for far less money.   I tell him about a teacher I had in seventh grade who used to tell us about her trip to India and ask us a haunting question:  if we were ever in India, would we pay to take a ride in a rickshaw?  Would we do what felt degrading to the driver in order to help them make money?  Or would we refuse to take a ride, on principle, but then know that we had just kept that person from making enough money for the day?  I’ve never forgotten that question, and I still don’t have an answer.

Mike looks at me and says, “Kim is working hard, yes, but there’s honor in that.  He’s here every day serving his clients, getting paid, making what we hope is a living wage.  Think about it: he’s blind — he has every excuse to be at home, and instead he’s here working his tail off.  I’m going to support him as much as I can because I admire him, and I want him to be the best paid shoeshiner in the freaking state.”

I don’t know what to say, but I suppose I agree.  I want to support Kim, and I also want to be socially responsible.  For today, that means swallowing my issues and letting him shine my shoes. 

Kim returns and finishes our shoes.  We tell him he did an incredible job, because he truly did.  I can’t believe how much better my boots look, and I tell him I’ll return.  He asks one favor of us before we go.

“Would you email the management and tell them that you liked your service today?  That woman I told you about earlier threatened to email management and complain that I couldn’t wait on her fast enough.”

We are both horrified and vow to send an email that will remove all doubt as to the nature of his service.  We pay him and begin to walk away.  Normally, I would have a hurricane of a heart attack if Mike tipped someone more than 30%, but in this case I just feel proud of him for the far higher than 30% tip he hands to Kim.

“And,” I add, “I’ll tell everyone I know with a pair of shoes to get over here.” 

Nordstrom, Bellevue Square: Open 9:30AM – 9:30PM Monday through Saturday, 11AM – 7PM Sundays.

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Filed under The WORD (Faith)

Tragedy or Rescue?

Last week I flew to Bethlehem, PA for my grandma’s memorial service (I will post about that when I’m finished writing it).  Oddly enough, both flights were easy and on time, which I can’t say has happened often in recent memory.  Nice work, Delta.

The sticky widget was the connection.  The layover in Detroit was only 30 minutes.  Perhaps they were just being kind by moving me out of Detroit as quickly as humanly possible.  If that was their intention, then I tip my hat to them.

For the flight out of Seattle, I was seated next to an outspoken woman in her sixties, and an outspoken woman in her thirties.   They had managed to bond in the ten seconds before my arrival and welcomed me into their sisterhood, even though I usually make a point of ignoring all people on planes.

They had just switched seats out of mutual preference, and when I took my seat in the middle (imagine, no one wanting to trade my seat) they were quick to cheerily ask each other and me, “Which would you rather be?  The person who is inconvenienced, or the person who is inconveniencing others?  I’d rather be inconvenienced.  Definitely!”  They each nodded in agreement, affirming their mutual self-sacrifice.

What is this, I asked myself, Girl Scout tryouts?

Before I could respond, the older lady turned to me and said the usual, “Where are you traveling?”  After I replied, like clockwork, she exclaimed, “Me too!”

Fantastic.

“Weren’t you thrilled by the fares?  I mean, what a steal.  Isn’t Delta the absolute best?” she inquired further.

Maybe it’s just me, but one does not typically compare airfare once airfare has been purchased, because most people understand that ticket prices fluctuate by the hour, and one is sure to either feel terrible about her own price or make someone else feel terrible about their price.  This woman did not know this.

“Actually,” I replied (because why not make her feel a little remorse for starting this conversation?) “I am traveling for a funeral, so I had to purchase my ticket just last night, and I paid three times as much as you.”

“Oh!” she gasped.  “Oh I’m sorry.  Well did you at least take advantage of Delta’s fantastic bereavement program?”

Again, why ask this question when the opportunity for me to take advantage of it has already passed?  What could possibly be gained?

“Um no, I’m afraid not,” I replied.  “I called another airline who said they don’t offer those types of discounts, so I didn’t bother calling for Delta’s.”

“Oh that’s such a shame, because they do.  They do!” she said.

I reached for my People magazine.

Four hours later we were about to land, and she turned to me and said, “We only have thirty minutes to make it to our gate, and I’ve already checked the map of the Detroit airport and it’s going to be quite a haul.  So we’re really going to have to make a run for it.”

We?  Did I fall unconscious at some point during the flight and say in my sleep that I needed a travel partner?  I smiled sweetly and agreed that it would be close.  As soon as the plane landed, she barked at me to get my bags, and then we filed out of the plane.  I didn’t see her for a moment, and thought I’d be able to navigate the airport in peace, when I looked ahead and saw her up the galley waiting for me.

The walk that followed was ten different kinds of awkward.  Since she set the standard by waiting for me, I had no choice but to stick with her the rest of the journey.   And it was a journey.  Long walk, moving walkway, escalator, air tram, escalator, moving walkway, escalator.

At every escalator or moving walkway, we’d do this horrifically awkward shuffle of not knowing whether we should get on side-by-side and openly acknowledge each other, or whether we should split up and each take our own, pretending we were not really together.  Please don’t forget that in this whole “traveling companion” exchange we had not even learned each other’s names.

To add to the unbearable awkwardness, we had to keep up this fake I’m-waiting-for-you-but-I’m-acting-like-I’m-not charade.  She’d fall behind, and I’d walk like a sloth until she caught up.  We had to navigate the tram system together, with each of us telling the other where we thought we should get off and where it would lead.

One doesn’t realize how intimate these minute traveling decisions are until one has to perform them with a stranger.  We’re actually pretty vulnerable when we’re in an unfamiliar place, and suggesting the wrong route or acting more calm than you feel is something we usually only share with those in our inner circles.

After about a ten minute walk/ride/sprint through the Detroit airport, we approached the last escalator.  After doing what was by now our practiced dance of choosing which escalator to ride, we chose separate ones.  We couldn’t see the top of the staircases, and there was only one major sign that said the escalators lead to our B gates.

All of a sudden, the few men in front of me started getting shorter.  That’s weird, I thought.  Are they all bending down…no, instantly I realized my escalator ride was ending much too soon.

I looked over to my traveling companion and she was already ten feet above me.  She saw what was happening too, and shouted, “I’ll turn around!  I’ll come back down for you!”

Suddenly all of our faking and subtlety and aloof attitudes were proven to be the lie that they were, and I was shouting back, “No!  You go!  I’ll find my way!  It’ll be OK!”  Desperately, she yelled in response, “I’ll hold the plane for you!”

At this point everyone around us knew for sure that I was an absolute idiot.  Who doesn’t realize the escalator only goes two floors?  To which I might reply, how often does this happen?  When on earth are two escalators literally side-by-side, and one stops halfway up?

Immediately it was quiet and I was left standing in a much smaller space than the one I was sure my friend was walking onto, and I searched to no avail for a down escalator.  I found an elevator and it opened to reveal several handicapped people.  I felt like an absolute jerk as I interrupted their ride for my one floor gain.

As I exited the elevator and walked toward my gate, I realized my view of my seatmate hand changed.  I couldn’t believe a stranger would embarrass herself by shouting in a public place, all for my comfort.  Sure, she probably knew that I could find my way to the gate alone, but she acknowledged that together we’d gone ninety percent of the way there, and she didn’t want to let me walk that last ten percent alone.

After I arrived at the gate with minutes to spare, she found me and said, “You made it!  Terrific.  I’m going to go get a snack.”

And that was that.  Our journey had ended.  I sighed with relief that she probably wouldn’t be sitting next to me on the ride to Bethlehem.  We would no longer have to overcome Lewis and Clark-esque challenges.  I also realized, a little sadly, that no one would be by my side the rest of the way.

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Filed under AwkWORD (Humor)