I’ve been thinking a lot about the quirks that seem to be shared by 99% of those around me. Namely my fellow Washingtonians, whom if my life goes according to plan I will no longer be living near, at latest, by next Fall, I’M COMING BACK NEW YORK!! (the city this time, not Amish country – thought I should clarify). There’s the more obvious traits, coffee habits and an extreme aversion to the umbrella that I’ll never understand – it was literally designed for our climate, yet, it is a sign of weakness to actually use one. But the most fascinating thing about Washington is the social climate.
We’re very polite, pretty much all the time. Canadians come down to the States and say they like shopping here because we’re all so nice. I always smile and joke about how that’s because we’re all 70% of caffeine. Even customers who yell at me at work for (being forced) to sell them a membership, say thank you after I hand them their tickets.
We all smile and nod as strangers pass by, if it’s an acquaintance we’ll throw in a peppy, “Hey how’s it going?” maybe a quick hug. The following responses are respectable: good, fine, tired, busy, late … and/how-about you? repeat cycle. Note how they are all one word responses, we don’t actually care how you are doing and you don’t actually want to tell us – but it would be rude to not acknowledge their presence. Nobody wants the following conversation to occur:
Person A: Hey how’s it going?
Person B: Not good, my cat/grandma/lover/car just died.
Person A: Oh … I’m sorry
Person B: Yeah, I’ve been really depressed. Are you free to talk?
Person A: I wish I was but I’m actually running late. We’ll talk soon.
Person A: Hey how’s it going?
Person B: Great getting married tomorrow!
Person A: Wow, Congratulations
Person B: Thank you, well … let’s hang out soon!
The word soon is our saving grace. It has the ability to be manipulated to mean yes, no, or maybe depending on context.
The thing I’ve learned from living with Washingtonians is that sometimes the best thing I can do, is lie. Or rather, imply a maybe. Here’s a real world example:
I was out drinking and dancing with several friends. I was the driver, it was 2AM and I wasn’t good to drive yet, and I had three incredibly drunk ladies surrounding me. Our friend calls us, wanting us to stop by his house. Saying, “no,” was ineffective, he just keeps pleading. So we start to say, “we’ll try,” and “maybe,” even though we have no intention of actually going over. He accepts this – probably knowing that we weren’t actually going to come over, that’s not the point, the point is (much like the word soon) we might try. Might.
After we hung up the phone I mentioned the social rules we just followed. My friend Erin said, “That’s how you have to deal with a Washingtonian, especially a drunk one.”
The phenomenon is exactly why when I transferred to Western as a Junior it was hard to make friends. I’ve always been a very social person and I am not shy (outside the world of romance) but moving back to Washington after a year and a half in Amish country New York – I began to question my social skills and doubt how awesome I actually am. On the outside everyone was very pleasant, we would talk about hanging out, but we never would. It felt like I was asking people out on dates just to have friends. Maybe this (and the lack of sunlight) are key to why the depression rate is so high around here.
But please don’t be fooled, we’re not all bitches, and we do actually want to hang out. It’s the making it happen that’s the hard part.
However, once you’re in, YOU’RE IN, and they got your back. Also, the too-much-too-soon factor that people tend to frown upon in other places I’ve lived seems to get thrown out the window – most people will tell you almost anything (within reason).
After I got past that pleasant but frustrating social barrier I found lovely people to hang out with. These people are hilarious, outgoing, and outspoken … I love them dearly.