• Krista Law

Do a Dollop of Daisy

My take on what is commonly referred to as the "Seattle Freeze."

Starbucks are to Seattle what mountains are to Denver-you can see them from just about anywhere. When I moved here in 2009, I spent $350 at Starbucks in the first month. It was just too easy to swing by the green and white mermaid for a latte on my way to school, between classes, and during my late night study sessions. What wasn’t easy was trying to explain the credit card statement to Karl.

Since that first month, I have drastically curtailed my Starbucks visits. In the past, I have gone as far as to boycott the coffee monopoly in an effort to support local cafés and fair traded brews. Now, when I do patronize coffee houses, I usually stick to drip coffee justifying my purchase because it costs less than that of an espresso beverage.

Unfortunately, in a recent dash to the corner Starbucks, they were out of drip coffee and offered to make me a single brewed cup from their Clover machine. Since they were offering it to me for the same price as the drip, I agreed to try it.

That beverage was the most exciting burst of coffee flavor my tongue had experienced since the first days of spending $350 a month. Piping hot, smooth, nutty and full bodied, I knew that soon, I would once again have the difficult task of explaining the credit card statement to Karl.Before I digress into further free advertising for Pike’s Place Roast on the Clover, let me just say this post actually has nothing to do with coffee, really…

The “Seattle Freeze” is to Seattle what snow in May is to Denver, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, it’s predictably unpredictable, but pretty much guaranteed. The “Seattle Freeze” has nothing to do with the weather. It’s a phenomena that people in Seattle are “cold” or impersonal, slippery, you can’t pin them down or really get to know them. The Urban Dictionary says,

“It’s not that people here are unfriendly, they will hold the door for you and wave you into traffic and stuff like that, it’s that everything is maddeningly impersonal. The attitude is “have a nice day, somewhere else”. It’s easy to get along but making friends is almost impossible. People will say they want to hang out with you sometime and look at you like a freak when you actually suggest something. People enthusiastically say they are coming to a party then don’t show up. People are flaky and insincere. Norms of social interaction don’t apply here. Most people don’t like or dislike you, they’re totally indifferent. Every interaction will be maddeningly superficial.”

Here’s the thing: I’ve lived here for five years and have just recently heard about this. Why? Because I think maybe I actually fit in here. Let me explain.

I have recently become aware that I don’t look people in the eye when I’m out in public. When walking down the street, paying for food at a restaurant, being served by waitstaff or the bank teller, I am generally looking down, searching for something in my purse, or at least pretending to. I arrived at this recent discovery through the process of contrasting my behavior with that of my friend, Hope, who is from Tennessee.

I have never been out with Hope in public when she did not greet everyone she met with gracious eye contact and a “thank you” in her strong southern drawl. And I was pleasantly perplexed to find out that when she greeted people in this way, they responded in kind. They looked back at her, smiled, and usually engaged her in friendly conversation. I wasn’t just surprised, I was shocked. And I wasn’t just shocked, either. I was jealous! I had been missing out on those kind of delightful exchanges that are like a daisy right smack in the middle of your day because I am too busy pretending to look in my purse or am checking my cell phone.

Just think, with the $350 a month I was spending at Starbucks, I could have had a whole bouquet of delightful exchanges with the local baristas had I just conscientiously looked them in the eye and greeted them warmly. It is true that Hope’s accent makes her a bit like a white unicorn in these parts-so rare and pleasant, you can’t help but be captivated. But nonetheless, I’ve been told I have a nice smile and that might just be my currency to buy warm interactions amidst the “Seattle Freeze.”

Having had these thoughts in mind, I went by Starbucks today on my way into the office. When ordering my drink, I conscientiously looked the barista in the eye and smiled. When he asked how my day was going, I told him honestly and we had a few fun words exchanged about the surprisingly unexpected late afternoon rain showers. I turned around grinning to myself as I walked out the door. My Pike’s Place Roast on the Clover cost me $2. But the daisy only cost me a smile.

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