Jean's View: The Newcomers' Survival Guide

By Jean Godden

As we know, Seattle is now knee-deep in newcomers. Number crunchers say that 57 newbies arrive every single day. That influx has pushed the city's population up to 704,352.

Johnny and Joanie-come-latelies flock to Seattle attracted by interesting jobs, matchless scenery, mild climate, mouthwatering cuisine and the rhetoric of city boosters. They're drawn Chamber of Commerce hypsters who gave us catchphrases like "Say WA" and "Metronatural -- it's what makes Seattle unique" as well as the spell-checker slogan: "See-AT-L."

Now that we have squads of tenderfeet in our midst, what's needed is an updated version of "The Official Rules of Seattle," tips to help newcomers assimilate. Here are some basics:

Rule One. Never discard anything whatsoever without placing it in the proper bin. When I worked at the Seattle Times, there was even a bin for "Styrofoam peanuts."

Rule Two. Never sound a car horn inside Seattle city limits. Only exception to the rule is when your brakes fail and you are hurtling down Madison Avenue and are about to wipe out 50 parked cars.

Rule Three. Bicyclists have special dispensation from all rules. They can weave through traffic, scoot down sidewalks, disregard traffic signals and monopolize the road, causing motorists to flout Rule Two.

Rule Four. If you are attending an event at the Seattle Center, you must allow an extra hour to circle the Center while looking for the last available metered parking spot in town.

Rule Five. There are three levels of dress codes: (a) denims and blazers for Seattle Opera openings; (b) jeans and polar fleece for musicals; and (c) torn Levis and Converse All Stars for rock concerts.

Rule Six. Motorists must never determine a destination before leaving home. The rule is to drive 15 blocks or 15 minutes (whichever comes first) before asking passengers, "Where are we going?"

Rule Seven. It is okay to wish people a nice day, but it is better to greet them by saying, "How about them Dawgs?" Or "How about our 'Hawks?"

Rule Eight. When in doubt, wear black: black turtlenecks, black jackets. A newcomer once asked: "Is everyone in Seattle going to a funeral?"

Rule Nine. Accept gray as the color for everything else from house paint to daytime skies.

Rule 10. Umbrellas are prohibited inside city limits. Unless the rain is a genuine gully-washer, a true Seattleite will say, "What rain?"

Rule 11. If there is the barest mention of snow or the sign of a snowflake, the proper response is to panic. The second response is to hit the local grocery store and buy up bread, coffee and frozen pizzas.

Rule 12. Shoes should never be polished; cars should never be washed.

Rule 13. Do not order coffee until you master the lingo. Here's the drill: first identify size (venti, grande, tall or short), second specify temperature (hot or iced), next strength (de-caf, single, double or quad) and finally the milk, if any (con leche, non-fat, topped with foam or "with room").

Rule 14. Your mother said you must always write thank-you notes after attending a party. But it is now okay to post your thank-yous on the internet. (There must be software for this.)

Rule 15. Lawn mowing or watering should not be done too frequently or there goes the neighborhood. Wait until the grass dries out and turns an attractive shade of bronze, say, along about August.

Rule 16. Believe transplants when they talk about the Seattle Freeze. This is a city with Nordic-Asian roots and a glacial approach to friendships. Treat friendship like two porcupines making love.

Rule 17. Approach Seattle street food with an open mind. Don't knock grilled hot dogs with onions and cream cheese until you've tried one.

Rule 18. Practice the more difficult local names before saying them out loud. It's RAY-near, Spo-CAN and GOOEY-duck (the giant clams). Do not even attempt Puyallup without training wheels.

Rule 19. Pay attention to "Do Not Walk" signs at intersections. Jaywalking is not cool and risks a $56 ticket.

Rule 20. Political Activism is mandated by law. If you don't belong to a pressure group, form one. Names that have not yet been activated: Citizens to Visualize Turn Signals, Committee to Pave Potholes before 2050, Citizens to Teach Newcomers How to Deal with Four-Way Stops and the Seattle Anti-Freeze Society.

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