With winter here, a great indoor activity, for writers anyway, seems to be mythbusting. Get out the holiday decorations, and toss out the misconceptions about Seattle.
Lesser Seattleites say yes, of course it does; we've got 365 days a year of spirit-breaking weather misery. Those who know their history might cite some great Northwest historical facts. Like the fact that our regional winter weather seems to have played a role in inducing Captain Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark) to have a mental breakdown — not surprising since his great triumph was reaching a place called Cape Disappointment.
But Mass is a man of science, and he takes on the always-rains myth. Here's what he found when he ran the numbers: "There is roughly a 50-70 percent chance from early November through April 1. So the odds are, if you stand out there all day, you will get wet. Duh!
"But you don't do you? You are only outside for a short errand or walk or run or whatever. So let's ask a more interesting and important question. What is the chance you will get wet during a particular hour?
"Ready to be shocked and amazed? According to a study by Professor Phil Church and Mark Albright (published in Weatherwise Magazine, December 1974) only 18 percent of the hours had measurable precipitation in November, 19 percent in January, and 15 percent in February.
"You heard it right. Even during our rainiest months, more than 80 percent of the hours are dry."
That's right, even in the season of heaviest rains, we're dry 80 percent of the time. It might be dark, cloudy, windy, gloomy or damp, but not raining measurably. Of course, we all know this. The UW football team used to be called the Sundodgers, but we're really rain-dodgers, meaning to live here happily you have to learn a couple of things.
It helps, of course, to have a flexible schedule and no fear of the dark (which, let's face it, comes around 3:30 p.m. on some winter days). You can and will live a full productive life if you get good at drop-dodging and, of course, assuming you also have a place to dry off. Like Palm Springs.
Another myth that bites the dust: that the "Seattle Freeze" phenomenon is the fault of one of our distinguished ethnic communities. Gene Balk at the Seattle Times tackles this myth in a post called, "The Seattle Freeze: Can we Blame it on the Norwegians." Of course, the answer is obvious: "No, but we can blame the Swedes!"
Balk reviews the census data and maps out this fact: that Seattle's Scandinavian community just ain't that bit. Even in Ballard (or, the more tony "Ball-ARD"). People of Nordic heritage make up only 7.4 percent of Seattle's overall population, and there are more Irish offspring in Ballard these days than Nordics. That is a Scando scandal. Who wants lutefisk with their Guinness? Of course, it was the Vikings that invented Dublin, so the two groups do have a lot in common.
Balk goes on to show that there are many parts of the city, especially the supposedly diverse zip codes south of the ship canal, where there are virtually no Nordies. That was certainly true in my experience. My Norwegian grandfather moved to Mt. Baker in the '20s to assimilate; if we wanted hang out with any other Knutes, we'd have to seek them out in Ballard. Also, in my experience, some of the most social, gregarious and friendly people ever are Norwegians, especially after a few drinks.
There are many "Freeze" theories: ethnicity, frontierism, the weather, etc. This chips away at the other myth, which is that we're nice people here. I've heard enough newcomers complain about the freeze that I'm sure they're talking about something real, and it's not limited to the Seattle city limits, like Balk's map. It extends to the Eastside, to Bainbridge, to Stanwood, and to the far reaches of Pugetopolis.
Another emerging myth I want to nip in the bud is the characterization of Lesser Seattle that shows up now and then, such as in a Slog post by Dominic Holden taking issue with a Seattle Times guest editorial by businessman Albert Shen (reportedly contemplating a run for mayor).
In his Slog post, Holden accuses Shen of representing the "the anti-transit, anti-tax, lesser Seattle vote." This is the typical Lesser straw man, which is that we're against everything.
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