The many forms of rage beneath "Seattle nice"

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The Seattle Times recently did a story saying “pedestrian rage is on the rise.” The sidewalks are crowded, the intersections are dangerous, Amazonians are walking five abreast as if they own the sidewalk, which, in effect, they do. The zombie march of the texters is inexorable. People who commute by foot are getting fed up. Perhaps we should do as the Belgians have done and introduce designated lanes for people who text while walking.

In the course of the story, reporter Susan Kelleher quotes a psychology professor from the University of Hawaii, Leon James, who is an expert on all kinds of rage related to mobility, like road rage or air rage. He described frustrated pedestrians as engaging in a constant stream of “mental venting,” essentially cursing those around you in the peanut gallery of your head.

I hope Prof. Leon broadens his research, and Seattle would make a great laboratory for the full range of rage potentials. Many of us are seething about lots of aspects of Seattle life—call it Fifty Shades of Rage. Here are a few I’ve felt, or observed:

Metro Rage: This is my flavor of the week. Disappearing buses, slow service, grumpy drivers. It’s gotten so that I have to plan an hour buffer if I want to be sure of getting to a meeting on time, which defeats the whole purpose of leaving your car behind and using transit. Use an app, you say? That doesn’t solve all problems, and my argument is, if you are now required to own a smart phone to navigate the bus system, then Metro ought to buy us all smart phones. And it’s not a good sign that my transit app, which I got from Metro’s website, also promotes Uber—I’m supposed to give up on public transit and go private? What’s the point of having bus stops then? Or schedules? Or service? And what black hole do the No. 8 buses fall into?

Parking Rage: This is palpable. At a recent KUOW Week in Review show at University Heights, when host Bill Radke was about to announce the topics for discussion, an audience member yelled out on live radio, “Parking!” They want to eliminate parking requirements for developers, they want to charge for parking in more neighborhoods (you know it’s free in West Seattle!), the city has eliminated over 1,000 street spaces for bike lanes and trolley tracks. Yes, there’s an app for downtown parking too, that will gladly usher you to a pay lot charging usurious rates ($24 for 2 hours), or a public lot for $3 per hour that is perpetually full, for good reason. Parking is now a scarce commodity, and the city is happy to let piratical private garages and lot owners fleece you.

Tourist Rage: You call it vibrancy, I call it Westlake is full of masses of tourists. Try wading through all these peeps when you’re trying to make a ferry. To accommodate them, we’re investing millions in expanding the convention center and huge high-rise hotels are planned. More chains are flowing in, and Nordstrom, Nike and other national brand retailers are “upscaling” to suck money out of the pockets of our world class “guests” (a Seattle tradition since the Klondike gold rush). Cruise ships blot the seascape—it’s as if somebody tipped the ugliest skyscrapers you’ve ever seen onto their sides and parades them in and out of Puget Sound—gas-guzzling, sewage-spewing, monuments to conspicuous consumption. Where are the kayaktavists when we need them?

Mayor Rage: The current mayor is known to have an Irish temper, but every mayor generates contempt: Mike McGinn, Greg Nickels, Paul Schell—who was physically attacked. We even had a mayor who received a bomb at City Hall, once upon a time. We love to hate the mayor because either we never liked him in the first place or because he’s disappointed us. (I say him because Bertha Knight Landes left office in 1929—it’s been a boy’s club before and since, another thing to be angry about.) Murray got off to a strong start, but recently incurred the wrath of nearly everyone by issuing a plan to effectively upzone all single-family neighborhoods on the eve of an election where the city council is picked by neighborhood, and two, then backing off that plan enraging the people who thought the idea was a good one. The homeowners remain annoyed and suspicious of City Hall, and so too the pro-development greens who thought the mayor had finally gotten religion. Journalist Josh Feit articulated the backlash to the flip-flop, writing “no one should feel comfortable trusting Mayor Murray when he says a deal’s a deal.”

Homeowner Rage: How would you like being called a racist and a classist because you own a house in Seattle? How do you feel about the city’s commitment to infrastructure in your neighborhood? How do you feel being disparaged as a NIMBY? How’s the parking in your neighborhood?

Urbanist Rage: You’ve been betrayed by Murray and weak-kneed city council members, routed by the NIMBYS, you can’t understand the selfish dunderheads reveling in their economic privilege who disparage urban growth while the world warms. Who needs zoning anyway?

Garbage Rage: You recycle, you sort, you pay a lot for service and getting the right-sized bins. You spend more time sorting your trash than you do with your kids or your dog. We’re throwing away less (well, all those commercial demolitions aren’t helping, but the public is) and we’ve dramatically increased our recycling rate almost to goal which is 60 percent in 2015. We’re doing good! Buy the city wants to inspect your waste, penalize those who aren’t doing it right, and people are mad about having the garbage man dig through their trash—even the cops need a warrant to do that! A lawsuit has been filed to protect garbage privacy.

Change Rage: The landmarks you used to navigate by are gone, the views you had are blocked, familiar street are unrecognizable. This generates the kind of rage people feel with the onset of dementia? Where the fuck am I?

Weather Rage: Or is it angst? Always something to mumble about. The heat is a sign of global warming, it kills people so cover up. The rain is depressing and causes vitamin D and daylight deficiencies. A hat is required at all times to protect from either the wet, or skin cancer. The TV newscasters welcome the summer sun—for a day, then focus on fires, heat stroke, drownings. In the long winter, we ponder suicide. Every weather system is now a “storm” as if the winter weather is an assault. Meteorologist Cliff Mass is a celebrity, almost like a shrink holding our hands through the seasons—but don’t mess with Cliff. Talk about rage, remember the reaction when he and KUOW parted ways a few years back?

Real Estate Rage: As a renter, I feel this kick-in when I see one of the PI cover stories on the best homes for a mere $750,000 in Ballard. Or recently a 750-square foot condo on McClellan in Mount Baker for $750K. Or how about a $1 million bungalow? I recently saw that a 10-room, historic Victorian mansion was for sale in Omaha for $750K—and a bungalow there for $25,000. Who ever thought that Omaha would look good?

Mariner Rage: The team has been adding major players year after year, and the results remain dismal. It’s gotten to the point where the only pleasure in a game is the stadium itself—pretty, but overpriced. And don’t pay attention to what happens on the field, focus on your garlic fries. Look, if you want a less rage-inducing experience, get some food truck takeout and go to Gasworks Park—better views, cheaper food, no under-performance to drive you nuts. The good news: You can leave your Mariner Rage behind since our Russell Wilson contract anxiety has been relieved. Go, Seahawks.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.