Thursday, April 26, 2007

Seattle: I Still Don't Get It

Here I am in Seattle, and I still don’t get it. I don’t know what it is about this city, but it leaves me nonplussed. I just can’t get the hang of it. Whenever I visit, I end up feeling and behaving like a wide-eyed hayseed. For example, I arrived at my hotel this evening and noticed that right across the street was a Korean/sushi restaurant. Perfect. I love Korean food, and there's a dearth of it in Portland. Plus, what could be more convenient? But somehow I didn’t see the entrance to the restaurant (thought, as it turns out, it was no more than 50 feet from the lobby of my hotel) and wandered cluelessly around to the back of the restaurant and started climbing a flight of stairs. About halfway up, I looked down to see a snoring, open-mouthed homeless person conked out below the stairs. I concluded that the restaurant was no longer a going concern and scurried back down the stairs and sought refuge (and dinner) at Whole Foods.

Recall that I spent most of my adult life living in Chicago (a much, much larger city than Seattle)—and lived not in the swankiest of neighborhoods. Homeless people shouldn’t freak me out, and normally they don’t. I mean, the guy under the stairs didn’t exactly freak me out, he just confirmed for me that somehow whenever I’m in Seattle I manage to always miss the “cool/hip” stuff Seattle is known for, being drawn by some unseen force toward the rapidly disappearing seamier aspects of it. How do I do it? Walking around for only 15 minutes this evening, I witnessed a strange quasi-sexual encounter between some weirdo and a modish statue outside of Whole Foods. A mere five minutes later a garbage truck blasted me with the most toxic garbage fumes I’ve ever had the misfortune to inhale.

I’m in Seattle for a meeting with clients, so I won’t have much of a chance to explore and see if I can actually find some reasons to justify Seattle's existence. Instead, I'll be sitting like a lump in a sterile fluorescently lit conference room that could be in Anytown, USA.

I don’t have much practice with business meetings. It’s relatively rare that I ever meet my clients in the flesh—it’s happened only two or three times in the nine years since I started my own business. When I have to meet clients, I’m thrown into a bit of a tizzy, mainly because I have to cobble together some sort of business attire from my meagre wardrobe. I can’t very well show up in second-hand sweatpants and 10-year-old T-shirt advertising the Mount Hood Brewing Company’s Ice Axe IPA, can I? So, what to wear is Tizzy #1. I did sort that out, although I’m still not sure if I can get away with wearing Danskos on my feet. It is Seattle, but the clients are from Texas and one guy is from Alabama. Will he think I borrowed my footwear from Herman Munster?

Tizzy #2 is how to comport myself. Part of the reason I went into the business I’m in is because I’m not really a “people person,” and, fortunately, I’ve been able to make my living in a job that requires almost no face time with anyone--ever. It’s e-mail and FedEx all the way. A good thing, too. I don’t come off at all well in real life. In an e-mail, I have time to think through what I want to say and recast, recast, recast until my communication has reached near perfection, but in person? I’m likely to ramble and sound like a total dunce. Oy! I think the best course of action is to sit quietly, nod frequently, and take lots of notes. And keep my mouth shut!

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home