Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Seattle Freeze, sometimes physically violent

And not just benign neglect. The Seattle Freeze is the silent treatment that people in Seattle give to folks who move here from out of state. It's where they'll say hi and make a few words of chitchat, but won't let you get anywhere near them personally, no matter if you've 'known' them for a long time. It goes to an extreme that's not been paralleled in any other city I've been in, not even in New York City, famous for its hostility.

My story of violence connected to the Seattle Freeze took place during a New Years Eve party, on New Years Eve 2007. Me and a group of friends were invited to a get together at a friend's parents' cottage in the country. We got there and it turned out to be one of these things where it wasn't just a few friends, but instead it was the family, the siblings, and the friends from high school, among others. People were having a good time, and drinking, but at a certain point the evening started to get a little rough.

We were all staying out in this structure on the property, going to sleep, drunk, with about twenty other people, when someone from our group inadvertently made a stupid comment, that made folks mad.  My friends tend to have wicked senses of humor, and to be abrasive sometimes. .Since my friend's brother was there, he decided to try to smooth things over, and instead was confronted with an overgrown blonde twenty something with a big heavy mag light beating a sleeping bag  he thought my friend was sleeping in and yelling at him for being "The person nobody knows". Obviously during the evening there had been previous things said that had rubbed someone the wrong way. He wasn't in the sleeping bag, so he wasn't hurt, but this guy kept on beating what was likely a pile of blankets.

Now, we had been with these people the whole evening, talking with them, having what we thought was a good time,  but when it came time for drunken violence we became those people "who nobody knows". He said the phrase a couple times while thought he was beating up my friend. During the drama he confronted me too, but I kept my mouth shut and didn't give him any ammunition.

 I have to say, even though we were invited guests and friends of the person whose parents owned the place,  when the drunken chips were down, we became the people no one knew, people who it was okay to go apeshit on and try to hurt. All of this is both outrageous and directly connected with the same ethos that motivates people here to freeze out those who they don't know. To me, this incident represented the iron fist behind the velvet glove of the freeze, where the underlying tensions of natives  really not liking folks from outside of the state boiled over and vented themselves due to alcohol and perhaps other drugs too, for all I know.

Mind you, these folks weren't  people who had lived in the backwoods all their lives. They were folks who had gone to one of the top public schools in Seattle, and who had grown up in a rich and tony neighborhood there.

The freeze and its attendent inhospitability is such that it appears that people are apparently willing to place their shit bag friends from highschool, who are still hanging around,  over folks who they've met in their current lives.

After the violence, someone came up to my friend the next day and said that the person who tried to beat the shit out of him was just jealous about his friendship with the person whose house we were staying at. Really? What kind of low browed Neanderthalic fucker looks at the world like that?

 There were bullshit apologies all around, but the taste of Pacific Northwest particularism lingered in my mouth.  

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