Phenomenon of the plastic smile

Eric forwarded me this interesting article from the Seattle Times about the "phenomenon of the plastic smile," or the "Seattle Freeze." That is, Seattle-ites being extremely friendly in passing situations but stingy with genuine friendship and intimacy. After reading it, I scanned my seven years in Seattle to see if I agreed. My conclusion was that I experienced a very mild case of the Seattle Freeze. Relative to a place like New York City or Chicago, the two places I lived around my Seattle years, Seattle natives can seem reserved. But I've always done plenty of things on my own, also, so who knows where the blame lies. I was fortunate to work at a company with hundreds of out-of-town imports, all around the same age group, all new to the city. We made our own little social circles.

The idea that New Yorkers are unfriendly is a myth, though. In my half year here, I've found most New Yorkers to be really friendly, if not in passing situations, then in more intimate social settings. Sure, the person sitting across from you in the subway may be lost in his or her iPod and paperback, but that may just be claustrophobia. There are a lot of freakin' people crammed on this island, and you have to form a social bubble just to maintain some personal space for a few hours each day. But people are socially voracious here, especially relative to folks in the Pacific Northwest. Meet someone out and chances are you'll have traded cell phone #'s and e-mails by evenings end, and next weekend you'll have one more option for a weekend out. People are always looking for people to hang out with, perhaps because we all live in shoebox-sized apartments. The more the merrier is the general philosophy in NYC, and so Evites are passed around like so many phone numbers and photos out of Paris Hilton's Sidekick.

There's more open space in the Pacific Northwest, less intense pressure to be out and about in the scene. It's part of the laid-back feel out there. I enjoy both styles of living, but the ideal would be perhaps to have a house in Seattle and a penthouse in Manhattan. And a private jet to hop back and forth between the two cities.