The snow in Tacoma is gone for now, except perhaps for the parking lot piles that will likely remain until Easter … of 2013. What also is left behind is our collective inferiority complex after being accused again by the national news media -- and anyone who has moved to the area during the last decade -- of being “snow wimps.”
The two actually work together. Reporters for TV networks and national newspapers get assigned to do the story about the recent storm. Rather than work at it, they find some transplants to talk about how people in “Seattle” don’t know what to do when it snows, how they freak out, how they act like they’ve just been hit with a Katrina-like event. “This city shuts down when winter hits,” CNN quoted a guy named Derek as claiming. “It’s nuts.”
An L.A. Times writer headlined a blog post: “Snow wimps: Seattle is shut down by first real snow of the season.”
“It is a city of formidable hills and politically correct small cars, many of which spent the morning sliding ineffectually around places such as Queen Anne Hill,” wrote the blogger.
She at least added a new stereotype, that everyone in Seattle drives Smart Cars. I thought they all drove Subarus. Or Range Rovers. Or Metro buses.
Speaking of Seattle, when members of the national news media say and write “Seattle,” they don’t just mean the territory within the legal city limits. They usually mean all of Western Washington. Sometimes they mean all of Washington. It’s easier than being specific and having to locate obscure places like Tacoma or Olympia.
If they want to admit that something isn’t actually within Seattle, they say it is “near Seattle.” Canada, for example, is “near Seattle.”
So is Spokane.
You should recognize, then, that when they speak of snow wimps in “Seattle,” they mean you, no matter where you live.
This national media action, filled with stereotypes and assumptions, is followed by a reaction suffering the same infirmities. Local news outlets exploited these fighting words by inviting readers/listeners to give the L.A. Times a piece of their minds. It was all in good fun and helped boost ratings and Web counts.
“The L.A. Times, of all papers, is lecturing Seattle on snow? L.A. drivers are barely able to handle rain!” wrote Seattle attorney Jon Salmon (as though that’s a real name).
Speaking of salmon, why did none of the national stories feature guys throwing salmon at Pike Place Market? I thought such B-roll footage was required by the national TV cameraman union contract.
Maybe they could have made it topical by putting a little REI stocking cap on the salmon, some rag wool socks for its fins. Maybe they could have stood up the salmon in front of the Space Needle and asked him why no one in Seattle knows how to drive in the snow.
Anyway, it’s the same media dance after every snowstorm. Stereotyped accusations followed by clichéd responses. Next time, how about we do something unexpected? Rather than deny the charge, rather than blame the hills and the lack of snow-removal equipment, rather than claim how we don’t get enough practice, rather than lashing out, I say we embrace our snow wimpiness.
Accept it. Grow comfortable with it. Make it a virtue. For instance, I had to work all week, but I didn’t resent those who got to stay home; I envied them. They were able to become one with their inner snow wimp; I had to make like Liam Neeson in “The Grey.”
Seattle (the actual city, not the region) once had a mayor who defended himself for canceling a New Year’s celebration by proclaiming: “I’m not a wuss.”
Perhaps the current mayor of Seattle should follow that lead. The next time it snows, he could stand in front of City Fish at the market, salmon in hand, and declare: “My name is Mike and I’m a snow wimp.”