Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Snow in Seattle, Car Service Drivers: My New Best Friends, and Airborne

by Jami Attenberg

I arrived in Seattle last night and had the following exchange with Al, my car service driver.

Me: I heard it's been snowing here lately.

Al: Oh no, it never snows here. You have to go twenty minutes up north at least to see snow.

Me: I think occasionally it snows here.

Al: Absolutely not. I've lived here my entire life. Once every five years maybe.
(Five minutes later. It's now snowing out.)

Me: I'm sorry, is that -- snow?

Al: Yea, that's snow. But that's not going to stick.

You heard it here first. It's not snow if it doesn't stick.

Al was really nice though, even if we disagreed on the definition of snow. He, like most of the car service drivers have had, is a big fan of NPR, and also a big reader. This makes perfect sense. High end car service drivers - unlike taxi drivers - have to sit for hours waiting for people to have their meetings or because of late flights or what have you.

I had a car service driver in Chicago who read several books a week, usually mysteries. He was a big Ken Follett fan and knew a lot about all of his books, had been reading him since his very first one. "I go the library all the time," he said. "If you've got a copy of your book right now I could probably read half of it this afternoon." Sadly, I only had my galley that was marked-up for readings on hand. I would have liked to see him try.

In Boston my car service driver talked about how he had hated writing because he had gone to Catholic school, and there had been a great emphasis on getting every letter written exactly right. So for years he felt this psychic pain whenever he sat down with pen to paper. But then he started college as an adult and got a word processor and discovered he really loved to write. He said he felt guilty because he used to read more but had gotten sucked into the television lately. I told him he would find his way back. I could just feel it.

Today I walked all over Seattle, the first time I hadn't been in a car for five days. I woke up sick today and have been chugging down Airborne, but I could not resist walking through the slushy streets, all the way down to the marketplace, where I got my favorite sandwich (roast beef, sourdough, dijon mustard, Tilamook cheddar) from Three Girls Bakery at Pike Place Market. I walked down to the park and lunched with the junkies. It was bliss. Seattle is one of my favorite cities in the world. I have always wanted to read at Elliott Bay Books, and tomorrow that will happen.

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