Happy New Year y’all! To start off 2019 I thought I’d write another entry to point out some differences I’ve noticed whilst living here, versus my Northwest hometown. Although many of the examples in my previous posts more-or-less pointed out the obvious (but hopefully in a somewhat amusing way?), several of the following definitely surprised me. The expression, “you don’t know what you don’t know” has definitely rung true on many occasions.
So, without further ado, here are some random, rapid-fire differences I’ve discovered in the last few months:
Who knew that butter sticks are shaped differently in different parts of the country? Well, perhaps those of you who’ve travelled frequently or moved long-distances did. But this girl didn’t. At first I thought I must have just bought a different brand at the store. But then after multiple grocery trips and trying several brands that were all uniformly shaped longer and skinnier than the butter I’m used to, I decided to do some research (ie google). Indeed, I found out that I wasn’t going crazy…
I read some explanations of why this is, something historical about dairy shortages or age of manufacturing machinery… if you’re really curious you can google it (I mean, do extensive research). What I mainly remember is that the thicker West Coast sticks are called Stubbies, which, in my opinion, is quite an endearing nickname for a stick of butter.
When I return to Seattle, I’m definitely going to call my butter sticks Stubbies from now on. They’re probably called that because they are stubbier than their predecessors or East Coast counterparts. But I’d like to think they are called that to indicate to the consumer that if you cook with too many of them you’ll become a bit stubby yourself. Either way…
One day, while perusing around Barnes and Noble (a prevalent past-time of mine), I meandered over to their periodicals. I decided to check out the sports section to find some updates on the college football season, read through some running magazines, perhaps check on the NBA, you know, the usual. I scanned beneath the “Sports” heading and was surprised to see nothing of the sort on the shelf in front of me. What?!
You can see by the below pic what was stocked at eye-level. I then scanned the middle shelf, maybe I’d find my beloved sports there… Nope. It wasn’t until I bent over and hunched near the ground that I finally found the magazines I was looking for.
When I returned to Seattle over Christmas, I couldn’t help but compare how they stocked their sports periodicals. Sure enough, I remembered correctly, and there was no crouching down to find my normal interests.
After comparing shelves, it seems the same materials are more-or-less available in both stores, but the way they are exhibited caters to the store’s perceived consumer. Okay, this one is somewhat obvious. But also interesting. When I think “sports” my mind doesn’t think of guns and hunting. But clearly, that must be the first impression for a large group of people in this part of the country.
To demonstrate my expectations for winter weather, here’s a screenshot I took on my phone’s weather ap for Lynnwood, apparently the spot my phone synched to on my recent trip to the Seattle area:
Surprisingly the background indicates sun, which is a bit unusual for this time of the year in the Northwest, but we do get intermittent days (the last 6 days are more indicative of Seattle winter). But notice how little the daily highs and lows fluctuate. The 10-day forecast called for a 3-degree variability in daily highs, 8-degrees between nightly lows, and a 16-degree gap between the warmest and coldest periods on the entire forecast.
And now, here’s a screenshot of the same time span of where I’m living near Memphis:
Okay, I may have added the bold black writing and arrows to indicate a point. In the span of 24-hours it’s not that unusual to have a 30-40 degree temperature shift. One morning I’m scraping ice of my windshield before work, the next morning I’m thinking, hmm, I don’t even need to be wearing my jacket. The only surprising thing about this screenshot is that there aren’t any little clouds with lightening bolts (still frequently forecast, yet less frequently experienced).
I’ll let you do the math on the forecasted ranges of high and low temps for the Memphis-area and compare to the numbers from Seattle-area. A little different right?!
I’ve also learned that actual temperature and real feel can be very different. In the summer, here in the South, the humidity would make the temp feel much warmer than it actually was. Well, in the winter, a steady breeze or wind can make it feel much colder.
I learned this the hard way on a morning run. I dressed for the mid-30 degree temperature my ap said it was outside. But there was a strong, harsh wind that made it feel like the low 20’s. I literally thought my face was going to freeze off. And now I know: Always scroll down on the weather ap and look what it says below “Feels like.”
One more winter-related note, actually somewhat of a similarity between Seattle and Memphis: our ability to freak-the-heck-out at the first sight, or mere mention, of snow. Neither city gets it too often, nor is really prepared for it. In Seattle’s defense, at least there are legit hills that make driving in snow/ice tricky (or in some cases near impossible).
Memphis received a nice little dusting here in mid-November and I’ve included the below pictures so you can see how it went down. These photos were taken at the peak of the snowfall. No, the area did not receive any more snow. The roads were completely fine. Yet…
Another unconscious expectation I had, that living in the South has proved to be wrong, is that grass is green unless it’s hot outside and lacks water. Growing up in the Northwest, this has been my experience with grass. It’s especially lush and green in the winter, and you don’t even have to do anything to keep it that way! Here’s a pic I took off my parent’s deck over Christmas break.
And just to rub it in, how beautiful and vibrant of green the grass is in the Northwest, here’s a pic I took on a walk near their house. No, I did not adjust any of the color settings on my phone. I had an older model iPhone with a crummy camera, so if anything it is going to appear less green than it was in person:
And now, sadly, here is what I learned that grass looks like in the winter in other parts of the country:
Again, I may have added the words and arrows to express my sentiments… But, indeed, I found this dormancy of grass here in the winter to be quite disappointing.
I was pleasantly surprised when we moved here in the summer by the greens and colors we were met with. If anything, I was expecting it to be more brown at that time of the year due to the heat. But then winter rolled in, and all the trees dropped their leaves and the grass rolled over and died and suddenly all the color was gone.
So I’ve discovered Memphis winter lacks green. It also lacks the deep blues of numerous lakes and large bodies of water, the dimensions of the hilly terrain, and the depth of being able to see mountain ranges in the distance. Western Washington truly is beautiful, year-round!
Okay, I feel like I’m being too hard on Memphis so I’d like to point out something beautiful that I’ve observed here that I don’t recall ever seeing in the Northwest. And no, this is not grass related (sorry, but I just can’t find any redeeming features in the dormant grass) but I didn’t want to make a new headline. Actually, a couple things that often occur together: the frequently colorful sunrises and sunsets, as well as bird murmurations.
What is a murmuration you ask? If you don’t know, best you google that one and watch a video. I’m not even sure exactly what kinds of birds they are, starlings perhaps? But on several occasions, mainly during sunrise on my drive to work but sometimes in the evenings as well, I’ve witnessed thousands of small black birds that flock together in chaotically beautiful, seemingly choreographed displays. They are simply exquisite and mesmerizing to watch, especially with the backdrop of a brilliant sunrise.
Sorry, no pic here, I haven’t been able to capture any photos of the bird murmurations yet. I’ve typically been driving and so entranced with merely watching them that if I tried to simultaneously take a picture I’d probably become a dangerous driver.
Yellow road arrows
Speaking of dangerous driving… what is the deal with the yellow chevron arrows here?! These really did throw me off a bit after first arriving. In all my previous experiences with said road signs they have been used in a manner to indicate a turn, as so:
Well, around where I live here in Tennessee they seem to be used to indicate a sudden lane or shoulder ending… even though the road continues dead straight ahead. So here’s my unconscious thoughts the first several weeks I’m here and driving here, especially at night: ho-hum, there’s some reflective yellow arrows ahead pointing left, we must be approaching a left turn, ho-hum… we’re at the arrows, ready to veer left now… wait, WAIT, the road is continuing straight… okay, no veer, NO VEER!
Now why would you put the same yellow arrows that indicate a turn to indicate something else? Why? Couldn’t you have at least made them red or something? Or put one of these type thingies:
And then it’s confusing because there actually are a few places that the chevron arrows do indicate a turn. Consistency, people. Seriously. And that’s all I have to say about that.
I may have mentioned this in a previous post, but there is no recycling pick-up here. Yes, it is sad. I was reminded of this recently on my return trip to Seattle after backing into and knocking over (hey, don’t judge me) my parent’s giant blue recycle bin, which a large vehicle comes to their home and magically empties each week!
So how do we recycle in Memphis? Well, most people probably just don’t. Jeff and I fill a covered plastic bin on our patio with our recyclables and when it’s full (which is almost weekly) take it to a recycling center and disperse the contents ourselves.
Okay, I’m not going to lie, it’s almost 100% Jeff who does this part. I put the bin in my vehicle a few times this summer and the last time while driving to empty it’s contents I saw, from my rear-view, a giant beetle flying around in my car. We try to keep the container clean but you know… there are a lot of bugs in the South. And I never found that beetle in my car. Thenceforth, I elected Jeff to be responsible for this chore and he has obliged. What a good sport.
Red light conversations
So this is a new one for me. Twice since I’ve been here, strangers have struck up friendly conversations while next to my car at a red light. I didn’t even know this was a thing. Both times my initial reaction was: What did I do wrong? Did I cut him off? Are my break lights out? Is the gas cap open?
Let me think, in all the years of driving in Seattle when has anyone in another vehicle motioned to get my attention? I can only think of one, and it was not in a friendly manner (stinkin’ cell phone vigilante who felt the need to save the world from me holding my phone in one hand while using it on speaker and easily keeping my eyes on the road)…
Anyway, in Memphis, I’m sure there’s road rage just like everywhere else but my couple experiences have been much more cordial. The first was a guy that noticed my UW alumni license plate cover and wanted to know if I went to the UW (seems like a fairly obvious answer) and then excitedly shared his experience with the Seattle area. The second was a gentleman that just wanted to know how we liked our Subaru Outback, since his other car was an Outback. And yes, us, these guys weren’t just trying to hit on me, they genuinely wanted to have a conversation at a red light.
C’mon Seattle, what’s the deal? We certainly have a plethora of red lights, why can’t we be more friendly? I can just imagine the bewildered looks you’d get if you tried this on Aurora Ave… It would be a fun little social experiment (for someone else to try, certainly not me).
Mural of me
And lastly, to complete my random list of regional differences, I’d like to point out that one of these lovely cities has an unauthorized mural painting of me on the side of a candy factory:
See, exhibit A in, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” I seriously did not know I’d find my doppelgänger on the side of a candy shop in Memphis. But, there you have it.
I hope you enjoyed the latest update in this series. I welcome comments on all my posts but especially enjoy thoughts from my Memphis and Seattle friends on these or other regional differences that were surprising (or maybe not) to you.