I moved to Seattle in 1992. In 2007, I left Seattle to work in South China and returned in 2015.
What a difference eight years does to a city known for a good music scene, funky neighborhoods and a slower pace of life.
Today, the gentle Seattle I once knew is gone. The tech sector, which we all now know, dominates Seattle and has brought with it many seemingly entitled young men and women. These young men and women often drive aggressively, as they wheel their expensive cars in and out of supermarket parking lots at breakneck speeds all the while avoiding near collisions and aggressively sounding their car horns. Tailgating is another issue. I have witnessed this aggressive behavior and “out-of-my-way” recklessness on state Route 509 heading to the airport and inside the new Highway 99 tunnel. Sorry, I drive the speed limit.
I work on 15th Avenue West, which connects with Western Avenue to the south and Ballard to the north. Every day, I witness people driving faster than the 35 mph speed limit. It’s so bad in the Interbay neighborhood that I now refer to the street as the 15th Avenue West Expressway. Four pedestrians have been killed on this stretch of road.
However, the “I-have-to-get-to-my-meeting” group of motorists don’t seem to care about human life, or ruining somebody else’s day or running red lights. While any ticket they may get might seem, in their view, the cost of doing business in Seattle.
Uber and Lyft black Suburban SUVs drive around Seattle streets all day long omitting fumes as they circle for fares. Swarms of hybrid Prius’ pull illegal U-turns, stop dead in the middle of traffic and in some cases give other motorists the finger. This didn’t happen when Seattle was a quaint, out-of-the-way city.
There are just too many people converging on Seattle. Dense urban populations in a society that has become conditioned to “only the strong will survive” breed anger, hostility and contempt for anyone who still believes in old-fashioned values such as politeness, helping others and civility toward everyone they meet. The new Seattle does not seem to allow for any of those human values.
Seattle had a reputation for politeness and civility around the country. It was once a cool city with funky neighborhoods. These neighborhoods have become homogenized and gentrified playgrounds for the tech industry. From the Greenwood neighborhood to Columbia City, there tends to be a general disdain for diverse income groups within these newly reconstructed neighborhoods. As we middle-income earners are all aware, rents have skyrocketed.
A friend of mine told me when referring to the Central District, “The newcomers moved in looking for diversity, but now diversity … is being driven out by developers and unscrupulous, greedy landlords.”
Today, only highly-paid professionals appear to live in downtown Seattle. Maybe that’s what the big-tech and financial companies want as they drive longtime local residents out, leaving only thousands of displaced homeless people remaining among the champions of the digital age.