Greetings from Starbucks on SR 99 in Lynnwood. I haven’t yet got internet hookup in my apartment, so until next Wednesday when the cable guy comes to jack me into the matrix, I’ll be pounding the suburban pavement the half mile to this strip mall outpost of caffeine dependency to get connected.
This is my first experience of truly living in suburban America. Growing up, we lived in the city of Buffalo (granted, not the most vibrant city, but still, a city), college was in a small town, and Seattle was, well, Seattle. Amsterdam, where I’ve – for all intents and purposes – been living for the past 15 years, is the antithesis of suburbia. It’s odd being a commited pedestrian in such a car-oriented environment. Back home, I can walk out my front door and within two minutes be on a main street filled with grocery stores, bakeries, nut shops, vegetable stands, flower stands, two banks, a pizza place, Thai restaurant, Chinese take-away, hardware store, etc. I can catch three different trams into the city, or walk down sidewalked streets for a half an hour and be in the center of town. There are very few places that are “too far to walk”, and those that are are generally a straight shot on a tram that comes 4-6 times an hour.
Here, when I walk out my front door, and walk to the main street, I’m confronted by a six-lane highway, lined with strip malls, furniture outlets, car dealerships, Dairy Queens, 7-Elevens, Taco Bells, and Drive-thru Starbucks. Actually, the walk here wasn’t bad. It’s just a half mile amble – about 10 minutes – from door to door. And the QFC is one parking lot over, so there is a grocery store within walking distance. It’s just all so… car oriented.
Of course, it’s not as black and white as I’m making it out to be. The road where I’m living feels a lot more rural than suburban, although the apartment community does have the air of suburban development about it. When it rains, it smells green and clean, and when the sun is shining, it smells piney and fresh. Some kind of martin (will have to check my Audubon guide) swoops between the buildings catching bugs, and at night froggies croak and ribbit from around the water features (yep, there are water features). I’m also just a five minute walk from my internship, partly without sidewalks, but never dauntinlgy so. Nevertheless, my supervisor at PAWS (who I met yesterday, and who seems AWESOME) made me promise to always get a ride home at night. Not because of any perceived threat of attack, but rather to avoid walking along the road in the dark when drivers might not see me.
And it’s not like I’m stranded here. Aside from my automotively enabled pals, there is a transit system. It may not be as comprehensive or convenient as what I’m used to from the GVB and the NS. But once I suss it out, I’m sure it’ll get me where I need to go. But it definitely is not the pedestrian-friendly world I’ve come to take for granted in my day-to-day existence in Europe. Toto, I don’t think we’re in Amsterdam anymore.
On another note entirely, tomorrow I start my basic skills training for my internship, so those wanting to hear about my experiences with Wildlife rehab, check back here soon. (Although it may have to wait till I’ve got internet at home.) In the meantime, here’s a boxful of baby opossoms to tide you over.