Bill is a freelance writer who has written for a variety of platforms.
Living in Olympia Washington
Don’t you just love the word ‘debunking’? It’s one of those words that sounds exactly like what it does. When you debunk something it’s no gentle slap on the wrist but rather a full haymaker designed to leave you with a jaw badly in need of wiring!
If you are expecting an article about self-fulfillment and growth then stop right here. This is just some FF…for those of you who have not followed along, FF stands for funny fluff, a natural occurrence for me when I have been serious for much too long and I need to break free. Now that you have been warned, read on if you dare.
I have lived in the Pacific Northwest for sixty of my sixty-three years and I can tell you with no uncertainty that there are some serious misconceptions about our area of the world. Some amuse me, but some just piss me off, and it’s never a good thing when this normally peaceful soul has had enough and registers high on his Pissed Off Meter. Have you ever seen a former flower child completely lose it? Ugliness in motion my friends…ugliness in motion!
So in order for me to have a tranquil afternoon, I am going to DEBUNK several of my favorite misconceptions about my town of Olympia.
WHERE IN THE WORLD IS OLYMPIA?
Well, get a map if you want to know bad enough! That’s what I used to tell my students and that’s what I’m telling all of you who have no clue where the capital city of Washington State is. I am feeling a bit generous today, though, so I will tell you that Olympia sits at the tail end of Puget Sound, about sixty miles south of the only city in Washington anyone ever talks about, namely Seattle….and that is the first misconception we need to talk about: There are more cities in our state than just Seattle!
True, Seattle has the Mariners and the Seahawks and Bill Gates; true they have some great theaters and the opera and a Starbucks for every person who lives there (I made that up), but there actually are people living in this state who don’t wear clothes from L.L Bean and don’t sport five-hundred-dollar haircuts and don’t drive SUVs.
See, I start talking about Seattleites, and once again my Pissed Off Meter starts to spike. Sorry about that; a slight diversion, but I’m back on track thanks to my Starbucks non-fat soy latte that cost six damn dollars and seventy-damn-five cents.
IT’S PRETTY DAMN RAINY IN OLYMPIA, RIGHT?
Well, that depends on your definition of rainy! Talk to just about anyone in the United States and quite a few in foreign countries and their first impression of Washington is that it rains a lot there. Well not so fast Bucko!
Olympia has on average 50.85 inches of rain per year. Sounds like a lot, right? You just might be interested to know that New Orleans has 62.7 inches per year; Miami has 61.9 inches per year and nobody ever talks about that. Birmingham, Alabama gets more rain than we do as does Memphis, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Florida, and running neck and neck with us is Orlando, Florida.
I think someone needs to start a new ad campaign for Olympia explaining to the world that we get less rain than most of Florida! No, wait, we don’t want to do that. With our luck, the campaign will be successful and more people will move here, most of them from California and that just would not do. The last thing we need is more transplants from Crazy Land!
SO WHY DO PEOPLE TALK ABOUT ALL THE RAIN THERE?
Well, earlier I said it depended on your definition of rainy. The fact is that it rains quite often in Olympia, as in drizzle and light rain seemingly every damn day of the year. In fact, we are sixth in the nation for most rainy days per year with an average of 149. Without a calculator handy I can eyeball that and tell you that we get rain about 40% of the year. No wonder Olympia residents act like their brains are waterlogged. It’s because they are! The only major U.S. cities that have more rainy days are Rochester, Buffalo, Portland, Cleveland, and Pittsburg, and seriously, who cares about any of those cities?
If that information wasn’t enough to keep you Californians from moving here then consider that in Olympia we suffer through 228 cloudy days per year. Let that sink in for a moment: 228 of the 365 days in our little slice of heaven are cloudy and the sun doesn’t shine. When the sun does shine we immediately crash into each other while driving because we are literally blinded.
Here’s a great fact for you, and you can look it up if you think I’m lying: Seattle, and by extension, the Puget Sound area, leads the nation in the purchase of sunglasses. I will stop right here so you can laugh for a while; get it out of your system and then I’ll continue.
Are you done laughing now? Can you figure out why an area that rarely sees the sun would have so many sunglass purchases? It’s because we forget where we put the damn things and we have to go buy new ones like ten times per year. We never find the old ones until the day we move and we are packing up the house…then all of a sudden we have ten pairs of sunglasses and off we go to Goodwill to donate once again.
I never claimed that we were really smart here in Olympia!
PUT AWAY YOUR PARKA GRANDMA, IT AIN’T THAT COLD HERE!
People think because Olympia is so far north it must be cold all the time here with frigid winters and snowbound residents. Sorry, Bucko, but we only average eight snowy days per year here. I don’t even have to look it up to tell you that Flagstaff, Arizona, and Taos, New Mexico, have more snow days than we do in Olympia.
How can that be you ask? Well, we have this big puddle to our west called the Pacific Ocean, and that puddle greatly affects our temperatures. Air flowing over warm waters will become warmer and the Pacific Ocean, along our coast, is relatively warm. No, not warm like the Gulf of Mexico, but still warm enough to moderate any weather we do receive from the west. So no, we do not all walk around with goose-down parkas and ski masks; for the most part, we wear whatever is on sale at Goodwill. We in Olympia take great pride in our ability to adjust to the rapidly sinking economy. That’s why when things really tank in the United States those of us in Olympia will rule this nation. We have a master plan and we will not share it with you. I can give you one small hint, though: when we take over, people in California will not be allowed to vote. Just sayin’. We will allow them to keep making movies down there but voting will not happen as long as they have this tendency to elect actors as their governor.
HAVE YOU SEEN ANY COWBOYS AND INDIANS LATELY?
This is my favorite misconception about the West in general. We in Olympia really do look just like the rest of you. We don’t have six-shooters strapped to our waists and in sixty-three years I have never seen a gunfight at the old corral. I have seen guns in cars in Idaho but they really don’t count; Idaho is just a place you have to go through to get to Yellowstone. We have cars and trucks just like the rest of you; for the most part, we leave our horses in our barns and we only chew Redman on weekends when the womenfolk are at church praying for our lawless souls.
Wait! We do drive Mustangs and Pintos! Does that count?
WHAT DID I MISS?
Well, only half of Washington deserves to be known as The Evergreen State. The other half is desert and wouldn’t know green if they were slapped alongside the head with it. We let that half of the state vote but their vote will never count for much as long as Seattle is on the western side of the state. Sorry, Spokane, but you are much too close to Idaho and you know what that means.
Our state bird is the goldfinch. I’ve never seen one of those little darlings in my life.
Hope to see you all soon. If you are planning on visiting for summer vacation make sure you book dates between July 5-10; we can almost guarantee sunny weather during that five-day stretch. Just remember to bring sunglasses because our stores will be sold out.
Questions & Answers
Question: I am truly considering moving to Olympia from California to be closer to my family there, and so I can finally afford a home. The last time I was down there, I saw a huge homeless population right downtown. How is the housing situation in your community? I am a housing professional and would really like to help.
Answer: I don't think Olympia is much different from other cities with regards to housing and the homeless. Affordable housing is a tough find in most cities. Olympia is finally addressing this issue, but change comes slowly.
Question: Do all Washington state residents hate Californians?
Answer: No, not at all. This was all tongue in cheek -- we just don't want to see millions move up here.
Question: I read that Olympia, Washington crime is well above national and state averages, but I was thinking of moving there with my son. Is that crime really that bad?
Answer: I wasn't aware of those statistics. Honestly, if crime is that bad here, I haven't noticed it. It surely isn't something we talk about as an epidemic or anything. Vandalism is about the worst thing most of us run into.