Seattle Freeze – Michelle Phan

After finally setting the last box down, I let out a sigh of relief and, as Ellie would put it, collapsed dramatically on the floor. It was my own fault for making the move alone, but I really didn’t feel comfortable asking Ellie. What would that conversation even look like, anyway? “Hey Ellie, do you mind helping me move? I know I’m moving hundreds of miles from my home and leaving you, my very best friend behind, but you don’t mind, do you?” I shuddered at the thought of it. Ellie and I had a couple heart to hearts prior to my move, but nothing that really resolved our feelings. Besides, I was definitely expecting Seattle to be friendlier. Back home, people jump at the chance to help their neighbors. It’s just the right thing to do. Here in Seattle, no one said a word. They didn’t even stare or acknowledge my presence. It was like I wasn’t even there. Sure, in Tribec everyone knew my name, so it made more sense that they’d say hello, but still, being polite to strangers is the Tribec way. I finally sat up, my stomach rumbling, and decided to order a pizza.  

“Hi, I’d like to order a pizza, please!” I said cheerfully. 

“Sure. What’ll it be.” The voice was gruffer than I expected, but I went on anyway. 

“Well, I’ve never ordered from here before. What’s good?” 

“Ma’am, this is a pizza joint, not a four star restaurant. Either order something or hang up. You’re holding up the line.” 

“Um, I guess I’ll just have a pepperoni pizza.” I was already disappointed. My first Seattle interaction and this guy was kind of awful. “My address is 16451 E Laney Dr 99801.” 

“Ok, you wanna– “ he paused for a second and I heard the tapping sounds of a plastic keyboard. “Ma’am this address is in Tribec, Alaska. We don’t deliver to- is this another prank call? You kids better quit before-” 

“Oh, I’m sorry, that’s my old address! Just one second while I find my new one. Hmm, where did I set it?” I looked around at the boxes and everything suddenly felt real. Too real. I felt tears begin to well up in my eyes and a knot rise in my stomach. I started fumbling around, trying to find where I’d written down my address, when the man on the line spoke. 

“Look, ma’am, I really don’t have time for this. Call back when you’ve got an address.” 

“Wait, wait! I found it!” Relieved, I read him the address. When I hung up the phone, the sight of my piling boxes overwhelmed me again. I sat back down on the floor, tears already flooding my eyes. Why had I done this? Had I made a huge mistake? I left my family and my friends and my entire life and for what? This city where the people were horrible and I was all alone? I’d never lived on my own before. I’d moved out of my house and into an apartment with Ellie. Ellie! She’d know just what to say. So I wiped my tears and called her. 

“Ellie! You’ll never believe this. The people here aren’t very nice! I moved my entire life into this apartment and not a single soul offered to help! Remember when we moved into our apartment and the Johnsons carried basically everything? Definitely not like that here. And the pizza guy! He couldn’t have cared less what I was saying! All I wanted was-” 

“Well what’d you expect, Charlie,” Ellie replied shortly. “It’s Seattle.” 

“Well I know.”
“There’s a reason they call it the Seattle freeze.” 

“Yeah but-” 

“Look, Charlie, I’ve gotta get going. We’ll talk later.” Ellie hung up the phone abruptly, and I felt a knot rise in my stomach. Why was she so mad at me? I mean I knew this move wasn’t going to be easy for her, but I thought she’d at least be supportive. I felt tears rise behind my eyes again just as there was a knock on the door. I opened the door to a pizza delivery guy, holding a box of what I could only assume was my very small pizza. 

“That’ll be $19.20, please,” he mumbled, holding the box out towards me. 

I tried to hide my astonishment as I grabbed my wallet. $19.20 for this little thing? Outrageous. As soon as I handed him the money, he bolted, not offering so much as a thanks. Not feeling very hungry anymore, I dropped the pizza on the countertop and headed out the door, determined to find something to love about Seattle.  

Outside it had just begun raining, and it suddenly felt like home. The street lights shone through the rain, and delicious smells filled the air as the local restaurants began their dinner rush. I wandered down the street, peering into a couple shops. My hair was drenched and my feet cold, but suddenly Seattle didn’t feel so awful anymore. I turned my head slightly to see a cute pair of boots in a boutique window, when I ran into someone, their shoulder knocking into my cheek. Expecting an apology, I looked up. 

“Hey! Watch where you’re going!” The man pushed past me, clearly annoyed. My cheek stung, bringing me right back down to reality. Disappointed, I kept wandering, not sure what I was looking for. Seattle wasn’t very great. Why had I moved here? All three of the interactions I’d had were far from positive, and I honestly didn’t expect much more. Had I really left a comfortable life with my best friend in my hometown for this? For strangers to yell at me on the street and pizza guys to be annoyed at nothing towards me? I felt the knot rise in my stomach again. Just as I was about to turn around and go home, a familiar voice called out to me. 

“Hey, Charlie, is that you?” 

I turned around to see Kara Peterson, a girl from my high school, waving at me. Her friendly face almost making me cry. “Kara? Is that you?” 

“What are you doing here? I definitely didn’t expect to see anyone from Tribec High here, much less you,” Kara laughed. 

“I just moved here. I got a job, actually.” I smiled. “Wait, what are you doing here? I heard that you went to live with your dad after your folks split up.” 

“Yep! My dad’s originally from Seattle, so this is where we ended up! How’s your move been so far?”
“Actually pretty rough,” I admitted. “People are kinda harsh here.” 

“I know. You’ll get used to it. It’s actually kinda nice not having to make conversation with everyone you run into, like you do back home. Where are you staying?” 

“Right over there,” I pointed to my apartment building down the street. As I turned back to her, the rain started coming down in heavy sheets. Now this was home. “I haven’t even started unpacking yet.”
“Well, let’s go!” Kara grabbed my hand and pulled me with her. We ran through the rain all the way back to my building. Rushing through the doors, we stopped to catch our breath in the lobby. For the first time since my move, I felt strangely calm.