Eight Things I Hate About Olympia, Washington (My Hometown)
I have a love-hate relationship with the city I live in, Olympia, Washington. I moved here in 1990, completely torn apart from my moorings, fresh from a divorce and looking for a new start. I found that start in a new teaching job in Olympia and although the teaching job is no longer I still remain in what I now consider my hometown.
When I first arrived I was enthralled by the city; nestled between the Cascade Mountain Range and the Olympic Mountain Range and hugging the shorelines of the inland sea we call Puget Sound, it was easy to fall in love with the beautiful natural scenery and the eclectic mix of its inhabitants. Having come from a much larger city (Tacome, population 150,000 at that time) I was thrilled with the small town atmosphere and the laid-back feel to the capitol city.
Now, twenty years later, the bloom is off the rose; in fact, the whole damn rose is shriveling and starting to get a musty smell to it. I suspect that most of the problems now faced by Olympia are related to the population increase that has happened in the last twenty years.
2011 estimate* 46,780
2010 census 46,478
2000 census 42,514
1990 census 33,729
As you can see, we seem to be experiencing some serious growth while other parts of the country couldn’t hold onto their citizens with a lasso and an offer of free beer for life. My suspicions are that most of the influx in population is coming from Southern California. Truthfully, who can blame them? When smog is your greatest export you have some serious issues that can only be masked by glitter for so long.
The population spurt in Olympia reminds me of a pre-teen who suddenly grows six inches over one summer. All of a sudden the pants don’t fit, the voice changes from baritone to soprano and a walk to the park involves tripping eighteen times on cracks in the sidewalk that do not exist. That, in a nutshell, is Olympia in the year 2012.
Without further delay I give you my list of Eight Things I Hate About Olympia,Washington. The list, by the way, is in no particular order. There are only eight items listed instead of the five or ten you see on most lists. Why? I guess because I am, and always have been, just a little bit different.
STATE LEGISLATORS….this distinguished group of men and women drop by for six months each year for a howdy and a cup of coffee. During their stay they worsen the already congested traffic situation, pass legislation that makes life harder for every citizen in the state and, pounding the last nail in the coffin, they get paid for it from our tax dollars. No further explanation is needed to justify their place on my list.
CAR AND TRUCK DRIVERS….the concept of traffic laws is a foreign one to those who travel our decaying road system. Stop signs simply mean slow down; turn signals are silly little levers on the steering column that hold a cell phone attached by a strap. Mirrors are for applying makeup and combing one’s hair and everyone is quite adept (or so they think) at steering with knees while talking on the aforementioned cell phones. The crowning glory of their driving ineptitude is the ability to get angry at anyone who dares to actually follow the traffic laws.
EVERGREEN COLLEGE STUDENTS….this one may seem a bit strange at first but hear me out. Evergreen State College tries very hard to live up to its reputation of being a very Liberal college; the professors and students all look like they just stepped out of a time machine from the 60s, and body hygiene is actually looked down upon because deodorant and name brand soaps are not “natural.” Seriously, though, I have no problem with that; I went to college in the 60s and I remember smelling so bad the neighbors thought there was a toxic waste spill. No, my problem is the half-hearted attempts at protesting that this college and its students do daily. Drive through downtown Olympia on any day and you will always see little groups of students, five to ten in number, with their signs protesting whatever issue is popular that day, and therein lies my problem: five or ten students does not make a protest! It makes a darn good sewing club or two sides for basketball, but a protest it is not. March 20,000 strong down the freeway and then we’ll chat about a protest and I might, just might, be willing to overlook their hygiene.
INTERSTATE 5….in November of 1969 the final section of Interstate 5 was completed and the day that happened it was outdated and too small to handle the growing traffic numbers along Puget Sound. It has only gotten worse since that day. Why is an interstate highway on my list? Simply because the overblown chunk of concrete runs right through the heart of Olympia. Two problems with that: one, if you want to sit outside on a lovely summer evening and listen to the frogs croak forget about it; all you can hear are the thousands of cars rushing by the city. Two, if an accident should occur on I-5, and that only happens once or twice an hour, all traffic is diverted to the roads of Olympia, meaning a five-minute trip to get milk will require packing provisions for a trip on the scale of the Oregon Trail journey. Have I mentioned lately that I hate car and truck drivers in Olympia? You should catch their act when traffic backs up and they are late for their non-fat latte at Starbucks!
PEOPLE WHO USE UMBRELLAS….we live in Olympia, Washington, on the western side of the Cascade Mountains, recipients of some ungodly rainfalls during the year. In a good year we will have eighty sunny days; for those of you who are math-challenged that means that it is cloudy in our fair city 285 days per year and many of those days it rains. Anyone who has lived here for a few years becomes accustomed to raindrops pelting our skulls and drenching our clothes and we take a perverse pride in living through those conditions without having the urge to kill anyone. We do not use umbrellas if we are natives and if you use an umbrella that means you are from California and for that reason you have made my list.
SUV DRIVERS….why do you need a SUV in Olympia, Washington? Are you planning on doing some serious off-road driving on the way to the food co-op? Maybe you need to traverse a river while taking the kids to daycare? Does it really require 4,000 pounds of steel to drive little Johnny to his soccer game? The citizens of Olympia love to tell the world how Liberal they are and yet they can’t wait to deplete the world’s oil supply by pulling in at the nearest Arco and filling up their tank with sixty gallons of Premium gasoline. Anyone silly enough to ride a bicycle in Olympia is placing their lives in jeopardy because the SUVs need the entire lane plus the bike lane to maneuver. And speaking of bicycle riders…..
BICYCLE RIDERS….there are designated bicycle lanes all over this city and I have no problem with that; if they are deranged enough to risk their lives then I say more power to them. But when did it become okay to ride the bike in the traffic lanes? A bicycle travelling at five miles per hour should not be in the twenty-five mph lane slowing me up as I weave in-between Hummers. I wonder if it would be alright with the bike riders if I drove my Geo Tracker in their bike lanes? Make a game out of it and award a certain number of points if I can push them into the hedge or send them flying over the neighbor’s white picket fence. Maybe they could get a group of five friends together and hold a protest!
STARBUCKS….I’m sure you think I’m going to start in on a rant about the coffee beans being picked by underpaid workers in Third World countries and the unfairness of it all, but you would be wrong. A few years back the CEO of Starbucks, one Howard Schultz, sold the Seattle Supersonics to a buyer from Oklahoma City and the team was subsequently moved to Oklahoma, leaving this region without a professional basketball team for the first time in forty years. I will not shop at Starbucks and yes, I do hold grudges. It’s not like I can’t find a vanilla mocha if I don’t shop at Starbucks; there is a little barista place on practically every corner in Olympia because all those SUV drivers need their caffeine fix before four-wheeling it over the rugged paved roads of our city.
So there you have my list. I could go on and on but I need to leave early for an appointment and it takes quite awhile to get across town when I’m driving behind a bike rider and nudging them occasionally with my bumper; I also get delayed when I slow up to laugh at the Californians with umbrellas who are protesting the lack of sunshine. I may complain a lot but that doesn’t mean I don’t have fun at the same time.
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