First Hill: Out and About

I actually got dressed before noon today. I had a lunch date with an old friend and a new friend, then other things this afternoon, then a book group in the evening. But a book I ordered was waiting for me at Elliott Bay, so I got dressed early, donned a jacket, and headed out. It was beautiful fall weather for the duration of my outing, though it was stormy overnight and stormy again later today.

I’ve long had a tendency to talk with anyone who will talk with me. My first “Hello,” “Hello,” was with a smartly dressed young gentleman walking toward town. I asked, “Who dresses you?” and he replied that he dresses himself. “Well,” I said, “you’re stunning.” He got a big smile, thanked me, and proceeded on his way. Oh, good, I thought, he’ll arrive feeling optimistic today.

My second encounter was with workers monitoring traffic outside a soon-to-be construction site. I asked what they were up to and learned that the building would soon be torn down, so they were burying all the power and phone lines on that block. Apparently, new construction often involves burying utility lines. Hooray, I thought! If I’d been more observant over the past few years I might have noticed that we are missing some of the ugliness of overhead lines where new buildings have gone up. Seattle’s newest neighborhood, South Lake Union, which is almost entirely new construction is free of the unsightly utility lines, and gradually the rest of the city is inching its way there as well. Good.

On my way home, I finally caught a a guy in action painting over graffiti. Did you know that you can buy a franchise business that signs up companies to pay you to paint over graffiti? This man had a small car with a bunch of cans of pain the back. He was holding a can in one hand and a paint roller in the other. He said that he’s paid to come once a week and work his way around the block painting over any new graffiti. “Thanks,” I said, “I’m really tired of all the graffiti, and I’m glad you’ve got a job out of this.” He said he’d gladly do some other kind of work, and I thought, yeah, I bet you would. 

Later, I chatted with another worker at the earlier construction sight. A few of them were getting paid for standing around. If you’re like me, you might have grumbled more than once about people who get paid to stand and wait. It seems like a common sight for any street or highway project. And yet, somehow, highways get built, streets get paved, and potholes get filled. So someone must be doing some work some of the time.

In this case, a small crew was waiting for a truck to pour concrete. They pour concrete around the utility lines to minimize the chances of someone cutting them by accident. But as concrete pours go, this is a tiny job in a city where trucks are lined up to pour giant foundations and other building blocks of new towers. This job had been scheduled between 10:00 and 1:00, a filler job between much larger ones, so three men were getting paid to stand and wait. 

So, just four conversations today, but all good ones. I learned things I hadn’t known already, and that’s always worthwhile. Do you chat up strangers? What do you learn?

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