Snow and a Sense of Entitlement

Every few years, Seattle gets a BIG SNOW. This year is one of them, and our fair city and its environs received between 6 inches and 2 feet of the white stuff this week. Followed by an ice storm. Fun!

When this happens, the city shuts down. Predictably people on the East Coast snort with laughter. This year, even some clueless Angelos called us wimps.

I find it perfectly reasonable to stay at home in snowy weather in Seattle. In fact, I like living someplace that sensibly deals with uncharacteristic weather by shutting down. And heck, I grew up in L.A. They shut their city down every few years for earthquakes. If those wimps can have a day off to inspect their collapsed chimneys, then we can take a snow day or three every few years.

When dealing with out-of-the-ordinary weather, especially someplace with icy roads, steep hills, relentless freeze-thaw cycles and snow-clueless drivers, it really is the safest course of action to opt out of driving. Which is why I was flabbergasted that many of my neighbors expected trash pick-up despite the weather.

Earlier this week, my neighbors debated whether or not children should be encouraged (or even allowed) to sled in the street if the big snow arrived. By the looks and sounds of it, many people decided that street sledding was a safe enough option. The children’s shrieks have been delightful to hear as they barrel down our hilly streets on all manner of toboggan, sled, trash can lid and storage tub. Would this be improved with the addition of enormous trash trucks careening down our streets in vain attempt to collect the garbage? I think not.

Some of my neighbors would beg to disagree. In fact, since they pay for garbage pick-up, they are entitled to receive it! No matter if that is safe or sensible for the drivers, their families or us. Personally, I would rather look at my full recycling can for another week or two than deal with taking our family car to the shop for repair because a trash truck slid into it. Or my injured kid to the hospital for treatment because a trash truck slid into him. Or learn that some poor trash collector lost his life trying to get home in the snow that was more treacherous outside of city limits than within it. (I am pretty certain that most trash collectors could not afford to live in my neighborhood, but that’s another story).

So, just when I was feeling all happy-glowy, cheeks red from a brisk walk, tummy warm from a mug of cocoa, I was hit with the freezing cold thought that my neighbors are really Republicans masquerading as liberals. This is a shocking thought because my neighborhood in Seattle is really left-leaning. Our representative to Congress wins by margins of 80% or greater, every time. His biggest threat in recent memory came from someone representing the Green Party. We have political objections our kids saying the Pledge of Allegiance in class. We keep bees in the backyard and compost our diapers. Seriously.

So why all the hate for Waste Management? Why the sense that they *owe* us for being unable to negotiate narrow snowy streets during the biggest storm we’ve had in several years? Are they really trying to stick it to us? Or are they simply backlogged because they really truly weren’t able to pick up trash (and recycling and yard waste) during the storm? Is it somehow OK for those of us who have jobs we can do remotely to stay home and not risk our lives driving, but all those people working in service industries are required to risk life and limb to serve us? Is this the kind of liberals that we are?

Somehow I prefer the delusion that we are the sort of people who pull together when things are out-of-the-ordinary. The sort of people who shovel each other’s walks, check on our elderly, vote to tax ourselves during a recession to preserve the quality of our schools. The sort of people I met when I was doorbelling to elect President Obama. Not these petty, finger-pointing, “Waste Management owes me” sort of neighbors.

Thankfully, I think that most of my neighbors truly are kind-hearted, community-minded folks. But to those few who have noisily been crying “foul” about the garbage collection, I would say, “Get a grip!” Take a deep breath. Put the problem in perspective. Go for a walk in the snow (Hey! You won’t have to worry about getting run over by a garbage truck!).

And if you are so concerned about your garbage, make less. I have some nice reusable grocery bags that I’d be happy to lend you.

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