The Seattle Times ran a story recently about how people in the Pacific Northwest loved the winter weather and eschewed umbrellas. “Locals love (or at least like) Seattle’s rainy, gloomy weather survey shows,” the headline read.
The poll went far beyond Seattle, though, to include households in Washington and Oregon generally, where the weather is variable, wet and dry. When asked about the climate where they live, 73 percent of people in the two states ranked the climate as a five or better on a scale of one to seven. So, pretty content with it.
When it comes to rain, 53 percent in the region ranked it positively in terms of amount and type of rain—but only 45 percent did so in soggy Western Washington. More folks in Eastern Washington felt positively about the rain, probably because they see so much less of it: 65 percent. In dry Eastern Oregon, people rated the rain even higher with 67 percent feeling positive.
In other words, it wasn’t Seattleites jumping up and down about the rain, it was people from often-parched country.
When asked about whether there were ever prolonged bouts of gloomy weather where they lived, 86 percent of Western Washington inhabitants said yes. Which makes you wonder about the 19 percent who said “No.” These, perhaps, are the sunbirds who spent winters in Palm Springs or Hawaii. But you would think they, of all people, would acknowledge that such periods exist. These people are never to be trusted: they are reality avoiders.
What do folks do to counteract the gloom? Fifty-three percent of the men in Washington said nothing—which is perhaps why a minority like the rain. Women in Washington and Oregon do more to counteract the winter blahs—with more than a quarter of them taking supplements or medications for it.
Lastly, the survey asked about umbrella use, which has been much discussed. I am anti-umbrella, as readers of Seattle magazine know, though I have moderated my stance to acknowledge that there are some people who need one sometimes. But huge pluralities of Northwesterners reject the umbrella! Forty-six percent maintain they never use one—that’s almost half. Another 21 percent use them very rarely. Only 4 percent say they always use one—presumably always in the rain, but I suppose some in the sun-drenched reaches of the region might use them for shade, though I have never seen a wheat rancher use a parasol. A seed cap will do.
To me the survey is mostly unsurprising. I also think attitudes might vary in terms of when you are asked. At the end of last August, people found relief in the dispersal of wildfire smoke and more fresh air and clouds. That might make you pick a seven. At the end of March, the denial that we have stretches of gloom might sink to a low. And of course, poll results vary. They are snapshots, not stone engravings.
As the climate shifts, it’ll be interesting to see how attitudes change. They didn’t ask, but I find myself annoyed with folks who plant palm trees in Seattle, some seemingly in anticipation of drier times ahead. I would rate that a seven on my irritation scale, but for some it’s the possibility of a California climate ahead where sunbirding to the desert or the tropics is no longer necessary. Umbrellas might become a relic unknown to your grandkids. Bumbershoot might have to change its name to “Palm Frond.”