THE UNSPORTING conduct of passersby during last week's attempted Ship Canal Bridge suicide drew predictable comment on the myth of Polite Seattle. Some global observers speculated it was something in our rain that made us boo a bridge jumper; the BBC Online asked if there was still civilization on the shores of Elliott Bay.
We were reported to be peering into "the soul of our city" and asking if life had changed in kindly Seattle (an Indian word apparently meaning "Have a wonderful day!").
Nice? Seattle? The former hangout of Ted Bundy and the Green River Killer? The place where 13 people were murdered one by one in a Chinatown club? Where Ed Pratt, the Martin Luther King of the Northwest, was slain by white gunmen?
Seattle? The place that loathes the homeless but loves tourists? Where world-class road rage is exceeded only by record-breaking bank robberies? Where racism is something that our Negroes bring up from time to time?
Most Seattleites know we're little different from other large cities. They laugh at the media's shallowness in defining what the city is—the work of writers who never leave the office. (Journalists who perpetuate the "polite" myth should spend a day on the police beat poring over reports of the niceties that leave our neighbors with split heads.)
The Ship Canal jumper was supposedly our impoliteness milestone. Our mantra "Can I help you?" was suddenly supplanted by "Jump, bitch, jump!" No matter that no one knows who or how many razzed the woman at the bridge railing. Someone said someone said it—enough for an indictment.
I first heard "Jump!" yelled to a man standing on the ledge of a downtown building at least 25 years ago (he climbed down). I've heard it many times since, including last year as I stood under the Aurora Bridge watching a woman who, still talking with police, stepped back into the air and fell like a refrigerator (she survived). One irritated onlooker, a nearby property owner, said he was "sick of these people. Two of them have come through my roof."
It's simple: Some of us are nice, others aren't. I've found that in New York and in Boise. Seattle has no edge on amiability and never did.
If you don't believe me, then go fuck yourself.