Free Cheap Tuition, and 9 Other Reasons You REALLY Know Atlanta Is Not Seattle...

Joe Williams
It's been three months since I first arrived in Seattle, and though I'm foaming at the mouth to stay in the Northwest, my education calls. It's a bittersweet departure: I'm not looking forward to 95-degree heat, but I'll be binge-eating Chick-fil-a chicken biscuits for two weeks, so it's a trade-off. My first impression of Seattle was a lot to soak in, but now that I've had a chance to romp around and deplete my checking account, the comparisons are more abundant than ever. Those looking to relocate, take notes.

10. Walk it off.

One of my favorite things about Seattle is how walkable it is. I've gotten by without a car for three months, which I could hardly do for three hours at home. I'd starve to death. Besides the occasional $2.50 splurge for a bus--and one comped taxi ride--I've been everywhere from the Space Needle and SoDo to Fremont and Capitol Hill, propelled by nothing more than my two feet. Plus, it's really nice not having to obsess over rising gas prices.

9. I want meat, not rabbit food.

That being said, trying to find a bite to eat at anything other than a bar after a concert or Mariners game is next to impossible. Hit up Atlanta on a weekend after midnight and you'll probably still be in rush-hour traffic ... but at least there are still people. Downtown Seattle shuts down before my grandparents do. I walked down and around Pike Street after the U2 concert at 11:30 p.m. on a Saturday night and had to eventually settle on Subway because I was told "Sorry, the kitchen's closed" at four different places.

8. Yeah, it rains.

Being a city that's notorious for rain and gloom, I'm surprised by how many battles still take place over the weather patterns. Some love it, and others "wanted to put a gun in their mouth," as my friend so lightly put it. From what I've experienced, it's an acquired taste. I don't particularly care if it's bright and shiny outside, so Seattle has suited me well. But if you're expecting L.A. weather seven days a week, you're in for a rude awakening. The way I see it, you might get six days of rain in Seattle, but that one day of sunshine is more clear and crisp than six days of sunshine in Atlanta.

7. Spare some change?

A big part of any city are the homeless. It's inescapable. I suppose the difference is how they go about getting their money. In Atlanta, I've been nearly assaulted for the jingle in my pocket. Here, however, you're likely to get a riveting bucket-drum performance or a witty sign. (We won't count the time I was stalked by a man in Pioneer Square for refusing to buy his little crinkled bag of weed.) My favorite sign so far: "Why lie? I need money to get high." Honesty pays off.

6. Mmmm . . . room temperature

What do you people have against ice? As someone raised in the Bible belt, I consider it only natural to order a soda or water and have it come with chunks of cold goodness. This is such a normal thing that if I'm getting a drink to go, I always specify "no ice," as to not water it down on my drive home. But Seattle? Nope. I can't count the amount of times that I've had to ask my server to bring me a side of ice to help the room-temperature water go down.

5. Don't talk to me.

When I was doing research to see what others considered to be major differences between Seattle and Atlanta, something that popped up repeatedly was the "reserved nature" of those living in Seattle. Many thought it "stuck up" and "unfriendly," compared to the "wave at your neighbor" mentality of the South. I tend to disagree. I'd much prefer a casual nod to the person I'm standing in line with at the ATM than an artificial five-minute conversation about God knows what. I've been greeted by many strangers around the city, and it always seems very genuine. When you receive a hearty "Good morning!" here, it means something. I like that.

4. Feed the hungry . . . jerk.

Being "reserved" doesn't get you very far, though. Try getting within 200 yards of Pike Place Market at lunch time without being hassled to sponsor a child, donate to the Red Cross, or support Planned Parenthood by a person wearing a canvas. The causes themselves are wonderful, and I tip my hat to anyone who is able to give. But as someone who has to count their quarters, I don't appreciate being bombarded five times by the same organization in a quarter-mile walk. It's one thing to ask politely. It's another to make snide comments when you pass by. That doesn't help the cause, and it certainly doesn't make me want to slow down the next time I see you. "Oh, not interested? I guess not every child deserves food."

3. Men in dresses.

I can't imagine a more open-minded city than Seattle. On my walk home from work, I pass a dildo shop, a store that specializes in all things Wiccan, and a massive church sporting a rainbow flag. There's a homeless man who walks around 15th Avenue with a pink dress. It's unbelievably refreshing. "You bought a cauldron and a raven? That's wonderful. Good for you."

2. That looks like motor oil.

The all-encompassing acceptance ends when you hit a bar. I'm not a big beer guy, so if what you're drinking looks like it came out of my car, I'm just not interested. In Atlanta, asking for Bud Light is like voting Republican. It's a widely accepted thing. In Seattle, not so much. I once went to a bar with a friend and was just short of humiliated when I asked for a Bud Light. I didn't tip.

1. Free Cheaper education.

Until a few months ago, students in Georgia who earned a cumulative 3.0 GPA in high school were awarded the HOPE Scholarship. In other words, free tuition and a small sum for books to almost any school in the state, paid for by the Georgia Lottery. Like everywhere else, however, times have been a bit tough. The amount we receive has been cut back a wee bit due to depleting funds, so outrage from parents and students has been through the roof. Of course, I was on the bandwagon. The HOPE Scholarship is all I've ever known. It wasn't until I got to Seattle that I found out just how lucky I've been. Students in Washington pay every penny of their education, and based on the talks I've had with co-workers, many are happy to even get accepted in the first place. (Students from out of state have to pay more, so who do you think schools go after more?) The fact a majority of my tuition is still paid for, and that students in Georgia have an incentive to stay in state, is priceless. I feel lucky to have gotten this far. Go Dawgs.

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