Seattle, heat waves, weather and empathy

Lindley, a fat white woman with sunglasses and a purple swimsuit top, is shown from below holding her hair up and smiling at the camera.

The Pacific Northwest is heading into an extraordinary weather event, where Seattle could reach 104 degrees for at least two days in a row, and Portland, 109 degrees. The dry eastern side of Washington state could reach 114 degrees.

Like two-thirds of Seattle, we don’t have air conditioning, but we’re lucky and privileged enough to have a basement, so we’ll be spending our time there.

It seems quite ridiculous that two-thirds of Seattle doesn’t have air conditioning. I was pretty shocked when we moved here from the mid-Atlantic region of the east coast, where a/c is extremely common, and discovered that fact.

The reason is simple: Until the last few years, it just wasn’t needed.

We’re not Arizona. Here on the wet side of Washington state, the weather challenge has been nine months a year of gloom. (And being a few hundred years overdue for a major earthquake.) This whole heat and wildfire thing is simply new.

I have to admit that I’m dreading a bit the impending wave of smug posts and comments from people in other parts of the country, the same wave that happens whenever any part of the United States gets unusual amounts of snow, or cold, or heat, or drought, or flooding (but especially snow).

Why do we feel the need to make fun of other people when they encounter weather difficulties?

Why do we feel the need to be loudly smug about our own choices while tearing others’ down?

Why do we assume that every municipality in the U.S. should be prepared for every single possible weather condition? (If nothing else, where do we think that money would come from?)

Why do we use other people’s catastrophes to build ourselves up?

The last time I spoke about this, a couple of years ago when Seattle got an unusual amount of snow, I lost a few friends who couldn’t stand the thought of not sneering at other people and other people’s choices.

It seemed ridiculous to them that Seattle should be so ill-prepared for an amount of snow that would be no big deal in places that get a lot of snow, but once again, that’s the point:

We don’t get a lot of snow.

Not only is there no point in investing a ton of money into snow-removal equipment in an area where feet of snow at a time is so rare that my neighbors were trying to dig out their driveway with garden shovels, it’s so hilly here that many of the roads can’t be plowed anyway. The snowplows will slide and hit parked cars, and slide down steep hills into active traffic.

I wouldn’t know how to handle Las Vegas’ summer heat, but Las Vegans do. I wouldn’t know how to handle Minnesota snow or Chicago cold or Florida’s swampy air, but people in those places do.

People in those places wouldn’t know how to handle 308 gloomy days per year, but here in Seattle we do. (The answer is full-spectrum lights and coffee. So very much coffee.)

Choose to be kind when people who aren’t you go through extreme weather events. Choose to trust that other people understand the priorities of their geographic regions better than you do. Listen to them. Empathize.

It would be wonderful to go through the next week without seeing a single person tearing down people in other geographic regions to build themselves up.

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Image description: Lindley, a fat white woman with sunglasses and a purple swimsuit top, is shown from below holding her hair up and smiling at the camera. End image description.

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Hi there! I'm Lindley. I create artwork that celebrates the unique beauty of bodies that fall outside conventional "beauty" standards at Body Liberation Photography. I'm also the creator of Body Liberation Stock and the Body Love Shop, a curated central resource for body-friendly artwork and products. Find all my work here at bodyliberationphotos.com.