My employer sent me to Seattle for the 2012 SME Annual Meeting & Exhibit; a trade show for the mining industry. This was my first time in that city. Here’s a travelogue and first impressions.
The trip didn’t get off to a good start. First, while on the jetway boarding the plane to Seattle, a woman decided to make fun of me after she apologized for bumping into me from behind. If you’re puzzled what the reason for that was, join the club. Of course she ended up sitting right next to me. Funny how polite she became after that.
Next, Alaska Airlines decided not to take my luggage on board with me. I allegedly missed an unannounced 45-minute baggage check-in deadline before takeoff. Never mind that my coworker checked his stuff in 10 minutes after I did, and still picked it up when we got here.
The ride to the hotel was in a company-provided limo, and in darkness, but I was struck by the silhouettes of spruce/fir trees as we drove. That isn’t seen in Tucson. When we arrived I discovered that somebody else was already in our room. That wasn’t supposed to be the case, so the hotel had to call security and assign us to another room. That was followed by dinner with company personnel at the hotel restaurant (overpriced, but good). This instigated my first serious case of “gut rot”. I’m highly sensitive to changes in my diet and eating schedule.
The next day we set up our booth at the convention, and had little to do until the grand opening reception at 5:00 pm that evening. Set-up was uneventful, but for one interesting occurence. We had borrowed our hotel’s rolling cart to move the boxes with our booth display up from the hotel to the convention center. We approached a set of double doors, manned by an officious trade show employee with sunglasses. She demanded to see convention badges, which we showed. One of the two double-doors was open, and my co-worker opened the other so we could fit the cart through. The door guard promptly closed it, saying “excuse me sir, but this is a union door; this has to stay closed”. We all looked at eachother: “union door”? We were apparently interfering with some sort of labor agreement; her job was to stand at the door, checking badges and opening and closing it.
The reception was short and sweet. Having worn the same clothes for 24 hours at that point, I felt a bit scrubby, and was happy to be off work. I met some friends and went out on the town with them. Seeing so many locals for the first time, one thing that struck me was how many simply looked like they were from the Pacific Northwest. Knit caps, flannel or hiking jackets, jeans, boots, etc. The North Face apparel was almost ubiquitous (full disclosure: I use a The North Face backpack). This was right in downtown Seattle, but even there the stereotype was partly true. My bag was waiting for me when I got back to the hotel.
The next day (Monday) the convention opened at 11:00; this marked the real start of the event. Hundreds of vendors and service providers had booths filling the fourth floor of the Washington State Convention Center. My job there was to alternate between manning our company’s booth, and walking around networking and getting the word out there. In parallel, I also did my own networking, learning about the industry and looking for career opportunities.
Following that, I rejoined some friends to eat at Seastar. After that we visited the Space Needle, but thanks to poor planning we ended up with about five minutes on the upper platform before closing time.
Tuesday was uneventful; pretty much a repeat of Monday.
On Wednesday the convention closed at 12:00. After an hour spent in line at FedEx to ship out our booth materials, we were done for the day. I decided to take care of some interesting business: getting a Washington state concealed pistol permit. Despite being a shall-issue state with good firearms freedom, Washington is not one of the 36 other states that honor the Arizona permit. But Washington does issue non-resident permits. The application process was quick and perfunctory. I filled out a two-page form, signed the future permit card, and went in the back to get fingerprints taken. No classes or proof of any training or proficiency was required. Arizona’s permit requires an eight-hour class that includes a target shooting test. According to Washington’s reciprocity website, Arizona’s permit is not honored because Arizona has “no mandatory mental health background check”. That doesn’t sound right, because Arizona’s permit requirements specifically state that an applicant is qualified if, among other things, he “does not suffer from mental illness and has not been adjudicated mentally incompetent or committed to a mental institution”. This implies that a mental background check is done in Arizona, though the language doesn’t prescribe that explicitly. It’s all weird and confusing, but a moot issue when my Washington permit comes in the mail in the next 60 days.
I walked around downtown Seattle enough to form a few first impressions:
- The architecture here is typical drab city stuff. It doesn’t help that (until today) there was almost constant cloud cover, rendering everything even more drab than usual. Or maybe the cloud cover is usual; I don’t know.
- It’s wet enough that moss grows on the surfaces of sidewalks, even where people walk.
- There’s more than one Starbucks in a typical downtown block.
- Beggars everywhere. Unlike back home, these guys are quite well dressed.
Would I live there? Didn’t see enough to decide on that alone. The downtown area wasn’t different from other big-city downtowns I’ve been to. If the opportunity arises, I’ll rely on the opinions of friends who have lived there.