I lean my head against the cool window of the Link Light Rail, watching rain droplets race one another down the expanse of the glass; if I squint they look like tiny men in the foreground of Washington’s sweeping overcast sky. I’m trying to block out the chattering and giggling of my fellow Girl Scout members, but it’s not working. It’s hard to focus on feeling bitter and downtrodden with the incessant murmur concerning makeup bags and rooming decisions beside me.
My Sacramento Girl Scout Troop has finally raised enough money selling cookies to splurge on a big trip. With the amount we’d raised, we could have gone anywhere — Orlando, I suggested, or SoCal, or even just down-the-road San Francisco for the week. What does my troop choose? Seattle. Hippie-infested, Subaru-sardined, Seattle. What did the city have to offer, anyway, beside Starbucks, an ecosystem of grungy hippies, and a mountain of North Face jackets? For obvious reasons, I am not expecting much out of the trip, much less a life-altering perspective on living and travelling young.
Three days have passed, and if you placed my current self next to the sulking girl from day one, you couldn’t possibly think they are the same person. I stride alongside a few of my closest Girl Scout friends, a coffee in one hand and a souvenir bag in the other, and I swear I can feel the physical change in my demeanor — in my posture, in my speech, in my confidence — all due to my misconceptions about a place I had never even been before.
My speculations of a white-washed hipster metropolis vanish when I visit a small Chinatown dimsum and order dinner for my whole troop in Chinese, and when I purchase cultural artwork from a young Nigerian man at Pike Place Market, and when I admire a piece of Chihuly glass beside an elderly Mexican couple bickering rapidly in Spanish about a pricey non-consensual purchase of glass paperweights.
My speculations of an empty-headed, coffee-jittery population dissolve when I joke and converse with the owner of a bookstore stacked floor-to-ceiling with novels of every genre, and when I help a Seattle Aquarium assistant feed kelp to tidepool sea urchins.
My speculations all disappear when I forget my presumptions, my doubts and my negativity, my skepticism and my reluctance. Where once I sniffed in disdain at the thought of stepping foot in a world I have never laid eyes on, I now understand the cruciality of removing the foggy film of stereotypes and fear that drape themselves over the eyes. Rather than view a place in warped murkiness, I can now see clearly, not just Seattle, but any place I go. I can see its underlying beauty, its cultural diversity, its rich history, and I love it.
I lean my head against the sun-warmed window of the Link Light Rail and stare at the weathered Seattle buildings as they race by. I am glad; the rain had left early in the week and now there is nothing but picnic-worthy weather heading back to the airport. I listen to the giddy babble of my friends behind me. They won’t shut up about the aquarium’s sea otters, but it’s nice. I don’t mind it all that much. I feel a pang of longing when an airplane runway leaps into sight, but it’s hard to focus on feeling sad and unsatisfied when I look into the shopping bag beside me and catch a glimpse of the eighty thousand postcards and keychains I have bought for my friends back home, and I smile.
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