Spring was here. The sun was shining and people were out. I decided to take a walk that would begin at the corner of South Columbian Way and Beacon Avenue South, and end at Sixth Avenue South and South King Street, the location of Fort St. George, a bar. A drink or two or three (most likely) would provide the walk with a hard goal. I can't just walk for the sake of walking, which is why a treadmill is, in my mind, doubly monstrous: You're going nowhere with no goal in mind.
A long walk also cannot happen without a little treat along the way. Sometimes it is two of the supremely rich and brittle spring rolls at Fou Lee Market; other times, a few slices of barbecue pork at the deli in the Red Apple. For this walk, I decided it would be a piece of fried catfish at the Beacon Hill Shell Station.
Here is the thing if you are not in the know: This gas station serves really excellent fried foods, and at all hours of the day and night. The fried chicken is respectable, the gizzards are superb, and the fried catfish, when purchased at the right moment (no more than an hour after it's pulled out of the fryer), is exceptional. Indeed, one evening I purchased two pieces of fryer-fresh fish and was convinced that it could have been served at one of the top restaurants in the city but at six times the price—the average piece of fried catfish at the Beacon Hill Shell Station is $3.
When I entered the Shell on that spring day to pick up my walk's designated treat—which I planned to eat at the Japanese- inspired Kobe Terrace park—I was met with two aspects of its service. One, it is international, a regular United Nations of employees: Africans, Asians, Middle Easterners. Two, it is hardcore functional. You make your order and get your food with no smiles or special recognition or bumbling banter.
And this makes perfect sense, because what are you but just another customer? There was one before you, and there will be another one after you. That is the fact of the matter, and the black, brown, and beige men behind the counter, and even the ones cooking fish and chicken in the open kitchen, have no illusions about this fact. So neither should you.
Do not call it rude service, as so many pampered Seattleites have on social-media platforms. Call it service that is consistent with the reality of economic life in a city where most people work hard for very little pay.
I had my treat at the park, and the fish was warm, crispy at the edges, and succulent in the middle. Indeed, it was the kind of fried catfish you'd expect to find on your plate in an upscale dining room where all of the servers are forced (on the pain of unemployment) to give smile upon smile and small talk upon small talk to convince you of what is blatantly false: You are special because you can buy something. Crows in tall trees watched me as I ate the fish.