Seattle is the focus of the latest refinery29 series “Money Diaries,” where real women write in to tell the world about how they live and how they spend day-to-day for one week. Sounds like a cool premise. But don't get your hopes up, as they're all bafflingly disconnected. You can read the one about an LA woman who thinks spending $5,000 on a purse is ludicrous but $2,000 is okay. Or literally any of the other ones since they're all mind-numbingly similar. This most recent one—a week in Seattle from a tech worker who makes $240,000 a year—doesn’t hit the spot for me either.
Within this week we spend with her, the narrator takes us on a journey into the inner workings of her tech job (disclaimer: she buys two Coke Cherry Zeros one day), she prepares some meals, and her out-of-town mom comes to visit. It’s highly underwhelming. It’s also really fucking annoying for some reason.
The heroine of our one week in Seattle story remains anonymous throughout. As does her employer. But, upon researching Herkimer coffee locations where she allegedly frequents (there are three total), and after reading the first line of her Money Diary, something felt fishy.
7 a.m. — I wake up feeling great.
First off, no you didn’t.
Second, I caught the Whole Foods name drop and that subtle plug for the Amazon Go store she visits with her mom:
I take her to the Amazon Go store because it's awesome
Maybe this lady is real, or maybe she’s just another face built by Amazon to show us that life is Good and Great over in South Lake Union, and that no one works in a cage. Now that your bullshit meters are calibrated, let’s dive in.
According to the headline, this woman makes $240,000 a year, has no student loans, and a wealth of stock options. For the tech community, maybe this article rings true. Maybe the day-to-day experience is as laid back as hers.
Most of my calls are in the evening or early morning, and I operate more or less autonomously at work, so taking an afternoon off to enjoy another beautiful day is no big deal. I order the usual drip on my way in, then work until around noon. $2.50
I make a lot of money, but I try to live like I don't. I cook most of my own meals, I shop at Zara or stores with similar price points, and have neither a car nor a personal trainer. Being relatively thrifty and saving most of my money lets me occasionally splurge on nice things without having to account for them, and more importantly, without having to feel guilty. I walk to Pike Place Market and have lunch at Sushi Kashiba. $80
Wait, one more time:
I make a lot of money, but I try to live like I don’t... I walk to Pike Place Market and have lunch at Sushi Kashiba. $80.
Let’s humor this piece for a second as if it’s real. This laid out, itemized receipt of a breezy Seattle tech job rubs me the wrong way. It probably rubs a lot of Seattleites the wrong way. There’s enough of a divide between South Lake Union and the Rest of the World already; you can look at those Amazon Spheres but you cannot take a peek inside (unless you’re scheduling a tour for a Saturday far in the future, of course). This essay vaults that experience up another level.
Yes, it’s slightly annoying to hear about someone else’s success. Will I ever earn $240,000 annually at The Stranger? Fat chance. But, whatever. That's not what gets my goat. The issue I take with this piece is that this woman who, from what I can tell, lives on the border of South Lake Union and Lower Queen Anne, does not consider herself a Seattleite.
Sure, maybe she does on paper. But the way she talks about the city and her life reads like it was written by someone who has only studied Seattle or at least seen it on an episode of some show, like the narrator references.
This is apparent in her disconnect—the narrator goes around a Pike Place Market that she describes as “an absolute joy” on a beautiful summer day. Those aren't quite the words I'd use to describe that experience. Picture a throng of tourists so impenetrable you seek out the stench of the fresh fish section, just so you have some room to breathe.
Though a self-proclaimed “foodie,” the woman references how she’s always been meaning to try Ivar’s Salmon House. How long has she been here? At least a year. That just feels like a step one, elementary Seattle thing to me.
She talks about the weather—sun! No clouds!—and was here last year for All That Smoke Part One. She travels across downtown neighborhoods to local "foodie spots" that she frequents, so at least she’s explored outside of the SLU bubble. She even graces Snoqualmie with her presence. Throughout her days and her excursions there is not one mention of transit.
Aside from her morning walks to the office, the woman Ubers everywhere. She even Ubers home from the office. She Uber Eatses (is this a verb yet?) herself some boba. She counterintuitively Ubers through downtown Seattle to beat the traffic:
Downtown Seattle is busy enough—especially on the weekends—that it's a lot easier to take Ubers than it is to rent a car and drive. In four and a half hours we hit up the Space Needle, aquarium, and the MoPOP. $8
Her Snoqualmie adventure requires a car rental (from ReachNow in a BMW), but aside from that it’s all Uber all the time with this one. Not even an occasional Lyft!
This may be being nitpicky, this may be the most outrageous thing to get annoyed about, but how can you truly know somewhere if you rarely have to think about getting around? I think the best way to feel at home in a city, even if you’re there for a smattering of days, is to take public transit. That’s how I learned Seattle. That’s how I felt like I was a part of the city. Sitting on a bus, pressed up against the wall to avoid manspreading, with the rest of the commuting public is crucial to living in a city. How can you call yourself a Seattleite if you've never locked eyes with your fellow passengers about whether you all should intervene when there's a nuisance on the bus or someone's about to throw fists? It's a verifiable rite of passage when you both look away and decide to do nothing except sit in uncomfortable silence until someone else intervenes or things just work themselves out naturally.
I don’t care about this woman's $240k, her stock options, the fact that her jean skirt was too hard to walk uphill from South Lake Union to Lower Queen Anne in, or that she may be a fake person constructed by Amazon’s marketing team. I care that this illustrates the divide between residents of Seattle—some people live here, others just work here.
An earlier version of this post stated that Sushi Kashiba didn't have a lunch menu and wasn't that expensive. Sushi Kashiba added a lunch menu in June that has set plates that range from $40-50. Ludicrous.