Not Confusing at All

There’s a song by the Emerald City Jug Band that our friend Drew played us when we were first planning to move here. It’s called “Don’t Come to Seattle,” and it’s all about how unwelcome new arrivals to the area are. Is that how locals (most of whom also started life elsewhere) really feel about newcomers? If they do, you can’t blame them–more people are moving here now than at any time since the Gold Rush.

I don’t believe new people truly are unwelcome, at least not in Snohomish, which despite severe economic pressure to turn itself into a far suburb of Seattle and Redmond remains a charming old-style small town. And people in Washington seem to be unfailingly friendly, warm, and generally happy–there must be Prozac in the water, Drew says.

So perhaps there’s some other explanation I can’t think of for the way streets and places are named around here which seems deliberately intended to confuse people and send them off in the wrong direction. Bill and I have encountered this phenomenon so many times we’ve developed a ritual around it.

Me: “That’s not confusing!”

Him: “Not at all.”

Take Second Street (not 2nd Street) in Snohomish. Logically enough, that’s a long street that runs parallel to the Snohomish River and is between First and Third Streets in the old part of town. West of Ludwig Road, it’s called Riverview Road, and it runs right along the river, at some point changing its name to Rivershore Road. (That’s not confusing! Not at all.)

Going east, from Ludwig Road through most of Snohomish, it’s called Second Street, then the same road, without turning, changes into 92nd Street, and a bit further, still without turning, becomes 88th Street. One result is that if you’re driving east on Route 2 and want to go into Snohomish, you have to take the 88th Street exit which puts you onto 92nd Street. That’s not confusing either.

In Seattle, it’s even worse. Everyone knows the mnemonic for the names of Seattle’s major thoroughfares–Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Protest–but can’t recite the names of the streets those letters stand for. And did I mention that each of these letters stands for not one street but two–Jefferson and James, Cherry and Columbia, Marion and Madison…you get the idea. Are you confused yet? I certainly am.

Even the Seahawks, who personify their city in so many ways, are in on this. Wilson successfully passed to Willson during their last playoff game this season. But here’s my favorite of them all:

In Monroe, the next town east of here, is Tye Lake, a man-made lake stocked with plenty of fish and set up for family recreation. In Concrete, about 80 miles further east and north, is Lake Tyee, a much larger lake with an RV community along its shores. Were both were named for the surveyor William Francis Tye, who laid out the railroad line across Stevens Pass? Who knows?

All I can say is this:

That’s not confusing!

Not at all.

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