It was just after 12, and I quietly sat in the Mattress Factory, taking in the scent of macaroni and cheese while “Take a Walk” by Passion Pit thumped away in the background. The summer-like, almost carnival-esque start to the song seemed to plead I stick around. The “to hell with it” feel of the lyrics chimed in concurrence. The sun was out, making my lazy insistence on wearing sunglasses indoors a bit more credible. Faux prescription Wayfarers, black Hawaiian shirt, patchwork madras jacket, grey pants, and my prematurely worn grey chukka boots: an outfit I couldn’t help but feel made me look like a contemporary gonzo journalist. Of course, my occasional tapping away at my laptop as I start this article on a meta scene-setting only adds to this impression. Suddenly self-conscious, my eyes darted to and fro behind the dark lenses as I checked to make sure no one was watching me.
I can’t say I was reluctant to give the Student Activities Board speed-friending event a whack, it’s just that I was rather cynical that whatever connections that were made would fall apart the instant the event was over. This is Washington after all—a place where asking for a self-declared friend to hang out with you is responded with a look as if you have just informed them that their mother is pregnant, and you and her have been going out, by the way. It’s so common that the behavior has a name: the Seattle Freeze. Despite the specificity of the name, I’ve dealt with this issue outside the realms of Seattle. I had to deal with a worse form of it, hybridized with the stereotypical small town mentality. Everyone’s obligated to know everyone, be friendly to everyone, while also refusing to make good on the constant claims of friendship.
With all this in mind, I walked up to the registration table, wrote my name down on a raffle ticket, and walked to the line of tables to sit down.
I’m pleased to report that it went a lot smoother than I expected. Everyone involved was willing to chat and answer the questions that the hosts had arranged for us. I often digressed to other topics after we ran out of things to say. I learned which kind of bubble tea to get and where, that Alicia Keys plays the piano, that a fellow that’s noticed me running around the campus has the same exact Hawaiian shirt (no, it wasn’t a European exclusive, and yes, I still had plenty reason to be pissed I couldn’t get more of them). The only big problem was that the hour duration went by too fast. The slips we were given to write names and contact information were well-intended, but we didn’t actually have enough time to jot down this information.
In the end, I walked out of the Mattress Factory with a “Power Bank” cell phone charger (thanks to the raffle), a single name on a slip of paper, an explanation in regards to a nifty owl hieroglyph necklace that was being worn by the same fellow who I had discussed my Hawaiian shirt with, and finally, a smile.
The event felt a bit like a failed experiment, but it wasn’t absolutely terrible, either. Had we an hour or so more to chat, we would’ve had slips filled out with contact information that we’d likely use later on. In fact, I think a lot of us would have emailed each other and continued whatever conversations were cut short. That alone was enough to smile about.