So you want Thai food? Narrow that down.

Yesterday I drove to Bellingham for an assignment–more on that this weekend when the story gets published–and it gave me perspective on my new city life. Before now, I used to take day trips to the city–San Francisco, Portland–and come home to a comparatively sleepier place–Santa Cruz, Eugene. Now, counterintuitively, I visit smaller towns and come home to skyscrapers and the perpetual sound of sirens.

It’s one of the many things about city life that I still haven’t quite gotten used to. I’m still on sensory overload, trying to process all the ways my new lifestyle differs from run-of-the-mill suburban life.

Listmaking always helps.

  • Traffic. Ah, the traffic. I live about half a mile away from the Times office, yet it can take me up to 30 minutes to get home at the end of the day. Cars coming from downtown, Belltown and the Central District seem to converge on Denny Way, which bridges Interstate 5 and access to neighborhoods such as Ballard and Fremont. And it’s far from the only place that’s in total gridlock every single afternoon. It’s just as bad as, if not worse than, the traffic I braved in Silicon Valley the summer I worked at Palo Alto Weekly.
  • “LOOK! FREE PARKING!” Never have I been so excited to see these words. In downtown Seattle, free parking spaces are only slightly more common than unicorns or UFOs. They’re so thin on the ground that even veteran locals don’t know of any secret alleys or hidden lots. Rather than spending hours driving around trying to steal free spots, most locals will grin and bear it with a paid spot, taking care to get the most bang for their buck by running as many errands in a five-block radius as possible.
  • Too many options! As previously stated, if you say you want to grab Thai food near my apartment, you’re going to  have to narrow that down. I’ll probably never visit every single restaurant and shop on Queen Anne Avenue.