Ahhh.. Spokane. You knew it was coming sooner or later, right?
In the Spring of 2010, I had been dating my mate for 7 months when we came to Spokane one weekend for her Aunt’s 60th birthday party. Before the party we decided to check out some parks and check out the downtown area, which we liked. We went on the gondola ride to see the huge Spokane falls which are right downtown. The city is the 2nd largest in the state of Washington but it had a suburban feel to it that I missed. In Seattle, you might as well call the entire geographical reference area of Marysville to Olympia “Seattle” because it doesn’t stop being city or urban. Its a gigantic ball of concrete for miles and miles. Out here it felt more spread out.
So, tired of living life with roommates and spending so much money for nothing — and sick of one of the country’s worst traffic areas, decided to live in Spokane. We moved in sight-unseen at our new place, which is an apartment on the 2nd floor that overlooks the Spokane river. What a view, we thought! And way within our budget! I wonder why? We thought. We found out.
In my head, I had it that I could still make the same wages as I did living in Seattle. Wrong. I had moved with $2000 in the bank account and no job, and my mate didn’t have one, either. Within a week I found a job where a friend of mine worked (who, incidentally, also worked with me at the prior job I had in Bothell, WA). They offered $10 an hour. Yuck! What? I was making $18 (approx, it was a salary) before… and now here I am doing worse work for less. Something’s not right here, I thought.
My mate found a job at a place that we had a good hunch about and things turned out in her favor there. Meanwhile, the job I had laid everyone off in June because their contract had been ended abruptly with the company that had contracted the work. I was laid off a little earlier than everyone else because of my anxiety issues, jumping out the roof. I was then unemployed for almost a year and a half before finding a really shitty job that paid $14 an hour — working for a temp agency at an insurance company call center. That was probably the worst job I ever had. They taught us for only 2 weeks before pushing us out on the phones with only 2 people to help us if we got stuck. The teaching was a rush-job, and no one had any clue what to do and when, or what to say and to whom. It was a mess. The temp company’s policy was to go with whatever sick policy the company had, which was unless you’ve worked there for 6 months or more, no sick time off. I was having the worst anxiety I’d ever had. I was throwing up constantly and having really bad panic attacks. Finally I told them I needed a day. When I got home the contracting company called and said the insurance company didn’t want me back. So I had been “fired” technically. On one hand I was relived, but on the other, very scared. Luckily just 4 days later I nabbed a really crummy job at K-Mart, for $9 an hour. Originally I was going to be doing work in the toy and garden department, but instead they made me a cashier. So for 5 months that is what I did, before finally landing the job I wanted, where I currently have been for the past 2 years. It still doesn’t pay anything like Seattle wages do, but then you also save that money in gas. Its only a 4 minute drive from home, and on days when it is not above 85 degrees I can ridge my bicycle.
Ok so background aside, here is Spokane laid out for you in a nutshell. For miles and miles east, west, south, and north, there is nothing. Suddenly, there is Spokane. You come here to the “big city” from western Montana and Idaho. You carry your gun-toting redneck values with you, but since its a college town, they get toned down just a slight bit.
The downtown area of Spokane is a great place to take visitors. There’s the beautiful Riverfront park that was the site of the 1974 World’s Fair. There’s the downtown shopping district, and now a beautiful new area up on the cliff overlooking the river and downtown with lovely condos. And then… there’s the rest of Spokane, including where I live.
My neighborhood could be worse. It could just scream ghetto and be extremely unpleasant to go out into after dark. Maybe it already is. But it isn’t just that bad, yet. In 2012 a lady that lived in the trashy apartment complex next to ours was out at 8am walking her dog on the sidewalk 100 meters from our apartment, and brutally stabbed to death. Before she died, a construction worker who had come to her aid remembered she told him the assailant was black and had a bad eye.
The police said they were doing everything in their power to catch the guy, and canvassing the area. Not once did we see a police officer, let alone did one ever knock on our door to ask us questions. 6 months later, a woman was attacked on the Centennial trail (a bike/footpath that goes from Idaho through Spokane) on the Gonzaga University campus. About a week later, a lady on the Centennial trail was attacked by a man wielding a mallet. A maintenance worker at a nearby retirement home chased the assailant into the river and kept him there until the police came. They captured 17 year old Avondre Graham, who lived in the trashy apartment complex next to ours. He was black, and had a bad eye. He confessed to the murder of Sharlotte McGill, and got 10 years in prison. He had been here laying low in the neighborhood for almost 6 months. HELLO POLICE!! Canvassed the area, did you?
Its not just the lack of comfort regarding safety in the area.. the drivers are terrible, too. Coming up to a red light or a stop sign, the person coming the other direction almost always seems like they’re going to blow through the light or sign. They come right up to it, slam on their brakes, and end up 3 feet into the intersection. Every. Time.
The tailgating here is HORRIBLE! I thought Seattle was bad. In Seattle you HAVE to tailgate or else someone else will slide right into your 2-car-rule buffer zone and take up that space anyway. Here, where roads are wider and traffic less dense there should seem to be no need for it. But it is rampant. If you put your blinker on to make a right hand turn, and haven’t even slowed down to make it quite yet, the person behind you will get in the other lane. They just don’t have time for you to take your 1.5 seconds to make a right hand turn.
There are plenty of big huge trucks that make a lot of noise and make a lot of pollution, and are usually driven by men who everyone knows, must have a really small penis. You don’t see many big pickup trucks in Seattle. Cars are smaller in Seattle – much like Europe. Cars in Spokane are larger – much like Texas. And they like to un-muffler them, and drive them going 50 mph down our street, which is a 30mph zone.
People let their dogs off leash here, despite leash laws, and do NOT pick up after their dogs when they poop. This is the only place I’ve been that doesn’t pick up after their dog when in public. It is very disgusting. A lot of people here let their cats live outside, which is not good. This can spread disease and give the cat a very poor quality of life, and shorten its life span tremendously.
While driving on Sprague, the street notorious for its “charge by the hour” motels, we play the game “walking or working”. Is she just walking down the street? Or is she working? Most people that you see walking, anywhere, are seedy looking. even the people standing at bus stops. Everyone is in weird clothes here, or too fat to fit into what they are trying to wear. There is a lot of loud cussing in public. There is a murder everyday in the city, but 12 house fires or in the summer, brush fires a day. There is at least one officer-involved shooting a month, and just as many internal police investigations. A lot happens on our street, too. Just the other day a brush fire broke out across the street from our apartment. I got some pictures on my phone. A lot of people jump off the bridge down the street to commit suicide. We have a team of river-rescue workers down here at least once a month, it seems.
At the end of our street, it crosses with Mission Ave, a big arterial. Right at the confluence there, it meets the river, and under the bridge is where you go to score your.. whatever you need. I think its mostly meth under the bridge but I could be wrong.
This leads me to the next topic: homelessness. There are homeless camps down at the river’s edge on our side of the river where the trees and bushes are thick. Walk on the trail here and listen to the voices, or see the tops of tents poking out. There are homeless people EVERYWHERE in Spokane, and yet the Mission is not full. In fact there are so many beds available there. They even give you job counseling, help you apply for programs to get your own place, they give you food and clothes, etc. Their only stipulation: No drugs or alcohol. So you know those camps down by the river here are full of drunkards or druggies. And they own the streets. The Safeway down the street has lost more shopping carts to homeless people (or stupid people without a car who take their groceries home in the carts) that they’ve had to put wheel-locking devices on them, and supposedly once they exit the perimeter of the parking lot, lock up ad you can’t take them anywhere. This has been seen as largely unsuccessful, as I still see homeless people pushing their Safeway carts up the road and toward their little camp.
Also another thing that surprised me when we moved here is all the smoking. Everyone in Spokane smokes cigarettes!! I’ve never seen so many people smoke. Seattle people don’t really smoke, because they are educated and aware of the risks. But Spokane never got the word, and they smoke like chimneys here. Everywhere you go you have to hold your breathe or risk choking in the clouds of smoke that are abound.
People are very poor here, including us, so everyone is on food stamps. There is a large population of conservatives, so we have determined the best time to go grocery shopping to avoid the crowds is at 8:00 AM on Sundays, while the rest of the city is at church. Spoakne can’t seem to keep a decent restaurant open. Why? Is it because people are too poor to spend money at restaurants? Probably – since the lines are long at the DSHS for people waiting to get their food stamps.
People in Spokane do not, for the majority, know who the Seattle Sounders FC are. I have to explain to people that the Sounders are BIG in Seattle, and sell almost the same amount of tickets to Centurylink Field as the Seahawks do. But people outside of the big cities don’t know what soccer is, and certainly don’t know there’s a Major League Soccer team in Seattle that is HUGE and has a large population of crazy fans. They have no clue here.
Spokane is a city, but it feels like a suburb that has a small but nice downtown area. Its not like Seattle, or any other city I’ve been to. It is in its own little world.
It is definitely not home. It was never meant to be, and it never will be. I meet people and hear about people born and raised here, and all I can think is “wow.. I am terribly sorry to hear that.”