Rockin’ A Hard Place: Enjoying summer and reveling in Whidbey’s zeitgeist

As this gorgeous, very busy, sun-filled, hot, dry summer on the Rock draws to a close, I am more appreciative than ever that I am among the fortunate folk who live here. Like any tribe, over time we Rock dwellers have developed characteristics and quirks unique to the special place in which we live.

In the past, I have written about our habit of self-enforcing our island speed limit — sometimes to the bumper-hugging frustration of visitors anxious not to miss the next ferry. And our habit of arguing passionately with each other but always in low, almost whispered tones over a cup of coffee. And our unisex uniform of fleece, flannel and denim worn October through May — and sometimes even in the summer heat.

That can make occasional behaviors we observe outside our tribal norms flabbergasting, or at least worthy of a comment on social media. For example, my eye was drawn to this recent Facebook post by my Coupeville pal Denis Hill:

“I could not make this up! I’m northbound on Main Street with a green light when a red Jetta, young man in baseball cap driving, turns from northbound Highway 20 onto Main Street, does an immediate U-turn into southbound Main Street, right back onto northbound Highway 20.” (He ended his post with a shocked-face emoji.)

Indeed, a shocked-faced emoji was called for under the circumstances. I might even have followed it with a favorite Rock dweller phrase: “Obviously not from around here.”

Our behavioral norms are part of our wonderful Whidbey zeitgeist. To those who don’t know what that means, zeitgeist is a German word defined as “the dominant set of ideals and beliefs that motivate the actions of the members of a society in a particular period of time.” (Credit goes to Wikipedia for that definition.)

Our zeitgeist prizes civility and a slower pace of life; yelling and traffic are to be avoided. Our zeitgeist treasures trees and fresh vegetables; clear-cutting and fast food are frowned upon. Our zeitgeist loves a lengthy conversation in the parking lot even with somebody we talked with the day before; tweets, texts and emails are insufficient means of communicating.

The other night, my spouse and I attended a wonderful performance of Shakespeare’s “A Comedy of Errors” during the Island Shakespeare Festival in Langley. The festival’s fame has justly spread beyond the Rock; there was an overflow crowd that came very early to get a seat, munch a sandwich and drink a beer.

Just before the 6 p.m. start time, we heard that more than 100 people were still trying to get in even after a dozen or more extra seats had been set up. Organizers asked for our patience — which they really didn’t need to do, since patience is well within our zeitgeist. Blankets were spread on the ground and extra chairs were squeezed in, as those of us already there read books, ate cookies and chatted. All was peaceful and calm.

About then, my mind flashed back to those times in my life in America when foot-stomping and booing would set in whenever concerts and plays didn’t start on time and latecomers traipsed in without an “excuse me.”

I much prefer our zeitgeist here on the Rock. Let’s protect it from U-turns, crassness, designer clothes and people in a hurry.

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