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Paul Turner: You can run from Spokane, but you can’t escape it

Paul Turner (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Paul Turner (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

As you contemplate your 2019 family vacations, there’s something you probably ought to keep in mind.

No matter where you go, no matter what you do, you will run into someone from Spokane.

It’s virtually guaranteed.

Years ago, these chance encounters at the bottom of the Grand Canyon or outside a café in Toronto seemed like amusing oddities. You know, what are the odds?

But now, well, we know better. Don’t we?

Running into people from Spokane while you are traveling and far from home has become so commonplace that it’s tempting to react with a shrug.

“Oh yeah, a Bloomsday shirt. There you go. Ho-hum.”

You’ll be sitting there at a baseball game in Atlanta and overhear someone seated behind you mention something about changes at the Mead School District. Or someone in a line at Wally World will say something about Manito Park.

At least that’s how it seems. I mean, doesn’t everybody have a story about crossing paths with someone from here in some distant, unexpected locale?

As the saying goes in Spokane, you can run but you can’t hide.

I’m not quite sure how the math on this works out. Can’t really explain it. How can people from our area seem to be everywhere each summer?

But it occurs to me that maybe we all ought to be a bit friendlier to strangers right here in Spokane. I mean, if there’s a chance you might see these people this summer in Bulgaria or Alaska, you might as well be on good terms before that chance meeting. Right?

So here’s my proposal. Let’s turn Sundays into Greet Strangers Day in Spokane.

If you are in a store or walking your dog in a park, just stop people you see and extend your hand in greeting.

“Hi, there’s a chance I’ll run into you in Barcelona or Denver this summer, so I thought I ought to take the opportunity to say hello now.”

Or, “You look like the sort of person who might also have relatives in the Twin Cities.”

Or, “I’ll look for you near the B-36 at the Air Force Museum outside Dayton this summer.”

And so on.

OK, maybe that sounds crazy. But I ask you, what harm could it do?

You might make new friends. You could enjoy swapping travel plans.

In any event, you might just be right about seeing that person again down the road. Way down the road.

At the very least, these community conversations might help change the narrative about Spokane. The truth is, there is life beyond the lake. People here go to a great many interesting destinations.

But you knew that already, because you have run into them on your travels time and again.

Take a seat

Everyone knows comfortable reclining chairs are fraught with symbolic meaning. But which of the following resonate with you?

To own a recliner is to surrender any and all pretense of being edgy.

To own a recliner is to fully embrace your inner Spokaneness.

To own a recliner is to be one short step away from purchasing an enormo-screen TV the size of a roadside billboard.

To own a recliner is to acknowledge that you have, once and for all, finally and fully stopped rockin’.

To own a recliner is to be able to put your feet up while contemplating your existential status as an American consumer.

To own a recliner is to cross the Rubicon in terms of lifestyle expectations.

To own a recliner is to be at peace with yelling into the next room and asking your 4-year-old granddaughter to come pick up the remote from where you dropped it.

To own a recliner is to, well, sometimes a chair is just a chair.

End note

A grocery cashier at a store on 29th Avenue and the woman whose purchases she was ringing up were discussing what you call someone from Spokane.

“A Spokanite?” the cashier offered tentatively.

The customer shook her head. I don’t know, she said. “I always just ask, ‘Are you a Spokie?’ ”

I resisted the urge to say “No, you don’t … you’ve never said that once in your life.”

But I didn’t wish to be unpleasant. So I kept quiet.

Besides, maybe I was wrong. It has happened. Perhaps that woman really does ask people if they are Spokies.

How would you answer that?

I think I’d be tempted to ask if she was inquiring as to whether I hailed from Dust Bowl Spoklahoma.

Columnist Paul Turner can be reached at srpaulturner@gmail.com.