Since becoming New To Seattle, I’ve written about what strikes me as a general lack of humor here. Not everyone agrees. A recent University of Colorado study of the U.S.’s “funniest cities” ranked Seattle No. 10 among the country’s 50 largest. I should note, however, that only those 50 cities were examined, as opposed to, say, all 729 cities with populations above 50,000, or even the 285 cities with populations above 100,000. So the CU list quickly became a “least funniest cities” roster, too, and probably not too many clicks after Seattle.
Still, I do find regular pockets of humor in Seattle. But they’re in the most unlikely places: government agencies operating on social media.
When its officers aren’t beating up jaywalkers, the Seattle Police Department has been in the vanguard of this movement, especially on its lively blog, SPD Blotter. The agency posted a guide to the state’s recent legalization of recreational marijuana use under the headline, “Marijwhatnow?” Accompanying a summary of law: a pot-smoking clip from the movie “Lord of the Rings.”
The Washington State Department of Transportation opened a first-person Twitter account in the name of Bertha, the world’s largest tunneling machine working on constructing an underground replacement along the Seattle waterfront to the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The posts have been a riot for their deadpan humor, especially since the machine in December hit a pipe that should have been removed and hasn’t dug another inch. “I get that people are bummed/skeptical,” BerthaDigsSR99 tweeted nearly a half-year later on May 1, “but Seattle Tunnel Partners is working hard to fix me and I’m eager to dig again.”
WSDOT has a regular Twitter feed to update traffic conditions, and the agency is not above applying cheeky labels. This morning, it called two stalled vehicles blocking a freeway lane the “Box Truck Twins,” with a photo thrown in for good measure.
Earlier this week, the Seattle Department of Transportation got grief for posting on Twitter in real time a picture of a traffic jam on the West Seattle Bridge supposedly caused by looky-loos gawking at an accident. The shot was Photoshopped to put a “scumbag hat”–a meme used to signify stupidity, venality or incompetence–atop many of the stopped vehicles. With this text: “You get a scumbag hat … everyone gets a scumbag hat! haha I’m mean #sorry.”
Hey, Babe Ruth sometimes led the majors in both home runs and strikeouts. The same could be said of official Seattle attempts at mirth. #LookingForSeattleHumorInGovernment.