Living alone in Seattle has lost significant social capital in the past few weeks. In a normal world, when people find out that I do, they launch into a diatribe about their messy roommates, or remark how tough it is to find an affordable studio. Now, with a city on virtual lockdown, they’re sympathetic to the point of genuine worry: “Do you have a pet, at least?” (I have a few lovely plants.) “Wow. That sucks.”
And it does! Which is why I was so excited when I heard about the city’s plans to #MakeAJoyfulNoise on Thursday night: Following European cities’ lead, the idea was for everyone in town to open a window or step out onto a balcony and get loud. Depending who you ask, it’s supposed to happen every night at 8pm: The Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, which helped get the word out, says we should “make a joyful noise at 8pm any night you choose for as long as you want” (slightly unsettling emphasis theirs).
It’s ostensibly a show of support for frontline workers, like nurses and grocery store clerks, which is a lovely idea—those workers, quite obviously, deserve our support, and a heaping pile of hazard pay. I can’t help but think about people working nonstandard shifts, for whom it would definitely suck to be woken up early by a neighbor (ahem, me) banging wildly on a pot.
Maybe I just don’t live close enough to Providence or QFC to get the feeling that my obnoxious, joyful noises are doing any essential workers any good (I hope I'm wrong!). But I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that a bunch of us hollered out of our windows last night because we wanted to feel connected to each other, like we do at Madison Park on a summer day, hiding beers in koozies on our socially undistanced beach towels. We wanted our own, unskilled American version of those Italians playing accordions and singing songs together across apartment balconies. I wonder what we’d sing together. “Hey Ya!”?
At any rate, I think we got what we were looking for. I armed myself with a big green ladle and a big blue pot and flung my window open at 8pm sharp, expecting silence—would word really travel? It had. I heard “WOO!!” (over and over), I heard clapping, I couldn’t tell where any of it was coming from, and I felt my heart swell with the same communal feeling I got that year my entire family stayed over at my grandparents’ house for Christmas, sleeping three to a bed.
On my street, the joyful noises quickly devolved into a shouting match between one neighbor who didn’t find the noises joyful at all, and another, somewhere across the street, quick to defend our honor: “My haters,” he said, “are my biggest fucking fans.” My friend sent a video from her balcony across the city: She’d strapped two metal bowls to her chest like an armored bra, and beat them, for a few seconds, with spoons. Both felt like appropriately absurd additions to a city yelling into the void: We’re still here, we’re still together. And, Seattle, we’re still weird.