Perhaps you’ve noticed the recent influx of visitors to our fair island. Many of them look like they just stepped off a cruise ship. A few of them look like they may have just eaten a cruise ship. In a past professional life, I worked in San Francisco, which is also a mecca for seasonal visitors. Some locals in San Francisco referred to tourists seen in those days wearing leisure suits with white leather shoes as doing a “half-Cleveland.” Tourists wearing both white leather shoes and a white leather belt were said to be doing a “full Cleveland.”
Today, when I see Islanders walking along Winslow Way wearing fleece vests and tight athletic leggings I think of them as doing a “half-Bainbridge.” And when I see someone on Winslow Way wearing a fleece vest, tight athletic leggings and holding a latte, I think of them as doing a “full Bainbridge.”
It is of course a gross simplification to suggest that a “typical” Islander is someone with an affinity for natural fibers, a yearning for comfortable yet fashionable casual attire, and a lust, if not a fetish, for good coffee. Strip away the fleece, leggings and latte from any Islander and you’ll see…more fleece, Birkenstock sandals and Smartwool socks. Strip away the remaining fleece and socks and you’ve just described Clif McKenzie’s 40th birthday party. But I digress.
It’s not fair to generalize about a population based on a small and not necessarily representative sampling of them, even though it can often be pretty entertaining, particularly when white shoes and Cleveland are involved. The reality, of course, is that each one of us has a Cleveland or a white belt or two in our own closet. (In the interest of full disclosure, as I write these words I am wearing a long-sleeve cotton t-shirt, a fleece vest and comfortable Prana athletic pants I bought at Wildernest on Winslow Way).
But my purpose today is not to make fun of Cleveland or white belts. Instead, I’m trying to get at what it means to be a Bainbridge Islander.
The Review publishes an Almanac every year that is loaded with information and statistics about the island. From that pool of raw data one ought to be able to derive a picture of the prototypical Bainbridge Islander, or Bainbridge-American as we prefer to call ourselves. Or themselves.
We know that there are around 24,000 of us spread out across the 32.073 square miles that make up this rock we call home, and that most of us are between the ages of 35 and 70 except for those who aren’t. Slightly more than half are women, which I suppose is better than all of us being slightly more than half a woman. Compared to Mainlanders, we Islanders are slightly older, less racially diverse, more educated, have a higher income and enjoy a lower crime rate. Most of us have a bachelor’s degree or higher, and many of us used to commute into Seattle for work when that was a thing.
I don’t have reliable data on what percentage of our island’s disposable income goes into buying fleece wear or comfortable leggings, but whatever’s left over evidently goes toward coffee and wine, or at least around our house it does.
In surveys over the years, Islanders routinely say the things they like most about Bainbridge are its good schools, its remarkable physical beauty, our sense of community and the fact that we are not Cleveland. The things we say we most dislike are traffic, lack of affordable housing and the New York Yankees. I actually made that last bit up. Not all of us dislike the Yankees. Some of us also dislike the Texas Rangers.
I don’t presume to fully understand what these facts reveal about the nature of a “typical” Bainbridge-American, if anything. The statistics I’ve cited here don’t reflect what percentage of us shop at T&C as opposed to Safeway, or how many of us get our gas at Chevron on High School Road vs. the 76 station on Fletcher Bay, or how many of us go to Chuck’s for our haircuts, and how many to Sandy’s?
Statistics measure everything, except that which makes life on this Island worth living. And they tell us everything about Bainbridge except why we are all so proud to be Bainbridge-Americans.
Tom Tyner of Bainbridge Island writes a weekly humor column for this newspaper.