My Theory of Everett-thing

Everett is a town in Snohomish County, immediately to the north of Seattle. Home to about 100,000 people, it's mainly known for a large Boeing plant and a large Navy installation; in years past it was also a major exporter of northwest timber and wood products. My experience of Everett consists almost entirely of staring at it from I-5 on my way to points north, or returning southbound towards Seattle. I'm only through there a few times a year now, but used to pass through more frequently on my way to Vancouver, BC. And I have a theory:

It's not Everett unless you come to a full and complete stop on I-5 for no apparent reason.

Every time I'm on that road, there's always a major traffic tie-up which has no apparent cause. No plumes of black smoke. No cars pulled over to the side. No flipped-over semi. No lane closures. No police activity. No glittery sheen of freshly shattered safety glass on the asphalt. Nothing. Just nicely-painted, open lanes, and everyone creep-crawling along, stop-start, stop-start, putz-putz. During major commute hours, you might expect some congestion: but I've never been through Everett during commute hours, and I swear I've come to a complete stop every single time in at least one direction (northbound or southbound) every time. Once at two in the frickin' morning!

However, yesterday was an exception, so I may have to amend my theory. Oh, yes: I came to many full and complete stops—getting through the city limits took almost half an hour—but this time there were possible causes! Early on in the backup, a fire truck screamed by on the shoulder, lights flashing and siren wailing. I wondered why a fire truck had only just been dispatched when, obviously, the backup had been building for quite some time—but I don't make these decisions. The evidence was clear: somewhere down the road, there might be something happening which warranted the presence of a fire truck! About ten minutes later, there were two cars pulled off to the side, victims of an obvious rear-ender in traffic. No sign of a fire truck, so they were unlikely to have been the cause of the backup. Then, five or so minutes later, another rear-ender, only this one happened right in front of me! A Honda from Oregon—sporting numerous bumperstickers and a swanky VOLVO after-market nameplate—got distracted and bonked into the Camry in front of it. It almost looked like the driver stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake. The Honda lost a headlight; both cars suffered some panel damage. And I confess I didn't play good Samaritan and pull over to make sure everyone was all right. There were no obvious injuries, the impact wasn't very severe. And what was I going to do? I couldn't drive for help in that traffic, and I don't own a cell phone. No one else stopped either.

Another ten minutes, the firetruck comes into view. It's at the right side of the road with two police cars and two banged-up SUVs; there's a distressing lack of foam, black smoke, scorched pavement, or obviously-charred vehicles the presence of which would indicate the firetruck had been necessary, but that disappointment was alleviated a bit by the lack of ambulances and other aid vehicles: it appeared no one had been hurt, at least.

A few minutes later, traffic was moving at actual highway speeds. And that was my most recent half-hour in Everett, Washington.