Seattle Hates Map Books

Yesterday was the first day of my weeklong vacation, which I decided to take before school starts up and things start to get crazy. I decided to spend the day taking a road trip down to Seattle with Kalev.  It was a relaxed trip with no real goals in mind – we weren’t going there to shop1 or to any particular event or anything. We did, however, want to find a map.  You see, here in BC, we’d just use Google Maps on our iPhones. But once you cross over the border, roaming fees kick in and since we’d be charged about $1 billion per byte, we both turned our phones off to avoid ending up with cell phone bills that would be bigger than my student loan debt. I have a map book containing maps of the whole Lower Mainland that I used before I got my iPhone and I wanted to get something similar for the Seattle area.  However, we would soon discover that Washington state hates maps of any kind, but especially map books.  Despite going to Walgreen’s, Safeway, and a few gas stations, we were never able to find even a single map book, and the few old school folding maps they did have were either maps of the whole state (which didn’t have enough detail of the cities for our purposes) or individual city maps (which didn’t contain maps of enough places to be worth our while). In the end, we went mapless and managed to find our way to where we wanted to be, though we did stand outside a shop and steal their wifi to check out a map at one point:

IMG_1047 Kalev, standing outside a shop, stealing some wifi.

In addition to the lack of proper maps, the purchasing of gas proved challenging. Now, we all know that the US has super cheap gas compared to Canada (we are talking 90 cents per litre of premium gas in Washington state vs. $1.30 per litre in Vancouver). So I made sure that I didn’t fill up before we left Canada. But when we stopped in Everett to fill up, I noticed this odd sign on the pump:


Enter my “zip” code to get gas, eh? I didn’t actually read the sign at first, so I thought the pump was asking for a zip code just as one of those things where they collect zip codes so they can survey where their customers have come from. So I did what I always do when I am required to enter a zip code (and a Canadian postal code isn’t accepted) – I entered “90210.” Unfortunately, the entering of the zip code is actually to check if you are using a stolen credit card (which, if I’d read the sign, I would have known) and s0 your zip code has to match your credit card billing information. Which, of course, means that Canadians can’t use their credit cards at the pump (at least not at the Safeway gas stations). But really, how many Canadians can they possible get in a border state, right? </sarcasm>

Now, around here if the pay-at-the-pump isn’t working (or you are out in small towns in the Fraser Valley where their pumps are so old they don’t have pay-at-the-pump options), you just give your credit card to the cashier, pay your gas, and then go inside and pay. Not here though. Instead, you have to tell them a dollar amount to charge to your card, they charge it, then you pump your gas, and then they refund the difference between the first transaction and how much gas you actually took. So efficient!  Also, they didn’t require my postal code or any other sort of verification that I was the owner of that credit card when I went inside to pay, so that’s kind of a loophole in their security system.

I had *no idea* how much a fill up would cost because they list their prices in $ per gallon and I don’t even know what a gallon is2! So I just said, “Put $30 on it” as that’s roughly how much a tank costs me in Vancouver, so I knew it would be more than enough to cover the cost of a tank there.  In the end, it cost ~$18.

Also photoworthy was the parking payment stub that you have to tape to the window when you pay for street parking in Seattle:

Day 70

Apparently their meter-maids can’t be bothered to look on your dashboard like meter-maids everywhere else.  Your parking stub prints out on a sticker, but the sticker isn’t the parking stub part, it’s the backing of the  parking stub, which you use like a piece of tape to stick the stub to your side window. Weird!

Other than inefficient gas purchasing and map scarcity and weird parking stubs, though, the trip was awesome. We accomplished our goal of not doing anything in particular, including:

Also, Kalev bought some Squirt, which I maintain sounds dirty, and I might have told a waiter that Kalev likes big sticks.

All in all, good times.

  1. since you can only bring $50 back if you stay less than 48 hrs in the US []
  2. I mean, I know it’s a measure of volume, but I couldn’t tell you the gallons-to-litres conversion off the top of my head, so couldn’t even do a ball park estimate []

Comments |12|

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  • Random comments:

    –How odd that I do not look hideously fat in that picture. Yay!

    –If you were a guy and paid attention to urinals, you would know a gallon (in the US, because [OF COURSE] it’s different in the UK) is approximately 4 litres. This is because a standard urinal uses 1 gallon per flush, or 3.8 litres (as is often printed on the urinal, just for fun, apparently). Why a urinal needs such a ridiculous amount of water is totally beyond me–apparently urinals are not very water-conservation friendly.

    –You forgot to explain how map-hating gas stations also hate credit cards, and thus neglected to describe my diva-denial of the woman behind the counter of said map-hating, credit card-hating gas station.

    –I still cannot believe you told the (oblivious) server that I liked big sticks. Thanks! In addition to being regularly used to bolster SOMEONE’S purported non-drunken masculinity, now you are trying to saddle me with the rep of being a size queen. 😛

    In conclusion, not only do Americans not know anything about geography OUTSIDE their own country, apparently they also don’t want to know anything about the geography of their local neighbourhoods.

    P.S. You really need a “Kalev” tag. I mean, c’mon!


  • Why don’t I have a “Kalev” tag? I shall fix that ASAP!

    Also, I can’t believe I forgot to blog your diva denial! And that it was Zaphod Beeblebrox the Car’s maiden voyage to the USofA! So much going on during our trip! If only I’d had access to the internets while we were there so I could live blog it!


  • Damn evil cell phone companies and their ridiculously overpriced data!!! It would have been SO much fun to be live blogging and tweeting about it all day.

    Well I guess this just means you don’t have to think up a topic for tomorrow to blog about. 😀


  • It’s not just Seattle that hates maps, it’s Michigan, too. When I went to Grand Rapids in April, my co-worker and I stopped at a couple of gas stations trying to find a map, but no luck. We ended up stopping at some (surprisingly) lovely rest stations and figuring out where we needed to be from the big maps on the wall. (We did have a GPS, but I found it distracting trying to read while I was driving, and my co-worker had trouble figuring out how to work it.)


  • Reply

  • Hello travellers: Thanks for the trip report. So excited – my dietetics students are going to be a-blogging this fall so I am clicking on anyone’s blog I can find.

    For future reference, there is (informally) quite a bit of flexibility these days over the value of goods you can bring over the border after a day trip. In my experience, they don’t bat an eye at $100 each (costs them more that you will pay in duties/taxes to process you – according to my husband, the somewhat lapsed accountant).

    Also, next trip don’t miss Trader Joe’s (interesting food emporium – everyone finds something there). There is one in Bellingham and several others in other US locations. Border people said don’t worry in the least about grocery purchases, they don’t typically process those claims at all (I guess unless you are buying an outlandish amount).


  • We have the sticky parking tickets in the UK too – it stops them sliding off your dashboard if you leave your window open a bit. Or something. Anyway, they’re normal, and anything else is weird. So there.


  • Apparently if you have a Canadian credit card at a U.S. gas pump, you can use the digits that are in your postal code and round out the rest with zeros, so if your code is V6H 1M2, you use 61200. I haven’t tried it, but have heard several reports that it works.


  • @Cath – Do the tickets themselves stick, or does the backing to the ticket stick? Because the former would have made sense to me, but the latter just seemed ghetto somehow.

    @Derek – I will have to try that next time!


  • @Karol – Good to know! I’ll be sure to check out TJ’s next time – I’ve heard a lot about it, but I don’t think I’ve ever been to one before. Also, very cool that you are getting the students to blog – I’d love to hear more about that!


  • The backing is the sticky part, because if the actual ticket was sticky and you stuck it to the inside of your window, the printing would face inwards and the parking person wouldn’t be able to read it… you can’t print onto the sticky side, and if you had to stick it to the outside of the window, someone could steal it and put it on their own car for free parking.


  • […] Seattle Hates Map Books | Not To Be Trusted With Knives Aug 31, 2010… cards at the pump (at least not at the Safeway gas stations). … 11 comments to “Seattle Hates Map Books” … –You forgot to explain how map-hating gas stations also hate … […]


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