As people across the United States are adjusting to the practice known as social distancing, a local expert on Mercer Island culture explains that the island has been “a long-time role model of social distancing behaviors.”
“Picture, if you will, a community of suburbanites who choose to live on an island in the middle of a lake,” said Kip A. Veigh, a Mercer Island resident and University of Washington anthropologist. “What says ‘social distancing’ more than that?”
Veigh is condensing his decades of research documenting Islanders’ social distancing best practices so that it can be shared with public health officials across the country. He hopes to educate America’s citizens on such time-honored Mercer Island customs as offering to invite a recently-moved-in family over to dinner but never following up, keeping the car windows rolled up in the Starbucks drive-through line, hiding behind a shrub in one’s front yard to avoid saying hello to a neighbor, and protesting the construction of a light rail station.
“Mercer Island was founded by Scandinavian immigrants who fled Madison Park by boat one winter when their cousins in Ballard started getting too chummy,” noted Veigh. “This gave rise to the phenomenon now popularly known as the ‘Seattle Freeze’.”
For their part, Islanders are eager to share their expertise if it will help reduce the impact of the coronavirus, but they are not without their concerns.
“We’re more than happy to pitch in,” said long-time Island resident L. Eva Malone, “As long as it won’t encourage more people to come here.”