There is a time of day that is easily forgotten. Roughly 3am to 5am is too late for night and too early for day. If you send an email to someone at midnight, you are working hard burning the midnight owl. Send an email to someone at 3am, they ask if everything is ok. It is a strange time of day that brings out a unique side of a neighborhood. I spend a fair amount of time in these hours as I walk the dog and run through the neighborhood during these hours.
Wallingford has a small, but thriving community that also dwells in this lost time. On a slow week for Wallingford stories, I thought it time to celebrate this little seen side of our community.
Crime is the first thing that comes to mind for many people when they think of these hours. I have seen some crime at this hour, and some even received Wallyhood coverage. However, criminals and ne’er-do-wells are people, and people just tend not to be out at this hour in great numbers. I usually encounter the aftermath of the crime, rather than the crime itself. For example, our QFC had a cash register stolen overnight as someone ran in the exit doors and snatched it. By four am when I was buying some groceries, the only evidence was a shift to a different checkout lane than normal and a longer conversation with the staff about the theft.
Seattle has a surprising dearth of stores that are open 24 hours for a city of this size. QFC is one of the few stores that remains open 24 hours, and it functions as a major hub for these forgotten hours. Their staff even has informal names for the types of people that come in during certain overnight hours. This 3am to 5am slot is well know to them as well. It is the time of the unpredictable and vaguely dangerous. Some of the staff have related stories, and one story stands out about someone walking in carrying a shovel and walking the aisles. Nothing untoward happened in that story, just a few degrees off from what you would normally expect from grocery shoppers.
This few degrees from normal captures much of what I see in the neighborhood during these hours, and it is occasionally ominous like someone carrying a shovel but it is frequently much more charming. One morning there was a guy skateboarding down the middle of Stone Way while playing a flute. The sound of the flute carried well in the quiet so he could be heard for a long while before he could be seen. I have also see more than one couple walking the unlit, paved path around Green Lake in the pitch dark.
There is also an abundance of wildlife that takes center stage at this hour. The coyotes in the neighborhood are much more alive at night. The dog and I have been followed by coyotes on a few occasions. The most memorable was being tracked by a pair of coyotes that were vocalizing between each other. We heard them before we saw them, and they tracked us for 10 or 15 minutes. I am no coyote expert so we might have been moments from death for all I know, but it came across to me as more curiosity on their part than predation. There is also a large number of raccoon street fights. They are loud, angry, and temperamental.
Finally, there are the people. I have a large number of friendships in the neighborhood that rarely see the light of day. One neighbor in particular, I have known for almost a decade and I see on almost a daily basis at the end of my dog walk. I never would have met him if not for the fact we happened to be out with our dogs at this early hour. There are easily a dozen other neighbors that I have met and befriended in just this same way. There are also quite a few hardworking neighbors just doing their jobs of cleaning bus stops, hauling trash, delivering papers, and stocking the grocery stores.
Seattle and Wallingford are bustling communities that move fast. This can make it hard to pause and distinguish the foreground from the background. These forgotten hours of the day clear the streets. This can help clear the mind for a few hours and help re-adjust the sense of foreground and background. For me, it has created a deeper appreciation for the neighborhood, its people, and its wildlife. Next time you find yourself awake at this hour, you might try a walk down to QFC and see how the neighborhood is doing.