Still, my mother taught me that if one can't say anything nice, one should keep one's fool mouth shut (not exactly her words). Let's focus on the things I love about Washington State, starting with my fantastic visit to their state capitol. I had the better part of a day between my arrival in Seattle and the opening session of my conference, so I rented a car and drove down to Olympia. I parked and walked across the capitol campus to the capitol itself (they prefer to call it the "Legislative Building", though the governor's office is in there too). I had paused for a moment outside the side door to check if it was in fact the correct entrance for capitol tours when I heard a female voice behind me: "Can I help you find something?"
I mumbled something about looking for the capitol tour. She said I was in the right place, and just needed to go up the stairs. Then she said, "Hi, I'm Mary Selecky, the Secretary of Health." I introduced myself and told her I had never before met a cabinet-level official on one of my thirty-odd state capitol visits. She gave me a business card and posed for a picture as documentation of the encounter. I told her I was in town for an engineering conference. She said something along the lines of, sure, we like engineers; we employ some in the water office. I found the capitol tour and went on my merry way. I don't know anything about Ms. Selecky's credentials or politics, but I am pleased to report that she is Nice To State Capitol Visitors.
My favorite Washington state symbol is the official State Endemic Mammal. First of all, props to the state for designating an official endemic species - one that occurs nowhere else. It's likely that some other state symbols are also endemic (looking at you, Hawaii), but I'm not aware that any other state has the "official endemic" category of state symbol. The Evergreen State scores more points, though, because it's official endemic mammal is a totally sweet ground squirrel: the Olympic marmot, Marmota olympus. As the name suggests, it is found exclusively on the Olympic peninsula. I'm trying to remember if we saw any when we visited Olympic National Park when I was in high school. Better go back and check the family photo album.
There's a bunch of other neat stuff on the official list of Washington state symbols: the state fish (steelhead trout, the anadromous form of the rainbow trout), the state vegetable (the awesomely named Walla Walla sweet onion), and the state marine mammal (the orca, which has also given its name to the Puget Sound unified transit fare card - One Regional Card for All), to name a few. I even have to give the flag at the top of this entry a little break: that's one of the originally-sewn flags, now on display in the governor's reception room at the state capitol. Betsy Ross it ain't, but that's still a neat piece of history.