The Other Woman

| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

The Other WomanI'll never forget the look on my husband's face when he held Betty for the first time. Cradling her almost reverently with a sparkle in his eyes and a childlike sense of wonder, Jim examined every facet of her sexy, smooth skin to ensure she was flawless and virginal, as promised. It was the way he used to gaze at me.

He spent days researching Betty's numerous talents and learning how to best use and care for her. She was sleek, with smooth curves, a vision of perfection. She sang to him, dazzled him with sports trivia and kept him abreast of the latest news. Betty filled my husband with excitement, mystery and wonder. I, on the other hand, was merely human.

Though I had Bruce-my own BlackBerry-I was jealous of Betty. She was an upgrade, a Storm, and she offered Jim much more than I could. When she first moved in, Jim often disappeared to be alone with her. He'd explore her features and wipe off his fingerprints afterward so I wouldn't know where he'd been. Then he started bringing Betty to bed. While I watched late night TV, he caressed her, learning all of her idiosyncrasies while she chirped with delight. I seethed with jealousy. Jim claimed he needed Betty near him 24/7 because he was on call, but I knew better. I could not compete.

He tried, perhaps out of guilt. We were newlyweds, after all. Before going to sleep, Jim laid Betty on his nightstand, trying to put her out of his mind, but the little vixen would not be ignored. She flirted with my husband with her winking red and green lights and her seductive purr.

Trying to ignore her siren song, I'd roll over and stare at Bruce. He was attractive, a bit older and thicker, but he got the job done. He was mine and I loved him. Bruce was fun and as comfortable as an old shoe, but he and I just didn't connect the way Jim and Betty did. Bruce wasn't... alluring. He tried to make me feel wanted; he'd blink his single red light at me and beep his single note. But it wasn't enough. And Betty wasn't letting Jim go.

I wanted to captivate him the way Betty had. I wanted Jim to leave her in his office when he came to bed and to look longingly at me when he discovered one of my new skills or talents. I knew I could fill her shoes. I could be Jim's personal assistant, update him on the latest sports and weather, post to his Facebook profile. He didn't need Betty.

But first I had to put Betty in her place. I considered the obvious-hiding her in our compost pile, accidentally flushing her down the toilet, tossing her from the 520 floating bridge-but I knew those methods wouldn't work. Jim would just replace Betty with a newer, sleeker model, a Marilyn, a Roxanne, or a Vanessa.

Instead, I needed a more subtle approach. I had to wean Jim from Betty. I started texting him to say, "i love u," e-mailing useful web links to him and flirting with him on Facebook. I silenced Bruce during dinner and turned him off at night. I even laid Bruce next to Betty one evening, hoping they'd hit it off. (They didn't. Bruce thought she was too superficial, and Betty thought he was just too old.) I even left Jim's browser open to a page on virulent BlackBerry viruses.

Gradually, as often happens, the shine began to come off Betty and Jim started spending less time with her. He'd leave her on the counter when he left the room, and he silenced her when we spent time together. I knew I'd made progress when Jim turned Betty off during date night. He thought I was crying at the end of Gran Torino, but I was secretly rejoicing.

Some things haven't changed. Betty still comes to bed with us, but I'm the one Jim holds. I just hope Bruce doesn't get jealous, either of Jim or this hot little iPhone 3GS I have my eye on....

 

Creating an Affordable, Inclusive Puget Sound

Creating an Affordable, Inclusive Puget Sound

Making room for our growing population will require more density in urban areas as well as innovation in transportation and office use.
 
 

Seattle has an enviable problem. More and more people are moving to the Puget Sound, so many that, by some estimates, the region’s population could increase by one million residents by 2040. At the same time, Seattle is constrained geographically by water and hills. Our topography is scenic and beautiful, but it also makes it difficult to build new housing.

Further complicating matters, approximately 65 percent of Seattle’s land area is zoned for single-family residences. The hourglass shape of Seattle, at its widest point—between Ballard and Magnuson Park, along 65th Street—is zoned for the lowest density. Meanwhile, the area zoned for the densest development—downtown—is narrowest and where land is most scarce.

Water, land and zoning regulations: these are the facts. If population trends continue, how will people live in our city? As Seattle densifies, how can design provide a more humane environment and housing that all residents can afford? These are some of the questions I’m interested to explore at a panel discussion on October 5, “Seattle 2040: Where Will All the People Live?” at NBBJ’s Seattle office.

 

As an architect, I’m particularly interested in how we might insert greater density, for people of all incomes, into our existing street network including the single-family areas that constitute such a high proportion of Seattle. Mother-in-law apartments, residential units over garages, duplexes and townhouses are just a few options. Done right, we could increase density and affordability without dramatically changing the character of those neighborhoods.

This November a major ballot initiative, Sound Transit 3, could raise billions of dollars to expand light rail. If that happens, it would substantially increase the number of transit-oriented centers in our region, which would lessen the impact of building because we could spread it across more light rail stations.

There are other options. We could look at reusing and densifying public rights-of-way. High-rises like the “no-shadow tower” could mitigate the impacts of tall building on the urban environment. Or driverless cars might create a new transportation system in the next 25 years that fundamentally changes how we get around and where to encourage development.

If you think about the design of office space, 25 years ago, a majority had a private office with limited public amenities; now office space is moving in the other direction, asking people to have less personal space at their desk, but having access to a wider range of shared amenities. I almost think we need a similar approach whereby people move from large single-family houses to smaller homes or apartments. The key to making this work is to have access to more shared, semi-private amenities or nearby public open space.

Some of the issues Seattle faces also challenge many other U.S. cities, but these challenges cannot be solved by design firms single-handedly. A city’s growth affects everyone, young and old, rich and poor, newcomers and long-time residents. We are in this together, and it will require everyone to bring about our shared future. 

David Yuan, AIA, LEED AP, is a partner at global architecture and design firm NBBJ.