How to Make Friends, Seattle Style

Say goodbye to the social freeze for good.

For many newcomers to Seattle, there is a lot of fun to be had with freshly acquainted friends — at first. However, not long after their arrival, many people begin to notice a certain coldness among native Seattleites. Phones stop ringing, party invites cease and, before they know it, émigrés to our fair city have been frozen out of the social scene altogether.

Luckily, Scott Weaver has the solution for the area’s first-time residents: become a member of the Seattle Anti-Freeze group, and the city’s social barriers will melt away.

Weaver, 42, was once such an outsider. “I think one main reason is that a lot of people that grew up in Seattle stay in Seattle,” he explained. “They went to local schools, and all of their friends are also natives. They have these friendships that sustained all along, so there wasn’t this same feeling of ‘I need to go out and meet new people and broaden my horizons.’”

A native of California, Weaver moved to Seattle with his then-girlfriend in 1999, soon after receiving a law degree from UCLA. “We were doing a lot of couple things,” he explained. “When we broke it off [in 2002], I found myself living as a bachelor.” As Weaver discovered, his newly single status was a deathblow to his social life. All of his previous acquaintances were in relationships, and his office colleagues were not the least bit sociable. Finding dates was not the issue; it was 2002, and and similar sites were booming. What he really craved was some good ol’ male camaraderie.

“I didn’t have guys to hang out with,” Weaver lamented. “Just finding guys to go to a bar and watch a game with was the hardest thing for me.”

Seattle Anti-Freeze co-founders Gayle Laakman and Scott Weaver.

Rather than forfeit his cause and live out the rest of his days in seclusion, Weaver took a more proactive approach. He struck out on his own, determined to make as many friends as he could. In a few short years, Weaver had amassed an extensive network of acquaintances — most of them fellow transplants. In 2007, he decided to plan a gathering for 150 of his friends. He chose a 70s-80s theme, hired a DJ and booked a venue: Lynnwood Bowl & Skate. To his utter surprise, word-of-mouth spread quickly, and soon 900 people had RSVPed.

“What I thought would be a party of 50 or 60, turned into a party with several hundred people,” Weaver said. “Everybody wore 70s and 80s attire, buses picked people up. It went off really well.”

Weaver was so pleased with the outcome of his event that he decided to plan more. In early summer of 2007, he organized a Gilligan’s Island-themed party aboard a chartered boat; the event sold out in three days. He also coordinated an “angels and devils”-themed party at the Spitfire Grill later that year. Weaver had become something of a social superhero: lawyer by day, party planner by night.

In the course of all this event organization, Weaver began to notice a familiar face. This was Gayle Laakman, a computer engineer and fellow Seattle settler. The two became friends, realizing they had endured the same social chill, and overcome it by coordinating gatherings for large groups of local residents. This mutual interest led the duo to join forces, and they co-founded Seattle Anti-Freeze that fall. As Weaver explained, the group’s name originated from an article in the February 15, 2005 edition of Pacific Northwest, the Seattle Times’ weekly magazine.

“[The article] talked about the ‘Seattle Freeze’,” he said. “How generally the city has a superficial quality. People here are polite, they’re not rude, they don’t honk at you. But getting to know somebody well has been more of a chore for outsiders. And that’s what Seattle is, a transplant city.”

The group celebrated its inauguration with two massive parties; a Halloween bash, followed by a formal Christmas event. From 2008 to 2010, Seattle Anti-Freeze hosted around ten events per year. Some of them were bar rentals, while other events have included catered dinners in the Columbia Tower (where Weaver’s office is located) and Puget Sound cruises aboard rented vessels.

Themes, Weaver says, are a crucial aspect of Anti-Freeze’s operation.

“If people are in a costume, they drop their façade,” he explained.

In addition to the party scene, Anti-Freeze has spawned a number of interest groups as well. The most popular, Weaver claims, are the runners. “I just asked some Anti-Freeze members if they were interested in a running group,” he said. “Now, if you go on the site, this group has 800 people. When the weather is nice, we’ll have a minimum of three runs a week.”

There is also a philanthropic quality to the group. In the past, some of the group’s earnings have gone toward various causes, such as the American Heart Association and the Seattle Repertory Theater. In the last few years, the running group has also earned nearly $100,000 for the Lazarex Foundation. The group also earns some charity money during their Pub Runs, small-scale, “purely non-profit” inter-tavern marathons that are planned at various times throughout the year.

“We are not a formal non-profit, per se,” he explained. “We’re just a group of people who said, ‘how cool is this? We can raise money for a good cause.’”

However, Weaver says there is potential to do more. “Ideally, in a year, Anti-Freeze could completely function as a non-profit.”