Cidiots, Tourons and Bad Juju

I'm happy to report that I am officially 29, with all of my adult teeth intact, mildly sick with a bout of stomach unhappiness (self-inflicted - went H.A.M. on birthday treats), settling into real life with noodle nerves that seem to hover around al dente these days. Someday, they will be uncooked for longer bouts than a few hours and include areas outside my couch perimeter. I'm working on it.

It seems that stranger danger doesn't really exist here yet. It's fair to say that I deal with the same people most days: general store cashiers and various boat employees that are incredibly kind and understanding and have never flinched when I say or do weird things, like struggle to cram my change in my pocket, worried that I will inconvenience the person behind me as they must wait while I balance my coffee cup and change pocket in a strange juggling pattern that has to be painful to watch. Being here has gently let me realize that I care more about being weird than this entire region (maybe world?) and when I talk fast and make weird jokes, they take the time to do the exact same thing back, making the person behind me wait longer than they would've witnessing the juggling of the coffee and change. I love it so much. And I can now small talk with the best of them, which used to be my third least favorite activity, just after phone calls and sweating.

Specifically, the boat and store employees have begun to know my face, which means I may be a local and I am also not afflicted with "cidiot" syndrome, which is a brilliant word that I stole from Eve, Tahoe local and very bestfriend of ours. (Also, see: tourons, tourist morons.)

I'm not sure I'm allowed to define "cidiot" as I have only been here a little under two months, but maybe I should. I admit that I have had brushes with being a "cidiot." But on the weekends and when it's a summer holiday, (dear God, 4th of July), "cidiots" abound: mountain life gets weird and backwards, and living above a general store that supplies boat patrons with sandwiches and coffee and beer and BATH TOWELS (yep, they have everything), it feels more pronounced. The owners swear to us that literal tumbleweeds will roll by the general store come mid-September as we ask, "When does it slow down?" half-apologizing for the "cidiots" and knowing that we're really asking, "When will they stop coming?" They know. And we all try not to complain too much as their money makes business great in Tahoe. But they just add a very strange energy to this area.

A "cidiot" is the perverse marriage of two words: city and idiot. This does not mean that every city dweller that comes to Tahoe is a "cidiot" and is only used when a non-Tahoe local is being mean or a jerk or a self-inflicted idiot.

And it's really easy to spot "cidiots" driving.

It is California law to break when a pedestrian is crossing the road. There are flashing lights that warn drivers that there is a pedestrian about to cross on a busy road. There are also striped crosswalks in town centers that alert drivers to pedestrian crossings. During the week, this is followed to the letter. EVERYONE cautiously drives around pedestrian crossings and when you don't, you're a jerk and you feel bad and say you're sorry to the stranger who has to wait. That's just how things work around here and it's a little jarring at first coming from the city where your time is always more important than the rest of the world.

And you know when you're around "cidiots" because they never break. It's kind of like they all have color blindness to yellow. Maybe they see green? They never ever look to see if someone is waiting to cross. Even with flashing lights. Even when the road is painted bright yellow. Even when a local just pumped the breaks and let a family of 6 cross to get to the beach.
My city brain, upon showing up and seeing this for the first time, just thought Tahoe locals were super-human nice people, but in reality, they're just good people that care about others. And "cidiots" are just always too busy, even in Tahoe.

The pace is slower in Tahoe. I'm not entirely sure why it's this way, but I've been told it's the majority of the Northern California culture. In short, people take their time (see: not hitting pedestrians). This goes for cooking food, talking to you, making your coffee. It gives me a much-needed lesson in patience as my instinct is to go fast with everything, but Tahoe doesn't really let you do that (unless you're driving where there aren't pedestrian crossings, then you are free to drive fast but most "cidiots" don't because they're scared of driving off the cliffs). What you get is excellent food, a really nice conversation that isn't forced because they are trying to weasel a tip out of you or a really funny story to tell about your ice cream sundae maker and how she was from planet Mars.
Real quote: "Yeahhhh so that looks so good. I'm gonna make that when I get home! Yeahhhh"
Repeated twice.

Locals know it, they just don't talk about it. We ran into the owners of our general store/marina while out riding bikes on Saturday night. On bikes themselves, they invited us to a very local beach bar to buy us our first ever "Chambers punch." A winding downhill driveway lined with trees opens up to a 180 degree view of Lake Tahoe, with Chambers Landing bar floating above the water. It was tiny, insanely beautiful and not nearly as crowded as other places.  They kept emphasizing how it was "mostly locals" that frequented there, and introduced us to so many people, I wished for name tags. And without coming out and saying it, partly because they are the nicest people in the world and partly because they earn a living off "cidiots," they showed us a new place to hide on a Saturday night. If a "cidiot" was there, they were sorely outnumbered. I met the owner of the magical bar, who was just as unbelievably nice as anyone else, waitress to DMV worker to luxury property owner.

Because being a "cidiot" doesn't mean you have a lot of money or hail from the city. The essence of being a "cidiot" is expecting a product for consumption. If your iced coffee is too sweet and there is a line out the door, a "cidiot" thinks it's okay to actually nudge waiting people with their shoulders in order to complain to the barista, who is also working as a deli clerk, that their coffee is just a "tad too sweet" and then ordering them to make a new one. You cannot be bothered with crosswalks or other people that get in the way of what you want when you want it. Frankly, you are more important than the entire planet and your parents probably didn't believe in timeouts.

Witnessing this and seeing how jarring it is compared to weekday life is alarming. All of these stories are normal in city life, but when it disrupts a beautiful flow of mountain life, it makes me angry, which isn't an emotion I normally feel here. But it makes me mad.

I've been asking our local friends when I'm allowed to buy a Big Truck hat. It's a local company that blew up and their booth is always at Truckee Thursdays and on heads of all dope locals, which would launch me into (un)official (summer only: I haven't ripped down enough mountain on skis yet) Tahoe local status. I thought it was when I completed my first major day hike, with fishing and tram rides and exhaustion. Then I thought it was when I completed my first backpacking trip, filtering water out of a mountain stream and sleeping on the side of a cliff. But I think I've finally reached local status, not with my California license plate or matching driver's license, not with a P.O. Box in Homewood or Drink Tahoe Tap sticker on one of my Nalgene bottles. I think I'm finally a local now that I want to protect Tahoe from bad-energy spreading "cidiots." It's a feeling of protecting something that I love so much from negative city clouds "cidiots" bring in their spotless SUVs and freshly blown up river rafts.

But it's not their driving or rafting or jerkiness that really gets to me. It's that they never unpack their stuff.

They are so worried about the sugar in their coffee that they don't even show up to this amazing place that feels like a gift to me every time I get to explore it. So they drive too fast and complain about their perfect bagel sandwich because they have no idea where they are. Because if they knew, the smallest hiccup in a day wouldn't be a huge explosion of idiot-jerk energy.

And if they really just simply looked up, anytime, at all, they would probably never leave. Honestly.
(So maybe they should never look up? Kidding...)

But with everywhere that you are, even momentarily, there is always something to be present for.

"Be here now" has never meant more to me, and it should never leave, even when I do.