Not once in my youth or adult life did I ever imagine myself residing in the state of Utah. Not that I had anything against the “Beehive” State as it’s called. There was simply nothing enticing for me about living in a land locked state that was best known, in my mind, for a lake that happened to be salty, snow, and a professional basketball team whose name had nothing to do with the region or it’s cultural (Utah Jazz).
Yet, a little less than three years ago a decision was made to relocate to Salt Lake City so that Liz could attend graduate school at the University of Utah (Go Utes!!!…well sorta). Consequently two years of our lives were spent soaking up the essence of life in Utah, coming up with the idea for this crazy blog, and making a few great friends who were sometimes entertained by our gluttonous ways.
Here are some of unusual, humorous, sad, and strange observations from an outsider living in Utah:
The Power of Anonymity
One of the first observations I made after moving to Salt Lake City was the fact that people stuck me as being very similar to Californians…outdoorsy and friendly. Except that Utahans tended to be überfriendly. It was not uncommon to have a pleasant longer than usual conversation with an individual you had never met before, say in line at the grocery store or at the coffee shop. However, it was also not uncommon for that same person to flip you the bird and attempt to run you off the road when they got behind the wheel of their car.
It’s one of the strangest dichotomies I’ve ever experienced in my life. It seems that the automobile provides Utahans with a feeling of “anonymity” and thus they are able to release all their pent up aggression that has accumulated from being so cordial in social circles. From the back streets to the six lane mega freeways, the disdain for others is constantly palatable making bad drivers arguably the worst in the country. Pedestrians and bicycles travel at their own risk and drivers learn rather quickly that sometimes it’s all one can do avoid accidents from the insanity surrounding them. But hey, it’s all a big joke when people are sitting is social circles discussing the happening of the day. Seriously.
I Love the Smog…We Love it!*
When you think of Utah probably the last thing that comes to mind is pollution. However, if you live in the Salt Lake Valley or other portions of the state you are stuck breathing air that is some of the worst in the nation. You see Salt Lake City or SLC, was built at the bottom of what use to be the ancient Lake Bonneville, the remainder of which is the Great Salt Lake. Once a clean environment, the growth of industry, cities, and the number of cars in the valley has caused the amount of pollution to increase dramatically over the past 20 years. The air quality is at it’s worst during the winter months when inversion traps the pollution in the valley causing a soupy yellow orange fog of smog. At times the pollution is so bad that one can taste the particles of filth sticking to the back of their throats. Valley dwellers regularly drive up out of the valley to Park City for fresh air and relief from what local weathermen call just another “hazy” day.
*A reference to the song I Love LA.
Twirling Pink Guns and Bad Television
This is one way to describe the holiday that is celebrated with greater fervor than Independence Day…Pioneer Days. Every year towards the end of July, the state revels in the Mormon settlers’ journey to find a new home in the Salt Lake Valley celebrating the fact that Brigham Young said: This is the Place. Pioneer Days or the Days of 47′ is comprised of local small town parades/celebrations that gear the populace up for the “Big Show” of strutting your stuff down the extra wide streets of Salt Lake City in front of crowds that annually camp out to ensure the perfect spot on the parade route. Now I’ve heard of camping out for the Rose Parade in Pasadena, but camping out for a local simpleton hoorah?
Televised on the local NBC station, spectators and those relaxing with fine Coco-Cola products on their couches at home enjoy re-creators dressed up like the pioneers of old riding in covered wagons, accompanied by budget floats, and the all too unforgettable troops of young girls twirling fake rifles, some which happen to be pink. Yes sir, Pioneer Days has it all and it’s prominence is a friendly reminder to outsiders that they’re not in Kansas anymore.
Speaking of Pink
If there is one culinary delight that Utah is famous for it’s probably Fry Sauce. Claimed to have been created by the local burger chain Arctic Circle, fry sauce is a blend of ketchup, mayonnaise, and spices similar to that of thousand island dressing. This culinary condiment is readily found in Utah and is even available for bulk purchase at Costco. Really not my cup of gluttony, but some people love it.
I Believe in Invincibility
It’s difficult to speak lightly of death, but there is a ridiculousness in the amount of preventable “accidental” deaths that take place on a regular basis in the Beehive State. The three main culprits…snow, water, and trains.
First, no matter how often the new people remind Utahans, risk taking dare devils go off track in the mountains to ski, snowboard, or snow mobile down avalanche prone mountains/slopes with predictable results (click here to watch an example).
The same is true every spring with the winter snow run off swelling the streams and rivers. No matter how many times local officials say stay away from the water, unsupervised and supervised children along with a smattering of adults drown in rivers or other bodies of water (and yes life vests are available for purchase in the state).
Still mother nature takes a back seat to the repetitive instances of people who ignore trains or believe trains are worthy advisories to play chicken with. Without fail there is a constant steam of new reports about someone who is ignorant to the dangers of what tons of metal can do to the human body when smashed into by a train.
It really makes you wonder if there is something in the water that implores people to act without an ounce of common sense and a blatant disregard for life.
The Beehive State
And finally…why the heck is Utah called the Beehive State? Well folks it has nothing to do with honey. In fact you can go ahead and pass on purchasing any sweet nectar from Utah because it’s just not that special. Simply put, “Beehive” is a religious term used to describe the Collective working together to accomplish a larger goal. The name was given to the state by Mormon settlers who were creating something out of nothing.
Other Interesting Utah factoids…
- In 2010 a group at ATV supporters road their ATVs on the state capital building to protest of legislation that would restrict ATV usage in State Parks and natural areas. Only in the west.
- The Great Salt Lake has four different quadrants levels of salinity ranging from around 4% to over 20%.
- Utah is an ice cream lovers delight with a plethora of establishments offering some of the best plain, fruit, and flavored shakes I’ve ever had. Iceberg Drive Inn was our favorite.
- Ever watched National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers? Ever notice that a significant number of these End of Days people live in Utah? Well, preparing for the worst is big business in the Beehive State and one can stock up on ready-to-eat meals, etc. from multiple providers like Daily Bread who hired Jimmer Fredette to promote their products.
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