It is more or less human nature to subscribe to an “us versus them” mentality. Central to our culture is understanding who is for us and who is against us, at macro levels right down to our day-to-day living. Within this infrastructure, we have many friends and many foes, and interestingly, these aren’t universally aligned. You and your neighbor may share a friend but have no common enemies; or perhaps you’ve formed a friendship over hating the same people. In my neck of the woods, I’m pretty sure an official club has been formed around hating me, a high honor, I assure you.
While our town lives and breathes by the summer season, I’m afraid I fall into the category that considers the tourists my foes. It’s an invasive sort of feeling to live your life a certain way for nine months of the year, and then have to recalibrate as the weather warms up. This is especially true, and perhaps started early, in our slowly reopening world. I can’t park by the lake for my daily walks. My “secret spot” by the creek isn’t so secret anymore. And I got chewed out by an out-of-towner for parallel parking in the spot that she wanted. (If you want to see my Brooklyn come out, good God, cross me in the parking lot.)
I can tell I’m not the only one on edge. Year-round residents are primed for a fight come June 1. Last weekend, I got yelled at as I rounded the switchback on Stagecoach Boulevard. It’s a blind curve, and there was a man on the shoulder, walking in flip flops with his dog on a leash.
“Slow down,” he shouted, like I was a rebellious child or he was a grumpy old guy—I’m not sure which.
I stopped. “I’m going the speed limit,” I said through my open window.
“It’s too fast for this road,” he said. Sounds like something he needs to take up with CDOT, but I’m not one for fights at the government level. I’ll leave that to him as I’m sure this is not the only political battle he’s got his hands in, if by “hands in” we mean “leaving comments on Facebook posts.”
“I live here, you know,” I said. He waved me off. And it was funny to me that once he knew I was local, whether or not he was still mad, it wasn’t worth his time. In his “us versus them” framework, by nature of my address, I inched slightly closer to friend instead of foe.
We’re just all so pissy, we all want something to be mad about, especially right now. It’s like we’ve turned off some parts of our brains—the thinking parts, the compassionate parts, the parts that manage our own humanity and the fact that we must consider other people as the same: humans!
Though different in category or emotion, all these pieces we’ve shut down are obviously linked, and if we can take a step back and observe from a level playing field, rather than some hypothetical battlefield, perhaps we will all calm down. For example (and I realize I’ve only lived here three summers but, like, just for instance): Is your actual definition of Colorado living really taking a leisurely afternoon walk, navigating a through-road with drop-off cliffs and harrowing blind curves in sandals, with an animal on a leash, who doesn’t understand traffic laws or really his own mortality? Sir, I could have been going 5 mph and you still would have appeared to come out of nowhere.
We live in a community of miles of trail networks, of multiple walking paths, of luscious parks and a few bodies of water. No one understands the joy of stepping out of your home to be on your way somewhere on foot as much as I do, but the last time I mentioned missing that, someone told me they would pay me to move back to New York. So it stands to reason that, aside from the common sense factors, the cultural consensus is that this is a driving town—and that even though that guy thinks we are enemies, we are actually on the same page, so maybe we are frenemies.
So, if I can find some common ground with the guy who wants me gone, maybe my new pedestrian friend and I can also see eye-to-eye on something. Maybe the clubs of haters everywhere will find that they actually have something more pleasant in common. Maybe, as we join together in switching our points of contention to perspectives of peace and harmony, we’ll be able to band together and fight our real enemy: the tourists.