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PRIME TIME: Snowbird surprises in a ‘foreign land’; no, it’s just Arizona

TUSCON, Ariz. -- There are advantages to being a stranger coming into a community, notably seeing things differently than observed by those folks who have lived there a long time.

For those latter newcomers, some things that are viewed as so different and special for them to notice are to the locals just ho-hum non-news, viewing nothing at all so special about them.

Same thing in Bemidji. For example, Bemidji folks can and likely do tell outsiders that BSU students in the winters often park their cars on Lake Bemidji. When I once said as much to a southern visitor, his reaction was incredulous, his reply beginning with "Ahhh, that can't be! You're puttin' me on!"

If that seems strange, try to explain to out-of-state visitors what a northern Minnesota “Eelpout Festival” is all about. Some things are beyond comprehension.

For snowbirds arriving in southern Arizona for the winter, there are many different surprises that are. . . well, "different."

Some illustrations:

  • Seeing lawn sprinklers coming on on Valentine’s Day.
  • Experiencing a five-minute wait between stop-and-go lights during late afternoon rush-hour traffic.
  • Homeowners in February opening their front doors (and leaving them open) at 10:30 a.m.
  • Learning that the University of Arizona basketball coach makes over $3 million dollars a year while the UA president makes $380,000.
  • Noting the many signs along streets and buildings are routinely printed in both English and Spanish (the same in large stores).
  • That there's two Spanish-speaking television stations and multiple Spanish-speaking radio stations.

The Chamber of Commerce here reported that shoppers from Mexico regularly have spent $1 billion dollars a year in Tucson stores -- while also noting that this year, those numbers might collapse because of a planned boycott coming as a retaliation to President Trump's insulting comments and policies made against Mexicans.

Tuscon is also where waiters in a Mexican-food restaurant may respond to a customer's question of "how hot is the dish?" with a "Very mild" answer; and so the snowbird orders the dish and finds out after the first bite that flames of fire begin to shoot out from his mouth via his incinerated throat (jalapenos ain't for sissies).

We’ve also learned that salaries for public school teachers here have put the state's ranking close to the bottom in the 50 states.

And then there’s the ongoing (aghast!) shocks offered almost daily from the state Legislature in session, with proposals for laws that make readers' hair stand on end (examples: Secede from the Union! Another proposal: Those convicted prisoners sentenced to die should pay for their own poison injections.)

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