Friday, July 19, 2013

Idaho vs. Utah

Where are you from?

That's a simple enough question, isn't it? Where are you from? Sometimes, it is an easy question to answer. But sometimes it's not.

When I asked my mother-in-law where she was from, she said it depended on who was asking and what the context of the question was. She has lived in Orem, Utah for over 30 years, so most often she would answer "Where are you from?" with that. But, if someone is asking who knows she's not originally from Utah, she might answer with "Boston." And, since she didn't grow up in Boston, just near Boston, if someone from Massachusetts were to ask her that question, she would probably say "North Attleboro."

Meanwhile, when I asked my oldest daughter "Where are you from?" her answer was, "Mommy's belly."

It's not quite as easy of a question as it seems.

So, where am I from? Well, for the last five years I've been living with my little family in the small-ish town of Santaquin, Utah. (I say "small-ish" because we do have two traffic lights and a Dairy Queen now. So, we're moving up in the world.) For the last 21 years I've been living in Utah, either in the Salt Lake City or Provo/Orem areas.

But, if you ask me where I'm from, I'll probably say "Idaho." I was born and raised in Idaho, and part of me will always be an Idaho farm boy.

Yes, I am an Idaho spud.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately because, I did the math, and sometime within the past month I crossed over to the point where I've now spent more of my life living in Utah than I have living in Idaho. And, while I love living here in Utah, this fact has made me a bit sad.

I lived in Idaho until I was 18 years old. Then I spent a school year in Utah, attending BYU. I then spent two years living in West Virginia (as a Mormon missionary), then spent another school year in Utah at BYU. I then moved back to Idaho, where I went to Idaho State University for four years to finish up my degree. (Yes, that's six total years of college to get a four-year degree. Yet another reason they call me "Slow Joe from Arimo.") And then, 21 years ago next month, I made the move to Utah to get a job. And I've been here ever since.

The job I left Idaho to move to Utah for was driving truck for a grocery store warehouse. (Yes, putting all six years of my four-year Idaho State University bachelor's degree in Mass Communication to good use.) (That's sarcasm, by the way.)

Since I drove for a living, my driver's license was pretty important. The law says you should update and change your driver's license within 30 days of changing your address. I did not do this. I waited the two or three years until my Idaho license was about to expire. It was a desperate attempt to cling to my Idaho-ness. ("Yes, I'm from Idaho. It says so right here on my driver's license!")

When I finally had to change over to a Utah license, I had to take a written test. I wasn't too worried about it, except for some of those poorly worded "common sense" questions. Like:
          When stopping at a railroad crossing, how many feet away from the crossing should you stop?
           A. 5 feet
           B. 20 feet
           C. 50 feet
           D. 200 feet
           E. 14 meters
(I always want to answer this with: "Far enough back that you don't get hit by a train! Duh!" But that is never an option.)

Another question that worried me a little was the one about the legal blood/alcohol level for drunk driving. Since I don't drink, I've never really paid too much attention to what the exact percentage is that constitutes "drunk" driving. Since I'm always at 0.0%, the actual legal limit has never concerned me.

So, when the examiner called me to the counter with my test results, I had a few small concerns. I needn't have. I'll never forget what he said to me: "You're not from around here, are you?" I replied that I wasn't, and asked him why he would ask that. He said, "Because you got every question correct!"

(You see, he was used to dealing with Utah drivers.)

When I was growing up in Idaho, the term "Utah driver" was a commonly used derogatory pejorative. The three main offenses of the "Utah driver" that earned our ire were: 1) Driving and staying in the left lane on the freeway. (In Idaho, we called that the passing lane. Because you are supposed to use it when you pass someone...and then you get back into the right lane!) 2) Not using turn signals. (I know that in the 1970s the "energy crisis" was all the rage, but those little blinking light don't use up much energy, and sometimes it's important to let the other vehicles on the road have some kind of idea as to what you are doing!) And, C) Generally clogging up the freeway (I-15) with all of their Winnebagos as they headed to and from Yellowstone. (Back in the day, we used to call them "Winnebagos." Nowadays we call them "RVs.") (I think Winnebago lost more of their market share than Polaroid did in the instant camera market.) (Do they even still make Winnebagos?) (And are you paying attention iPhones? Don't rest on your laurels.)

Of course, now that I have a Utah driver's license and have officially been a "Utah driver" for over twenty years, the things about drivers in Utah that most annoy me are: 1) People driving and staying in the left lane on the freeway. (It doesn't matter if there are two, three, four, or five lanes, you are supposed to stay to the right except to pass!) 2) People not using their turn signals. (Because while I do get ESPN on the radio in my car, I do not have ESP.) And, C) Slow-driving RVs and boats clogging up the left lanes of the freeway as they head to and from Lake Powell and St. George. (And maybe even Yellowstone.)

Back when I used to live and work in Idaho, I would frequently drive by a billboard just south of the town of Blackfoot that promoted the Idaho Potato Museum. I would always chuckle to myself as I read the blurb that said visitors to the museum would be rewarded with "free taters for out-of-staters!" I never stopped. (I was an "in-stater." Why stop if I wasn't going to get a free tater?)

Then, last month, as we were driving past Blackfoot on our way back to Utah after visiting my Idaho-loving, Idaho-living sister, I decided the time was right for a stop at the potato museum. The Wife rolled her eyes; she was not very interested. But, she loves me and often grants me my goofy indulgences, so we stopped.

The kids and a wall full of potato mashers!

I was glad we did. The kids enjoyed the "Mr. Potato Head" display, the giant collection of potato mashers from around the world, and the "World's Largest Potato Crisp." (Apparently there is a difference between a potato "crisp" and a potato "chip," though I don't quite grasp the distinction myself.) And, because I am now an "out-of-stater," I looked forward to getting my "free tater!" I was a bit disappointed, however, to find that my "free tater" came in the form of a small carton of hash browns. I was kind of hoping for an actual potato.

The "free taters" for this "out-of-stater."

Sometimes I have to remind myself that my kids aren't from Idaho. So, I try to let them know that they do have Idaho heritage, and I've tried to instill in them a love for Idaho. I think some of it is taking hold.  When I wear my "Idaho State University" t-shirt, Buzz will point at it and shout, "Idaho!" And, after our recent Idaho adventures, when we now get in the van to go somewhere and I ask the kids where they want to go, they will often answer, "Idaho!"

One of the best things about the Idaho Potato Museum is the chance to pose in front of a giant potato!

In the past, I've generally thought negatively about American immigrants who display the flag of their native country. I thought, "Hey, you're in America now! Wave the flag of the United States, not the flag of Mexico! (Or Italy, or Brazil, or Sweden, or Germany, or Peru, or New Zealand, or Ghana, or Israel, or Egypt, or France, or Japan, or Kazakhstan, or wherever it is you were from!) (Even the Land of the Maple Leaf!) These negative thoughts usually end with a declaration along the lines of, "If you like it there so much, go back!"

But, as I've pondered on my Idaho/Utah situation, I have a bit more understanding as to how these people feel.

I love Idaho. I'm from Idaho. But, I love Utah, too! I've explored more of Utah than I ever have of Idaho. There are large chunks of the Idaho panhandle that I've never been to. But, I've been almost everywhere in Utah. I've been from Snow Canyon and St. George in the southwest, to the top of Naomi Peak in Cache Valley and Bear Lake to the northeast. I've been from from Moab and Monticello in the southeast to Snowville and East Wendover in the northwest. (Although I'll say that East Wendover was a "once." I don't ever need to go back there again.) I've been to the National Parks and National Recreation areas of Zion's, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, Natural Bridges, Dinosaurland, Flaming Gorge, Cedar Breaks, and Grand Staircase Escalante!

I love Utah! It's a great place to live! But, I also love Idaho. It's where I'm from.

So, when I think of immigrant Americans displaying the flags of their native countries, I don't have a problem with that. It's great to be proud of your heritage and love where you came from. However, if those same people start to protest against America, then I have a problem. Then I'll revert back to the "if you don't like it here, go back" mentality. (I would never protest against Utah!) (Unless Donny and/or Marie Osmond were to become governor.)

So, when you ask me, "Where are you from," it is a difficult question to answer. I love Idaho. I love Utah. I'm from Utah. I'm from Idaho.

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