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California Derangement Syndrome

Columnist: Keith Woods
March, 2019 Issue

Keith Woods
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Anyone from the North Bay who travels around the U.S. has probably experienced—like I have—a phenomenon in other states that I label as CDS: California Derangement Syndrome. Or, maybe “Anti-California-itis” is a more appropriate description.

Regardless of the name, it’s the intense dislike of our state exhibited subtly and sometimes overtly in many of the 48 states I’ve visited. (And to answer the inevitable question, for me it’s Maine and Rhode Island.) Sometimes I think it’s just a general disdain for our state because we’re so big, rich and powerful. You know, we’re the fifth largest economy in the world if we were our own nation, and home to one out of every eight Americans. Some of it’s probably pure weather envy, particularly this time of year when a large segment of the country’s population is shoveling snow, while we’re still lounging by a pool or planning a weekend of wine tasting.

In other words, they’re jealous of a lifestyle they don’t get to enjoy and there isn’t much they can do about it. They certainly can’t move here—we’ve made certain of that by making our housing unaffordable for 80 to 90 percent of Americans. For many states, $500,000 will buy you a mini-mansion in much of fly-over country, compared to the fixer-upper you’ll get in the North Bay.

Here’s a typical example of anti-California-itis: A few years ago I was asked to give a speech to a group in Fargo, N.D., in January. (By the way, when it comes to travel the words “Fargo” and “January” should never be used in the same sentence.)
As I returned my rental car to the airport, I listened to the radio and the local weather guy said, “Don’t stay outside too long. It’s a chilly -22 degrees out there and that’ll burn your skin.” Chilly! He actually called -22 degrees “chilly!”
I won’t reveal the rental car company was, but the first letter is “H” and the last letter is “Z.” I drove into the lot and a nice young guy asks for my rental agreement. He looks at it and says, “Californian, huh”? I confirmed that I was and heard him mutter under his breath something like, “Jeez, you poor guy,” as he shook his head in apparent pity.

I asked what he meant. He said he didn’t want to offend me, but he’d visited California once and wasn’t ever going back. “You got all those earthquakes and smog and traffic and flaky people,” he said. He regarded me with a sad, sympathetic look on his face. “How in heck do you people live out there?” he asked.

Huh? The dude has icicles hanging from his ear lobes, for God’s sake, and he’s ripping my beloved home state! I looked around at a blanket of snow everywhere and said, “Well, you’ve certainly got yourself a garden spot right here. Don’t you let anybody find out about this piece of paradise, or there will be Californians lined up from here to Nevada trying to get into Fargo.” (To avoid hate e-mail from transplanted North Dakotans, I truly believe Midwesterners are among the nicest, friendliest, most generous people I’ve ever met. Until they start taking shots at California, of course.)

So how can we soften the blow for others that we get to live here and they don’t, especially during the winter months? Here are a few tips:

Don’t be arrogant by referring to much of the U.S. as “fly-over country” as I did. That is insulting to some awfully nice places elsewhere.

Don’t mention your tee-time is in 30 minutes during a phone call with someone who has just had 5 feet of snow dropped on them. Not classy, even though you golfers would likely enjoy rubbing that in.

Don’t complain about your sunburn and say you’re miserable because you spent too much time outside over the weekend.

Don’t complain about the wide, long-handled shovel you were gifted with to someone in the Northeast. No one wants to hear that you recently got the stupidest Christmas gift ever, and you don’t have the slightest idea what it’s for.

And finally, when traveling don’t ever ask, “How in heck do you people live there?”  Trust me, that one definitely hurts.



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