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How to Piss Off an Alaskan

by Jennifer Gracey Aug 19, 2015

Preach to us about environmentalism.

This comes with a warning label. While we Alaskans care a great deal about our environment, we collectively resent — with a vengeance — anyone coming in from out-of-state and telling us how to protect the sanctity of our pristine nature. We do an excellent job of it on our own and chances are, our air, our water and our dirt are all cleaner than what you’ve got where you came from. So, do what’s best for all of us in this situation and don’t mention it — ever.

Oh, and thanks but no thanks for your concern. We really don’t need your input on climate change. We know the glaciers are melting — they have been for decades, how nice of you to notice. We also don’t need help finding where to drill for oil or oversight on how to allocate ANWR and Pebble for development. We can handle it just fine from our end. Do yourself and us a huge favor and go be environmental someplace else.

Speak with disdain about men and women in the Armed Forces.

Alaska’s a military state. And with a significant portion of our population in active duty, the reserves or retired, negative remarks will raise more than a few eyebrows. We sincerely respect, appreciate and honor our service men and women. Consider it wise advice that you do the same.

In fact, if it weren’t for the US Military thinking Alaska was a vital pacific northwest outpost and worth the investment of reassigning my own father to Elemendorf, yours truly and many like me, wouldn’t get to call Alaska “home.” More importantly, Alaska owes much of her founding infrastructure and early governance to the blood, sweat and back breaking labor put in by countless members of the US Military— without whom, many transportation routes and other essentials in the state would not exist.

The ALCAN Highway, completed in 1942 by the Army and open to the public since 1948, is something Alaskans have a peculiar pride in. Well known for connecting Alaska to everyone else, driving the ALCAN has become an Alaskan rite of passage over the years. A top 10 on many an Alaskan bucket list and considered the road trip of all road trips, it’s easy to remember the 11,000 service personnel who pioneered that highway through hundreds of miles of unmapped, off the grid wilderness. Next time you’re on it and dodging potholes, changing a tire or waiting for the guide vehicle in a construction zone to come your way, send our military some happy thoughts and appreciate how easy you’ve got it in this day and age — it’s the least you can do.

Try to talk about Texas.

No, really. Try it and see what happens. Sibling rivalry is a myth compared to the rifts between ‘the last frontier’ and ‘the lone star’ state. Texas may have rights to America’s iconic wild west/shoot-em-up cowboy/independent oil tycoon/cattle rancher ideals but in 1867, when Alaska stepped on the playing field, the whole game changed.

Years before signing on as the good ‘ole US of A’s 49th state, Alaska made her permanent mark by being the wildest and most untameable of the union. Truths excellently illustrated in Jack London’s post gold-rush and now infamous books: Call of the Wild and White Fang.

Two times larger than Texas, Alaska has 6,640 miles of coastline to Texas’ measly 367. The tallest mountain in North America resides in Alaska (Mt. McKinley at 20,320 ft) and is a full 2.2 miles higher than Texas’ highest anything (Guadalupe Peak at 8,749 ft.) Alaska also boasts the United States’ northern and western most points— Point Barrow and Cape Wrangell (yes, we reach even further west than Hawaii. Surprise!)

Considering these tip of the iceberg highlights, it’s easy to see why Alaska has no need of special hats or jumbo belt buckles to prove it’s the biggest, baddest, rough ’n tumble state there is.

‘How do you sleep in the summer?’

They are called, ‘blinds.’ Over the centuries, human beings have used some form of drapery, curtains, blinds or shutters to block out light that would otherwise shine through windows thus preventing sleep at the designated time. A smaller, more travel friendly option would be the humble eye mask. Alaskans always walk away from this question shaking their heads and sputtering silently at its overwhelming daftness.

With 22 hours worth of daylight in the Anchorage area on summer solstice, up to 2,016 consecutive hours of daylight (about 84 days) the further north you go and locals taking advantage to the uttermost, we consider anyone not doing likewise foolhardy and uneducated.

We’ve been known however, to tell a tall tale or two by explaining to the gullible that our entire population simply abandons sleep in summer and hibernates like bears in winter. Why, you ask? Because we have to stock up on our vitamin D and fat reserves in order to survive Alaska’s long dark winters.

Ask if we’re part of Canada.

We’ll make sure you know how ignorant you sound with our “you must be an idiot” gaze that we’ve been perfecting for over a lifetime of fielding this inquiry. We’ll also make you wish you’d paid better attention in geography class. But, to help you out in advance: No, we’re not part of Canada and no, we’re not next to Hawaii in the middle of the Pacific. Go buy yourself a real map and study up.

Ask us if we live in igloos.

We’ll play along with you here for about a minute — it’s cheap entertainment. After the minute’s up and we realize you’re totally serious, we’ll stare at you like we’ve just seen a life-size bobblehead. This, in the day and age of technology, where the answer to every question is instantaneously accessible via Siri or Google, and you’re still under the impression everyone in Alaska dwells in a round house made of ice?

In the words of George Clooney’s character in the film Oh Brother Wherefore Art Thou, “…you’re dumber than a bag of hammers.” Maybe hitting you with one will help. And for the record, technically “Yes, we do.” If you take into consideration that “igloo” means “house” or “home” in Inuit.

Look horrified and indignant when we say, “You just ate Rudolph.”

So, it’s not your typical American cuisine. Get over it. Rudolph is a reindeer. Reindeer is a domesticated caribou. Caribou are food. We eat them. We also eat moose, deer, bear, spruce hen, whale, seal and a host of other exceptional land and marine based fare. (Okay, not all of us — some things are reserved for Alaska Natives and subsistence hunters only.) Alaskans were eating off the land long before corporations flooded our global food chain with chicken, beef and pork pumped full of hormones, antibiotics and GMO feed. Considering the options, we’re good with Rudolph.

Ask if we’ve ever seen a polar bear.

Yes. We see polar bears all the time. They camp out in our backyards, we keep them as pets and we cuddle with them in celebration of Alaska Day every October 18th.

In the event you missed the sarcasm above: No. Most of us haven’t seen a real, live, WILD polar bear in person. Nor do most of us live near or above the Arctic Circle. Visit the Alaskans that do and they’ll probably encourage you to embrace that photo opp with the “cute” white bear around the corner. It is, after all, easier than trying to explain to tourists how the “stranger danger” concept applies to bears, too. Ask us about “Binky” on the other hand, and we’ll immediately wax nostalgic over our unofficial state mascot and melt faster than Portage Glacier.

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