THE STATE OF ARIZONA is lived in by a wildly diverse population. You’ve got the snowbirds, the new transplants, the locals, the real locals — Native Americans –, and the transplants who’ve stayed long enough to be damn near local. Here are ways to tell some of them apart.
1. A local orders a shot of Reposado tequila at a Tucson bar — or añejo, if they’re feeling flush. No lime, no chaser. A new transplant orders a frozen strawberry-peach margarita, half salt.
2. A new transplant thinks they can drive through the “puddle” that is actually a flash flood roaring down the street at the speed of class-four river rapids. Arizonans know that’s why we invented the Stupid Motorist Law, and that the naïve transplant is going to get a serious fine for their swift water rescue.
3. A new transplant opens their burrito, puts a few drops of salsa on top, and wraps it back up. A local just dumps a bottle of El Yucateco on their carne seca torta.
4. A newbie will run away screaming from the rattlesnake at their back doorstep. A local uses a pitchfork to move the creature to their frenemy neighbor’s yard.
5. A new transplant takes his parents to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and waits behind thousands of tourists to take the same photo. A local knows plenty of spots just outside the Park boundaries where it’s free and uncrowded to experience the magic of the Big Ditch.
6. A newbie doesn’t understand when the taco dude asks “corn or flour?” An Arizonan says “one of each.” Same with “red or green?” A local knows that the correct answer is “both.”
7. A new transplant will keep hiking up the mountain in a thunderstorm. A local knows to crouch in lightning position to make themselves smaller than what will unavoidably get struck — for however long it takes for the storm to pass.
8. A transplant (in fact, most folks) will rant and complain about the heat. Arizonans write songs and poetry about it.
9. A new transplant wears sunscreen. An Arizonan knows they should but suffers the consequences of forgetting at least twice a year — or down the road when they find themselves visiting with the friendly skin cancer doc.
10. A newbie waits for the steering wheel to cool down before they drive. A local wears oven mitts. Transplants also burn themselves on the seatbelt buckle. Every. Single. Time. Locals just don’t wear seatbelts for a few blocks, until the AC starts kicks in.
11. Transplants give cacti wide berth. Locals just brush right by them and lean so the needles don’t break skin.
12. A new transplant thinks about it when the waiter asks if they want more chips and salsa. That’s how the waiter knows to charge for a second basket. A local knows it’s implied that you always want more, and they damned well better be free.
13. When a new transplant house-hunts, they ask about the square footage and the bathrooms. A local asks whether there’s air conditioning a swamp cooler.
14. Newbies don’t know the difference between a dirt devil and a dust storm. Arizonans know it’s probably both.
15. If a new transplant sticks around long enough — say, year-round for 15 to 30 years — you’ll find them moving rattlesnakes, biting into a killer jalapeno, and fighting for the phenomenal and endangered landscape they’ve grown to love. And, the locals? They’re right alongside them all the way.
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