I've been living in Utah for a year and a half now and my friends back in Los Angeles want to know how I like it so far.
"It's really pretty, the people are friendly, and I found a good job."
They want to know if I've married a polygamist.
Not yet. I know someone who drinks Polygamy Ale, though.
Is it true the state is completely Republican?
No. I met a Democrat about three months ago. He kept raving about the electoral college system.
Are the Mormons different from the ones in L.A?
They drink a lot more Diet Coke here.
What else? Come on, tell us the downsides.
A bunch of deer hang out in the backyard, loitering and giving us cocky looks like teenagers in the parking lot at 7-11.
The driving has to be better. Fewer people, and aren't they a lot slower?
What they do is go 80 in the second lane. They figure the fast lane is specifically set aside for people to get speeding tickets in, so they avoid it. Oh, and I've never seen so much tailgating in my life especially at high speeds. I don't expect to be tailgated when I'm doing 70-plus. And even if it's not me, I worry. I have visions of cars sailing through the air like they're in an action film crash when I see someone 8 feet behind another car while going 80 in the second lane. The more so when the tailgater has a bumper sticker that says "Families Are Forever." I figure that represents a certain disinterest in the possibility of impending death. Then the other day I was tailgated by a guy in a giant truck with a big sticker of a hand grenade that supposedly represents snow sports. But it's the soccer moms driving SUVs that really get me. They smile as they tailgate.
Is that it?
There is one more thing: the smog.
What? You're kidding me! I'm standing here in L.A., the smog capital of the western United States.
Isn't Utah the land of clear mountain air and skiing?
Skiing, yes. But the other day I was looking out over the valley from the hillside in Bountiful at smog so thick and brown I might as well have been in Dickens' London. I found myself asking, "Is it physically safe for me to be living here?"
You never thought that in L.A.?
But we have a lot more cars! Like, thousands more.
Nice try. The cars do their part, sure, but here in Utah we also have a lot of industries belching smoke. They're very talented at polluting, really.
Oh, come on. Isn't there any regulation?
We have a state board that deals with environmental policies. It's been designed so that most of the people on it are from big companies that pollute, or their buddies.
No scientists or concerned citizens?
Let's just say the fox built the henhouse, charged the chickens a bunch of rent, then remodeled it and moved in.
Somebody has to be saying something.
Yep. Me and the Democrat guy. Plus my neighbor, who's a doctor, and my Republican cousin, who's against having her children choke to death, or merely develop extra appendages like the fish in that Simpsons episode.
So, aside from the smog, the tailgating, and the deer, you do like Utah?
I do. I've really settled in. But I'm going to have to cancel an airline ticket to Montana. My lungs got online and bought it while I wasn't looking.
Kate Coombs is a curriculum developer and children's book writer. She lives in Bountiful.