Sunday, February 9, 2020

Coming out as Californian

I think it is a sign of a certain maturity when you reach the age where you stop trying to hide the fact you are a walking California stereotype. It's not like you publicize it or anything. But you find yourself mentioning casually to a friend that you recently bought reusable stainless steel drinking straws in order to save the turtles. You keep them in a cloth pouch in your car's glove compartment. You whip them out at fast food establishments, saying to the counter person, "No thanks. I brought my own." You ignore her slight recoil, as she realizes she is Just. Not. As. Californian. As. You.

You might think the contents of all glove compartments are the same, from sea to shining sea. They are not. Sure, in cars anywhere between California and New York, you will find some commonality; emergency sunglasses, your old scratched ones you keep just in case you forget your good ones. Paper napkins and ketchup packets. Pencil nubs. Seven years of insurance documents because you can't remember which one is current. Three pennies. Expired coupons. Inexplicably, a roll of dental floss, not even in a dispenser. These are universal.

A Californian's glove compartment, though, might actually contain gloves, because in the morning, steering wheels can dip below 70 degrees to the touch. I am speaking of native Californians, not recent arrivals, the behavior of whom is unpredictable due to the sudden, intoxicating exposure to sunlight. Aside from gloves, though, the glove compartment of a true Californian, by which I mean a SOUTHERN Californian, by which I mean a "woke" Southern Californian, will always have the following items:

Stainless steel drinking straws, kept clean in a hemp drawstring sack made by the indigenous people of Venezuela. (The hemp sacks of Columbia are excellent too, but one cannot verify the "fair trade" aspect of those, and so are to be avoided.) 

Tube socks for the homeless, to be handed out at stop lights. 

Travel size, abridged version of "An Inconvenient Truth" by Al Gore, the one with the reflective back cover, which can also be placed under your rear windshield wiper in the event of a breakdown after dark. 

Gift card to Whole Foods, and a stamp card from Vegan Vibrations.

Audio CDs of Michelle Obama's "Becoming," aka El Biblio.

A pair of plastic-free, BPA-free silicone wine glasses, because sharing is caring, and caring is not optional. 

A purple amethyst geode from Sedona, to stabilize your car's chi, a necessity for L.A.'s freeways.

A lot of people reading this will not be from Southern California, and will think I am joking about the steel straws, but I am not. The only thing a Californian wants to protect more than sea turtles is a hemp farmer's right to unionize. We are not playing. 

I admit a steel straw gets awfully cold on the lips when imbibing some iced boba or a milk shake. It takes some getting used to, but better a little discomfort for the cause than sleepless nights over befouling the planet. Plus, there is the satisfaction which comes from knowing you are better than other people, which should not be underestimated. 

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