Most people have never seen a legitimate rare species such as a mountain lion or pygmy owl, and when you think about it that makes sense. But nearly everyone has seen countless snowbirds. They’re fairly easy to spot; the out-of-state license plate is a giveaway. And yes, it’s OK to refer to them using this label since they refer to us as locals; neither term should be considered derogatory.
Interestingly, the rare natural species don’t require much room, food, water or care. They seem to be anti-social, shy, stealthy, and generally disinterested in humans. Snowbirds, however, require more attention, are often on the roads, inhabit medical office waiting rooms, and dine on a diet of early birds. Interestingly, they only occupy our area for a few months during the winter and then disappear.
A recent issue of a popular age-related magazine listed Tucson as one of the best places to reside during winter months. That plug should attract even more snow people to the area although we’re in the midst of an economic downturn. It was an ironic article because Tucson was described as “lively and vibrant offering a plethora of downtown attractions…” There’s no way that writer has ever set foot in the downtown area, and Tucson-is-home folks question some of the relocation rationale presented in the magazine.
Those who’ve been living here a long while perceive Tucson as predominately laid back, somewhat entertainment challenged except during the winter months, intensely hot during the summer when snowbirds migrate to their real homes, and becoming more expensive each year due in part because the snow folks return and praise the “incredibly cheap prices” offered by local merchants in comparison to prices in their primary home locations. It appears the predominant benefactors of the great snowbird influx are those in businesses such as home sales and maintenance, landscapers, handymen/women, various retailers, and restaurant owners.
Many of us have winter-only friends and enjoy their company while they’re here. They contribute volunteer time and financial resources toward cultural activities, charities, and other nonprofit organizations during their stay, and we offer our thanks for their contributions. However, year-round residents provide the necessary, steadfast continuity, through both economic and various other support activities, for the survival of community programs and businesses.
Nonetheless, those of us who consider this area home have some considerations for snowbirds who wish to enhance the transition into and out of their residences here.
1) Please refrain from attempting to transform the desert into a replica of where you’re from (e.g., planting grass, 50’ tall pine trees requiring massive amounts of water). Many locals came from your home towns, but we moved here to get away from those areas. Accept and embrace the desert as it exists and take advantage of what it uniquely offers. We promise not to visit your locals and bring in truckloads of sand, cactus, rocks, rattlesnakes, and scorpions just to make us feel at home.
2) Don’t tell local merchants their prices are too cheap compared to where you’re from. You’re here for the time being, so accept and appreciate the fact that some things might be less expensive than in other locations. We conduct business transactions with these merchants all year, so stay mum and don’t screw it up for everyone.
3) Plan ahead. We want you to have a safe and pleasant return trip to your real home in the spring, so please get your vehicles checked and serviced several weeks prior to the anticipated date of your departure. Things become congested when 99.9% of you insist on having your oil changed, wheels rotated and balanced, etc. each year on the last Friday of April. Over the years I’ve observed that vehicle service centers are much less crowded in late March. You might get the same work done quicker and cheaper during that timeframe rather than during the rush. And thanks to hundreds of years of predictable warming in the desert, there’s a high probability that it may get really hot around here again next year. So go ahead, make plans to hit the road before that vicious dry heat settles in and those hungry desert critters emerge from hibernation.
We want to see you again in the fall with another new RV with SUV in tow, your fresh list of must have Southwest items from Tubac, bubbly enthusiasm for trying both new restaurants that opened around town, interest in hearing the growing list of failed downtown redevelopment plans, and hundreds of new photos of your grandkids.