I spent a week in Phoenix earlier this month. My wife and I went down to the Valley of the Sun for a respite from the cold and snow of Denver as well as to get out and climb a few desert mountains. I have been to Phoenix many times over the years, usually in the Spring and usually to climb desert mountains, but I have never stayed in this particular part of Phoenix in the past. My usual haunt has been the Scottsdale Motel 6. The Scottsdale Motel 6 is located directly behind the Scottsdale Fashion Mall and is smack-dab in the middle of one of the most ritzy places in the country, or the world for that matter. I always mused over the fact that a poor janitor like me could spend $50/night to stay right next to a place where $50 would not even buy an appetizer in a local restaurant.
This time was different however. Thanks to the amazing generosity of a wealthy benefactor, my wife and I were able to stay in a large private home adjacent to a resort country club. The 11th hole was right outside the back door. It was a lovely par 5 and it was also responsible for the fact that a golf ball or two would magically appear in the back yard each day. I gathered them up to resupply my golf bag when I got home. I knew something was up as we drove into the neighborhood for the first time. I was driving our twelve year old Toyota Corolla. To put it mildly, we didn't fit in. I do not recall seeing any other car in the entire development that was as old as ours the entire week we were there. In fact, I don't recall seeing any other Toyotas. Every car was either a BMW, a Mercedes Benz, a Lexis, an Audi, an Infiniti or a Range Rover. Every one! I am not exaggerating.
Even more interesting was the fact that there were only two types of families in the area. Everyone was either a Yuppie couple or a wealthy retired couple. I could tell the difference by the fact that when I looked in my rear view mirror at the car that was always tailgating me as I drove along, the Yuppie drivers would have large, fleshy hands savagely gripping the steering wheel whereas the wealthy retired people would have long bony-fingered hands, also white-knuckled as they grasped the wheel with all their might. Since the side windows were always blacked out I spent a week looking back at some very nasty looking hands. It is going to take months to get those images out of my head.
I am accustomed to pulling to the side of two lane roads to allow hard-charging Yuppie drivers to pass me by. The last thing I want to do is detain a Yuppie. They are important people with important things to do. I do it several times a day in the Yuppie neighborhood where I live. My home experience did not prepare me, however, for what I lived through in Phoenix. The entrance road to the development where we stayed was about a mile long and posted at 30 mph. I could not drive that road without immediately having a caravan of cars lined up behind me, all compacted together like a train, just waiting to get to the next traffic light. I pulled over many times. On those occasions when I did not not I was the recipient of the ritual of the honking horn and the wild hand waving gesture.
It was not just the entrance road where I encountered difficulties. I was driving to a trailhead one morning along a four lane arterial road. I had my window down and was in the right hand lane, looking out for the parking area and trying to stay out of the way of the many Yuppies who were flying past me in the left lane. Suddenly an SUV pulled up beside me and the darkened passenger side window came down. I heard a Yuppie, yelling from the dark recesses of the car. She said, "Hey, can you go any slower?" I briefly peered into the darkened interior of the car and assured her that, indeed, I could go slower but saw no need to do so at that time. The window rose and she sped off. I noted how friendly the Phoenix Yuppies were in that they would actually take the time to ask questions of me while driving along.
One day we ordered a pizza. The Pizza Hut was a couple of miles up another four lane road that was posted at 45 mph. This stretch of road had very few traffic lights so you can imagine how well the speed limit was observed. Coming back from the store I needed to move to the left lane to make the turn into the development where we were staying. I knew getting into the left lane would be highly offensive to all the Yuppies on the road and that I would be immediately subjected to road rage for doing so, so I decided to accelerate to the speed of traffic. I moved left and accelerated to 65 mph. I had been in the left lane a couple of minutes when cars began shooting past me in the right lane. Fortunately none of them tried to communicate with me. I was doing everything I could do to keep from crashing while driving 20 mph over the reasonable speed limit.
I climbed five new mountains over the course of four days of hiking/climbing. Just like the situation on the roads, the trails, or at least the lower portions of the trails, were crawling with Yuppies and rich retirees. Being outside of their automobiles reduced their hostility towards me considerably. It is a funny thing how not being inside a darkened car makes people behave with more civility. At any rate, the rich retirees would greet me with a friendly hello when we crossed paths. When I would leave the trails to start up the mountains they would disappear but it was enjoyable to greet them on the lower reaches of the mountains. The Yuppies, on the other hand, were just like Yuppies in the Colorado mountains. There were all wearing ear buds and it would have been a total waste of time to greet them because they would not hear me anyway. I wondered about the wisdom of walking along a desert trail in the springtime, when the rattlesnakes are beginning to stir, without the ability to hear anything other than the current Yuppie hit song.
I did pass a couple of Yuppie women one day who had momentarily taken their ear buds out of their ears and were actually engaging in the ancient art of conversation. Or at least it was an attempt at conversation. They did what all Yuppies do. They talked past each other, never asking each other a question, about their current physical training plan, their current diet and where they planned to go on vacation that summer. Although the Mexican poppies were out in all their glory, along with a smattering of other beautiful desert flowers, nobody seemed to notice. I concluded that the Yuppies of Phoenix are pretty much the same species as the Yuppies of Denver. They are all Type-A obsessive compulsive people with no joy for life and no appreciation for anything that is around them. They are driven exclusively by materialism and the vain trappings of success. How sad.