By Denise Ortuno Neil
Being a local resident in a tourist area has is pros and cons, benefits and problems, enjoyable times and bouts of complete frustration. The benefits are pretty obvious, because if you live in a place where everyone wants to visit, chances are that you live somewhere absolutely beautiful like here in the Coachella Valley. The downsides are equally obvious, seasonal overcrowding, lines at the stores, a feeling of intrusion and worst of all, bad driving that can at times almost drive YOU crazy. But there are ways to not lose your mind during our peak season, to actually embrace our backyard visitors and to all enjoy the Coachella Valley together.
The summertime heat can be a bit brutal here in the desert, making us locals overjoyed when our “season” draws near. Season runs approximately from November through May, varying slightly depending on the weather. It means cooler temps, an increase in business and a sense of relief that summer is over. But one thing that also comes with our season, are the tourists. They are an essential part of what makes the Coachella Valley thrive, without them, the desert would be just that, in every meaning of the word. We do appreciate them, and if you are a visitor reading this article now, know that we appreciate you! That being said, there are some nuances that come on the other side of our appreciation. I think, (and most locals do too) that the struggle with season comes mostly with the driving habits of those visiting the Coachella Valley.
It has happened to me at least a million times in the course of my time living in the desert. You are trying to get somewhere, be it a meeting for work, work itself, or dozens of places that you need to be while driving out and about. Then, while intently focusing on your travels, a car turns into your lane at a snail’s pace…in the left lane…completely lost. Now I understand how one could get a bit lost in a new town, but I also understand that if you’re driving, you should know the driving laws, no matter where you’re from. And that includes knowing that you do not pull into the fast lane (left) and slow down....that is what the slow (right) lane is for.
I believe that the problem that locals have with visiting drivers is that the visitors are on vacation, and perhaps lack the urgency to get to a given destination. While us locals, are for the most part not on vacation, and our urgency to get to where we need to go is not more important…..but probably carries a bit more urgency then the visitor tooling around town does (i.e., work, school, etc.).
I realize that when I am in a new town, I am not the best driver, mostly because I don’t know the area and I do play the “Oops, I’m a tourist card” quite often. Perhaps that is what the locals need to take into consideration, the fact that they too have been lost in the past as tourists and most likely will be again in the future. But again, no matter how lost you are, the rules of the road still apply and should be given special attention when driving especially when you are a tourist.
With season now at its peak, and with many highly attended events just around the corner, perhaps it’s time for us to all be a little more cognizant of driving on our valley roads. Those visiting should to take the time out before getting on the road to know where they’re going, while abiding by simple California driving rules. And we as locals need to be a bit more patient (deep breath) slow down and remember what it’s like to be a tourist. I know that as the Palm Springs Local, I will certainly do my best. By doing these things, we can all be safe on the roads and enjoy all that the Coachella Valley has to offer together.