Columns 2003

Alaskans can be a strange lot

Generally speaking, Alaskans are a mixed bag of somewhat odd characters who have more or less come together to form a loosely cohesive, if slightly bizarre, society.  One thing is for sure, if you are an Alaskan of the tried and true duct tape, Carharts, blue tarp variety, no one will ever mistake you for someone from New York City.  Or Portland, Oregon.  Or Podunk, Iowa.

My sister brought that home to me on her last visit when she said that she knows she’s getting close to Alaska when the composition of the people on the plane starts to change.  I think it has something to do with the fact that they tend to dress more like me than her. She does not necessarily view that as a good thing.

What Alaskans call “dressed up” is apparently viewed in some parts of the world as barely a step above barefoot-picnic-at-the-lake attire.

At one point, Judy and I were leaving Fred Myers in Fairbanks. A woman came out the door behind us. My sister looked at her and sighed.  I looked at the woman and saw nothing remarkable about her.  She had on tennis shoes with white socks, a 60s vintage sack dress and a straw hat whose hey day was perhaps a few years in the past. As far as I was concerned, an absolutely normal looking Alaskan dressed up for shopping.

But that’s not the only difference between Alaskans and the rest of America. For instance, take that unfortunate run of sunny weather we had recently.  The first day or so of sunshine and hot weather everyone walked around saying how wonderful it felt.  “Of course,” they would then say in muted tones, “my bedroom is sweltering at night and I can hardly sleep” and then in a louder voice again, “But aren’t the days glorious?”

By the third day or so of the allegedly nice weather, the expressions of joy over it were coming out of slightly gritted teeth and the muttering about the inability to sleep in the heat was getting louder. 

We know we are supposed to be happy it is hot and sunny. But as Alaskans, we also know that the only time we really want to sweat is when we’re in a steam bath to escape from sub zero temperatures outside. 

By the second week of the hot weather, real Alaskans were no longer feeling a need to keep up even a fa´┐Żade of joy at the temperatures. They were loudly stating that if they wanted it hot, they’d have moved to Hawaii.

When the wind and rain returned, real Alaskans complained loudly about the shortness of the nice weather, but their eyes told a different story.  I personally kept my window open until my bedroom was freezing just so I could jump in bed under the blanket.  I also have some vaguely formed scientific theory that if I make my house cold enough at night, the cold will hold on and fight the heat that tries to enter when the sun comes out during the day.

Yep, Alaskans are just a different kind of people. Those of us born here, those of us who came here as an active choice, and those of us who came here against our will and fell in love with the state – we are all just a little left of center when it comes to the rest of the country.

We like our clothes casual and our weather cool.  If we’re sweating, it should only be because we are vainly pulling on our snow machine starter in an effort to bring it to life in minus zero weather.  If the sun’s out, it should go away by evening so we can sleep cool and comfortable.

When it comes to fashion, we prefer a very democratic variety in which socks are appropriate with sandals, clean Carharts are dress up attire and your winter coat covers any fashion sins you may be committing.

By the way, if it gets hot again and you’re looking for me, I’m the lady in the car with all the windows up and the air conditioning on sitting in her driveway working off her laptop computer. And I’ll be there till real Alaskan weather comes back to our state.