How to Piss off a Tahoe Local

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By Suzanne Roberts

Editor’s Note: A version of this story originally appeared in matadornetwork.com in July 2013.

The Lake Tahoe basin receives 15 million visitor days per year. Many tourists respect the unique alpine environment and the locals who call this incredible place home — some, not so much. Everything in this essay is something I have actually witnessed living here for the past 24 years. I know most visitors are not looking to be bad tourists or piss off Tahoe locals, but if you were, here’s how you would do it.

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Get Absolutely Shitfaced

Get off to the right start by pulling off to the side of the highway once you crest Donner Summit and do beer bongs at 9 in the morning. All partiers should have their own neon pink party bong. If you forgot your beer bong, you can shotgun your Keystones instead. Then go to the beach and have Rum Runners. After a dozen or so of those, you’re ready to rent a motorboat or a jet ski. It doesn’t matter that you have never driven one before. Most of the sailboats and paddle boarders will get out of your way.

Or drink beer all day long at the ski resort, and carelessly throw the cans off the chairlift. Time this so that skiers are below you. Make sure you throw up in two (or three) different public places by late afternoon. Then switch to vodka Rockstars so you can stay up all night long. Have a party in your vacation rental and play your dubstep so loudly that it shakes the windows of the neighboring houses. Proceed to play a drinking game where everyone cheers (loudly, so they can be heard over the music) every time the loser hops out of the hot tub to make snow angels. It shouldn’t matter that you are in a residential neighborhood, and it’s a Wednesday at 4 a.m. You have paid good money to rent that house, and you are on vacation.

Drive Dangerously Close

When you drive into town, tailgate the car in front of you. You’ve been in a long line of traffic on a single lane highway to get here, and you will probably arrive to your Airbnb or camping spot sooner by at least three minutes if you allow exactly one inch between the front of your Hummer and the back of my car. Or, even better, drive 10 miles an hour, making sure to look at every single tree. And when you pull to the side to get a closer look at the view, don’t use your turn signal. Don’t worry about the bikers; Hummers always have the right of way.

Feed the Bears

Feed our wildlife and teach your children to do the same. The ducks and geese love bubble gum. Leave your garbage out for the bears and coyotes to go through. Once the wild animals have learned they can get food from you, they will no longer be wild, and we will have to shoot them. But you will be back home by then, accruing likes on Instagram for that great picture of that bear you were feeding. Be sure to detail the ways you lured that baby bear so they can get their own bear selfies the next time they vacation in Tahoe, though they will be taking pictures of a different bear since the bear you fed is now dead.

Leave No Personal Space

At the beach, plop down your family of 10 as close to me as you possibly can, preferably between me and the water. Encourage your children to run across my towel, splash me, and kick sand in my face. And let them scream and chase the family of ducks. Everyone thinks your sticky-faced children are as precious as you do, especially when they give their gum to the Canada geese. And if we’re in the backcountry, absolutely set up your tent right next to mine so I can better hear you shouting into your phone: “Can you hear me now? What about now? How about NOW?”

Be a Gaper

When you pull up next to me at the ski resort, definitely blast death metal while you’re getting ready. Play it so loud that it rattles my teeth. You’re just being generous, sharing your bad taste in music with everyone else. Cut lift lines, especially on a powder day at Palisades Tahoe; the locals won’t mind. You paid a lot for that lift ticket, so why should you have to wait?

Ski or snowboard runs that are way above your ability level and then sideslip down, either ruining the moguls (make it a point to ask someone what they put under the snow to make them in the first place) or, better yet, tracking up a run of fresh powder. Ride the very backs of your skis — edging is overrated — out of control, and cut me off. Or crash into me, or better yet, run over my three-year old nephew and don’t say you’re sorry. Say that it was the toddler’s fault for getting in your way. Gravity is gravity, so that rule about the downhill skier is pure nonsense. And if you’ve done a good enough job getting drunk, you won’t remember any of it anyway.

Illustrations by Sarah Miller/Moonshine Ink

Be a Litterbug

Throw your garbage out your car window. You have the right to a tidy Hummer. And don’t forget those diapers and cigarette butts, too! When you go backpacking, bury your toilet paper along with your business. That way, my dog can easily find it and bring me your poo-smeared treasure. Better yet, leave your TP in a shitty little tee pee on top of your pile of poo. And be sure to camp right near a water source and bathe in it with soap, and while you’re at it, wash your clothes in a river with detergent. You have a right to be clean and you should not have to comply with the rules or environmental ethics since you have hiked 3 whole miles.

Don’t Tip

Don’t tip your bartenders, waitresses, guides, dealers, and ski instructors. Living in a beautiful place should be good enough for those people, and besides, they can always take a third job.  You’re not made of money.

Start a Forest Fire

If tossing your cigarette butts from your car window didn’t do the trick, choose a windy August day and light a huge bonfire at your camping spot or in the backyard of your vacation rental. Make sure the fire is under a lodgepole (they are especially flammable) with low-hanging branches. Or you could try illegally shooting firearms in the wilderness — we know that one works and even if you get caught, you won’t get into trouble. Those signs of Smokey the Bear warning that the fire danger is extreme are cute and all, but they certainly don’t apply to you. You’re on vacation, and you have the right to a good time. Hopefully by the time the entire Basin has evacuated, you will be safely back at home.

~  Suzanne Roberts is the author of Animal Bodies: On Death, Desire, and Other Difficulties, Bad Tourist: Misadventures in Love and Travel, and Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail. Visit suzanneroberts.net or sign up for her writing prompts at substack.com/@suzanneroberts


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