welcome to mammoth, how do you pay your bills?

Perhaps before anyone cares to know your name one of the first questions you will face as a resident of Mammoth Lakes goes something like this:

What do you do for a job?

It’s not the friendly version that you get in a normal place. Generally I’ll wait to lug out the “what’s your job” question until after I know someone. I’m genuinely more interested in your attitude, poise, and demeanor than I am how you pay for your groceries.

My “office”, Mammoth Lakes. I’ve carefully redacted all identifying marks.

In case of point the expression in Mexico, loosely translated, looks more like this:

What do you dedicate your life to?

In Mexico (which only has a 17% edge over the United States for college graduates per capita despite having only 1/3 the per capita income), it’s pretty normal to have a degree in a particular field but end up working a different job to make ends meet. Take me, as an example: I work in financial services. But is that what I dedicate my life to? Certainly not. It’s my profession and I take it very seriously, but I dedicate my life to my family and experiencing as much of this world as I can while my heart is still beating.

I knew a quite capable fellow who managed a bar in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Mexico. He paid his bills working as a bar manager but had advanced degrees in marine biology and kept quite current in the field. So is he a bar manager or a marine biologist? Well that of course depends on the question you ask and whether or not you are genuinely interested in him as a person or simply in how money shows up in his direct deposit.

Outside my window. One of these sons of bitches chewed through a powerline and took out my Internet connection for 5 hours. Hope you enjoyed the electrons, bro.

The reason for the “how do you make your money” question is two fold.

  1. General skepticism that anyone can move up here. Because it was a hurculean task for them to arrive, it was obviously a fluke that you did, and you’ll probably be leaving soon. Good riddance.
  2. You’re a trust-a-farian (a.k.a. you have money that you didn’t earn). This also sits well because it shows that you don’t really deserve to be here. Again, it’s just a fluke.

It’s actually quite refreshing to be up here but yet have zero professional connections. Sure, I don’t really have any professional friends within a couple of hundred miles, but on the flip side I can walk around fairly confident in knowing that the small-town-everyone-is-everyone’s-business aspect doesn’t leak into my job.

Of the two of the friends I’ve met in town, one is in law enforcement and the other is a teacher: not only are you in a town the size of a postage stamp, but you are up in everyone’s shit on a daily basis. I feel bad for these folks. I enjoy being civil and trying to be pleasant in nearly every encounter, but it certainly helps being able to pick the majority of those encounters and not have them thrust upon me.

So if you move up here be prepared to just say “Hello, my name is Sam. I work at the [xyz], nice to meet you.” You’ll save all the inquisitive people who want to know about your personal finances a ton of time.