Musings of Mad Max
special to the action
It’s the Friday night following payday and you’ve decided to treat yourself to a dinner out on the town. With the use of your car the choices are numerous: Thai, sushi, California bistro, even authentic Irish if you’re in the mood to sample food from a land known for its perplexing cuisine. Lake Tahoe sure has a wide variety of ethnic foods available, but there’s one thing the restaurants aren’t telling you ” no matter where you go, the food is all Mexican.
Tahoe is comprised of people living in the same place yet in different worlds. There are the scrappy ski-bums, out for the adventure of a lifetime and working just enough to enjoy the landscape. There are the visiting city slickers willing to pay through the nose and out the ears in order to escape their concrete jungles. There are the settlers who’ve chosen this wonderland as the location to raise children who will grow up believing they live typical lives in a typical place. And there are the immigrants. Please don’t forget about the immigrants.
You’ve chosen a restaurant, it really doesn’t matter which one. Your food appears through swinging doors, and your emptied plates are removed from sight in a similar manner. The floor is clean but you don’t see anyone clean it. If you are particularly observant you will occasionally notice someone with darker skin cloaked in white emerge from the kitchen, fill up a cup of soda, and disappear from where he/she came. Although they are rarely noticed, immigrants cook the food, wash the floors, and take out the garbage for seemingly all of Lake Tahoe. They are not here to rip through powder, to sail the shimmering lake, or to summit the gnarled peaks. They are here to work.
Amid the national discussion concerning immigration, Lake Tahoe is a prime example of a community powered by a seemingly invisible workforce, both legal and illegal. They ride the buses, they work at off times, and they rarely experience what most people flock here to enjoy. Oh, and they normally don’t get paid a hell of a lot, sometimes less than the minimum requirement. Some of them are tired, and poor, and huddled masses, and wretched, and homeless, and tempest-tossed, and they’ve gone through a great deal to be able to come to this country and work for a better life.
They perform jobs most privileged Americans don’t even realize need doing, they struggle with a lack of basic education and a language barrier, and all they want is to be given as fair a shot as anyone else. They want to be acknowledged. They’re here whether we choose to look or not. They are part of America.
People who are a part of America would normally be classified as Americans, and Americans pride themselves on their freedoms and rights. Despite much evidence to the contrary, we would like to think of this country as a place where people can work hard and get a fair shake. As demonstrated by Tahoe’s workforce, these people are working hard, and still waiting for their fair shake.
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