Quiet, Little Orinda Receives Bad Press

Meredith White

In the past six months, Orinda has wiggled its way into the national media, a notable feat considering its meager size and the scarce happenings that warrant recognition. First, it was The Wall Street Journal’s article about the renovation dispute at the Sleepy Hollow Swim and Tennis Club. Then came The Social Network’s shout out to Orinda, and most recently, The New Yorker covered Orinda’s leaf blower controversy.

The common thread looped through all three of the recognitions is one of pettiness and negative connotations. Based on its recently stocked reputation, Orinda fits the suburban prototype like a glove in the national eye. As residents of this briefly lime lit city, should we consider ourselves fortunate to have a noisy leaf blower as a top concern or ignorant?

“It is really a shame that the things Orinda will be tagged for on Google is the murder of a cheerleader, the location of  ‘too perfect,’ and worst of all, the leaf blower debacle of 2010,” said senior Alex Govan.

The leaf blower’s media attention may not be good for the esteem and home town pride of many Orindians, especially when The New Yorker’s Tad Friend states that in Orinda, “any challenge to a property’s routine maintenance thus becomes a threat to self-worth, net-worth, and an entire way of life.”

“Is this news?” said one disgruntled Wall Street Journal reader in response to Marie C. Baca’s article highlighting the “mudslinging” and “heated disagreements” over the costly Sleepy Hollow pool renovation proposal.

Juxtaposed to North Korea’s unprovoked invasion of South Korea, Obama’s whirlwind tour of Asia, and an imminent terrorist attack in Germany – no, the story of wealthy but angry swim club members is not news.
However, what must be acknowledged is not the first impression that many average readers had when sitting down to read their profound daily news, which was probably somewhere along the lines of, “Hah! The WASP communities have reached an all-time low. Health problems caused by leaf blowers?! What about the health concerns caused by pancreatic cancer?” This hypothetical reader would then turn the page of the newspaper to something more consequential, perhaps a highly riveting article on the recent election results.

What our reader overlooked and what must be credited, is that the writers of these articles wrote them for a reason other than a complete lack of newsworthy material that day followed by a desperate, last minute scramble for a story. Orinda offers variety and relevance, attributes that can fall short in global stories.

The Sleepy Hollow article goes on to demonstrate that even the most affluent towns are not exempt from the financial strains of the recession. Although an Orinda resident’s monetary woes may differ greatly from a laid-off Shell station employee’s, it is nonetheless the same American recession that affects everyone.

Tad Friend’s leaf blower article doesn’t deplore just Orinda’s leaf blower problem, but the much bigger picture of the country’s obsession with cookie-cutter green lawns.

So while it can be shameful or embarrassing to see Orinda illustrated as a caricature of suburbia in front of the newspaper reading population of America, it is important to understand that looking through Orinda’s lens on ostensibly small matters provides unique perspective on much broader topics.

The Orinda community is fortunate in that it is not regularly faced with grave, traumatic events, but good fortune does not automatically indicate ignorance. Orinda’s problems and many of its wing-flapping residents reflect those of the nation.

When people ask the inevitable question of, “Where are you from?” at college or any other post-high school venue, always respond first with, “I’m from California and I surf, bask in the sun, and see celebrities daily.” If your questioner is intrigued enough to know where in California specifically, inform them that you are from Orinda without a palm to the face or a blush on the cheek.

Suburbia is not a shabby place for an upbringing, and read deeply enough, the petty issues that arise may offer more preparation for the real world than one might think. Go on to assure them that no, contrary to what The Social Network suggests, you are not down for a one-night stand, your father is not in commercial real estate, nor is your mother a raging alcoholic, now 10 years sober.