Monday, March 03, 2008

The Annual Running of the Tourists

Dear Tourists,


Cherry Blossom season is just around the corner, and with it comes the annual Running of the Tourists. Which is more accurately called the "The Slow Disorganized Waddling of the Tourists." Or, "That Time That All Locals Hate."

Locals don't like you. You don't charm us with your sweet small-town ways or enthusiastic grins. We hate your fanny packs, your stupid clothes, your spoiled fidgety children, and your tendency to grind to a halt and throw sidewalks into chaos just so you can take a photo or adjust little Madison's FBI t-shirt. Do you really need the whole sidewalk? You can't move a few feet to the side so others can pass? No, of course not.

You destroy the already precarious Metro equilibrium with your total inability to take a freakin' hint. You just can't pay attention to your surroundings, can you? You can't blend in? You stand on the left side of the escalators, you herd the entire extended family onboard during rush hour, and you wheel school-age kids around in pony-sized strollers (can't they walk by now?).

Then you putter from museum to memorial to Spy Museum, complaining about the heat and the fact that you can't just pull right up and park like you do at the local Cracker Barrel. You take most of your meals at McDonald's and Quizno's. Your near-hysteria about urban environments precludes you from experiencing cheese fries at Ben's Chili Bowl, a Sunday afternoon at Eastern Market, non-chain restaurants, or anything else that might stink of "local color."

But we need you. We loathe you, we don't want you, but we need you. We count on tourism dollars to keep our city alive. Tourists and Washington are locked in a demented and unhealthy symbiosis. We must break the pattern and be free.

So, here's my suggestion. Long ago, this guy suggested that all tourists skip the visit and just send a check. You don't experience our city, anyway. Don't bother packing the kids into the Suburban, paying outrageous amounts for parking and hotels, and don't stress about herding the family from one blandly inspiring location to the next. Just send a check, and I'll send you a packet of postcards and a "Female Body Inspector" sweatshirt with coordinating "CIA" trucker cap.

Can we make this work?


Kristen S. said...

I couldn't agree more with everything you said...after 18 years here, I can honestly say I don't have a clue what's so appealing about here as a vacation destination, especially fo rthose with young kids.

Daniel said...

They also have special vision! Apparently I have a big spinning question mark above my head that is only visible to tourists.. And the questions that they ask.... I swear I have a bad streak and sometime I will indulge in it by giving them wildly wrong information.

Shannon said...

Kristen, I think it's sort of something you punch on your parent card - like, "I took the kids to Air and Space. Now they'll go to college."

Daniel, I don't mind when tourists ask me for directions or advice. Where I get cranky is when I go to the effort of directing them, and they whine about having to walk further than two blocks. Uh, is my name Pierre L'Enfant? No. I didn't come up with the layout, so learn to deal.

Mike said...

That's funny about the chain restaurants. When I went to the Caribbean, the girl I was with insisted on getting her lunch at KFC. A French island in the Caribbean, and she wanted fried chicken. I should have snapped a photo; that was a meal worth remembering.

Shannon said...

Mike, I will admit to eating at the McDonald's in Budapest. In all fairness, I was living in Sarajevo at the time and was a bit homesick. But KFC? Oh, honey, no.