Thursday, June 09, 2005

The season

Let me tell you about our toursist season. It started a few weeks ago and is now in full swing, ridiculously, when it really gets hot and muggy. Mostly, I'm fond of the tourists. Poor old DC needs their money. At worst, they are a benevolent nuisance.

The tourists are all so lost and tired looking. To give directions or not to give directions is a classic DC quandary. My metro station is near the National Mall (which is not a shopping mall, much to many tourists' dismay) and I see them popping out daily, looking confused. Looking at their maps and trying to reconcile them with the complete lack of a single landmark in eyesight. Our station is the closest one to the Air and Space Museum, but you can't see it from here. You can't see the Capitol or the Washington Monument either, though both are only a 10 minute walk away. It's very confusing. I like to get folks heading in the right direction. But, do I slow down and wait for them to ask me or offer to help? I know that sometimes I'd rather figure things out on my own, but I also don't like to ask for help. I'm never quite sure what to do.

In DC there are seemingly infinite varieties of tourists. I always try and guess where they are from, which country or a which part of the States. You have a fighting chance at figuring out where foreign tourists are from, but distinguishing American tourists from one another is a losing battle. They all dress the same for this trip, but they often wear a handy logo, or matching outfits, so you can tell that way.

I am quite partial to the family group with sulky teenager in tow. Those poor sulky teenagers. Doing the hard work of making the family trip misery. Oh, yes, their parents will pay for forcing them to come on this trip. I suppose my fondness for this particular character is that it used to be me. I was the ultimate sulky teenager, spreading misery and woe during every single summer I spent in Berkeley with my dad and stepmother. Heh.

There is one thing that really annoys me about tourists, though, which is their metro behavior. It's a good argument for taking the bus. Tourists don't take the bus. They do seem to enjoy taking up the entire width of the escalator. Is "stand right, walk left" really such a difficult concept? What about moving to the middle of the car? Or not blocking the doors with your strollers? I know the schematic for the metro system is hard to understand and I'm happy to help you figure out if you are getting on the right train. But, for the love of Pete, please don't block the escalators! That walk may be the only exercise I get all day.

Grateful for: tourists.

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