NO MATTER THE SEASON, if you live in D.C. the chances are pretty good there’s someone who doesn’t, right within arm’s reach. Winter, spring, summer and fall, tourists flock to our nation’s capital, and who could blame them? With scads of monuments, museums, restaurants, concert venues, theater and shopping, it’s the perfect vacation destination.
After a while spent living in Washington, D.C., one develops not only a tolerance for and acceptance of, but also a genuine fondness for the tourists. At least I did in my 30 years as a resident. After all, it is our entire nation’s capital, and so the Texans and Floridians and all those folks from the middle of the country certainly have every right to be there. And of course they all get lost because understanding the city’s convoluted layout requires a master’s in engineering and a few years of practice. Besides, since the tourists clog–oops, I mean fill the city’s streets–all the time, every minute, albeit with a gentle swell in springtime caused by an increase in Japanese natives eager to admire their country’s gifted cherry trees, the residents are not stunned by their arrival en masse and can absorb them slowly and learn to live together in harmony.
This is not the case in Maine, where our normally low-key, borderline-soporific lives are violently wrenched from our collective slack grip one unsuspecting Saturday morning in June with little or no warning, unflinchingly replaced by a long line of stopped traffic on our usual route, more long lines at the local lobster shacks, really long lines at L.L. Bean’s, and maybe even the door slammed in our faces at our favorite restaurant, and that’s with a reservation!
Naturally we Mainers find this situation with the tourists shocking, depressing and more than a little annoying. After all, we put up with the long harsh winter and then the wet and rainy mud season with nary a nod of interest from the rest of the country. Even the meteorologists at the Weather Channel barely mention anything happening north of Boston, and when they do they call it “north of Boston.” New England is clearly America’s forgotten love child, visited once a year for a few weeks and then that’s it. (Maybe a card at Christmas.)
So when these total strangers from “away” come waltzing in with their bug spray and sunblock in search of some downtime and the perfect lobster roll, it’s seen as downright rude. Which is why, if you’re hoping to have some positive interactions with the indigenous folks, it’s much better to be a tourist lost in D.C. than here in Maine, where the most you’ll get in terms of traveler’s aid is a grunt and a nod in the direction you should go.
The only solace the locals get is knowing that the tourists don’t see the Maine we see all year, the private one that’s so easy to love, the one with all the fog that covers the fields and turns everything into a Hitchcock film shot in black and white. They miss out on the overwhelming peace and quiet, the no-hassles, drive-anywhere, park-anywhere, do-anything-anytime freedom of the place.
Instead they bring their homegrown ruckus and chaos right along with them. Seeing them stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic sometimes all the way from Boston up the coast to Acadia, their kayaks and bikes piled high on the roofs of their cars, I’m not sure why any of them ever decide to come back. It’s sad, really, when you think about it.
Anyway, that helps us endure.
Andrea Rouda blogs at Call Me Madcap!