I know that prime tourism season is over. At least until the National Christmas Tree is lit. But over the years I’ve seen some rather rude behaviors toward tourists from my fellow Washingtonians. That means you, folks.
I know it’s hilarious when we see a line of tourists waiting outside of the ESPN Zone. We want to openly mock the recent transplant telling her parents that there’s nothing much north of M Street (overheard on the Metro). We chuckle at the cute guesses about exactly what the Naval Observatory is (“Oh, yeah, that’s where they put all the submarines.”). And it’s fun to complain about them walking at a sluggish pace around town. Don’t they know we have happy hours to attend and routes to jog?
But do these people deserve to be treated with less courtesy than our neighbors? I hope we’re better than that.
Here are some reasons why we should be nice and help them from time to time.
You get them on their way…and out of other people’s. Say you see a family of 12 wearing matching shirts. They’re crowded around the escalators, and the paterfamilias is looking at a Metro map, turning this way and that. Normally, we’d push by them and shake our heads, because they’ve just ruined our day. Well, what if, instead, we ask them, “where are you guys trying to go?” It’ll take you maybe a minute to explain to them that they need to get to the other side and get on the next train. And voila! Off they go on their family adventure, telling each other misguided anecdotes about how Thomas Jefferson built his own memorial like a Roman tyrant, and that is why we have 31 days in both July and August.
We’re better than New York, you hear? (say that in your best fake New York accent, it’s fun). We’ve all known someone who’s had a rude and counterproductive experience while visiting New York City or other big metropolitan places. Do we really want to be like them? Just because we’re the capital of the best damn country doesn’t mean we have to act like we’re better than people from elsewhere. Imagine: you help a tourist who’s lost and scared. And they go home and tell tales of the friendly Washingtonian to generations of kids. And the word catches on that DC welcomes visitors and treats them like friends. You’ll be a folk hero! Like that fella Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter and Liberator of the Ood.
Because you’re a nice person. Look, if you were lost and delirious in a strange land, where everybody is better looking, smarter and more humble than you are, you would appreciate it if someone helped you out when you needed it. Give up your seat to that young couple with two kids in tow after they had just walked the entirety of the Museum of Natural History. Or maybe after giving directions, point them to a local independently owned restaurant (Georgetown Cupcakes doesn’t count) to try out. You’ll be helping them AND our business owners. And over dinner, they’ll tell each other how our Founding Fathers were all devout Christians, and that J.F.K. bought the Hope Diamond for Marilyn Monroe.
When you interact with a tourist in any way, you are representing this city and everybody else in it. I love this fucking city and I love you, and I hope that everybody that comes here goes home to their sad little town and say, “Gee golly, pop, I wish our city was as awesome, vibrant and friendly as Washington, D.C.” You have the power to make this happen.
However, though, I fully support sarcastically yelling at them for standing on the left side of the escalator. I mean, do we really expect them to figure out the clausterfuck at Gallery Place-Chinatown AND listen to Michael Taborn’s mumbled, recorded messages over the loudspeaker? Of course not. But any other time, be nice. Offer help and get them out of our way and make sure they have a good time.
*** ”All historical facts, including the title, in this blog post are inaccurate and blatantly untrue.” – Benjamin Franklin, 1965, Roswell, NM