The Great Question of How We Think About Tourists

Jerry Schuster  |   Wednesday Aug. 2nd, 2017

They’ve been here a couple of months already. You know who I am talking about; don’t be so coy. Okay, its tourists.
According to my Funk and Wagnalls, a tourist is a person traveling or visiting a place for pleasure. For those of you who do not know what a dictionary is, you can go Google “tourist” on your device since you can’t seem to quit looking at the thing anyway.

I am pondering the great question of how we think about tourists. A lot of dark and negative thoughts are descending upon me and haunt me like a bad dream. But then, in quiet reflection while sitting by a tranquil lake contemplating the beauty of nature and the metaphysics of the universe, I am now experiencing a metanoia. Humbly, I walk back to the tent to sit and dwell on the positive aspects of tourists. Yea, I know you are buying this like you believe that pigs can fly and the moon is made of aged gouda. Sure had you going there for awhile though.

Mention the word tourist in Bozeman and locals envision the cars, vans, buses and planes all full of people arriving at the gates of Yellowstone Park at the same time, anxious to see this geographic wonderland.

The reality is that most of their time will be spent in a line of traffic stretching from Gardiner to Cody. This line will come to a crawl when the tourists in the lead vehicle spot what could be some bison about three miles off the road. Eventually, this section of the continuous line of Yellowstone Park’s traffic comes to a complete halt as everyone exits their vehicles for photos.

Out come the finest array of cameras and spotting scopes available on this planet. The cameras need support structures at several points, as the lenses are up to six feet in length and weigh 250 pounds. Everyone is excited and vying for a chance to view and capture these magnificent creatures on film (So sorry, I should say capture on their digital chips. Film is old school and shows my age). What a chance of a lifetime, photos of bison in Yellowstone Park!

By the time the word of what has been spotted gets to the back rows, the creatures have suddenly turned into a mother grizzly with cubs. More buses stop. Finally, a man who has set up what appears to be a slightly smaller version of the 100-inch Hooker telescope on Mount Wilson proclaims in a megaphonic voice which reverberates over the crowd, “Sorry, just some dark boulders!”

The tourists silently head back to their transportation to hurry down the road to line up for one of the Park’s sparse toilet facilities. The problem is that the traffic does not move, as it is now in a version of California grid lock. If you really need to “go,” my advice is to start walking. You will beat the vehicles anyway. Besides, you will actually experience the Park’s treasures while hiking, and it is good for your grumpy disposition.

We are all tourists at various times in our lives. For example, if you visit the City of New York, you notice that most of the people on the sidewalks are looking up at the skyscrapers. Those would be the tourists. That is why there are so many pedestrian collisions with other people and cars. The few who are not looking up are looking down at their devices, as they cannot miss that all-important text from Auntie Flossie.

The real New Yorkers are, of course, hidden in the tall structures at which the tourists are gawking. When you are on the street as one of the million visitors to the City that day, just remember: the occupants of those massive structures are mostly doing the important business of finding ways to extract the money earned by working folks in the rest of the world.

To see a “New Yorker,” you will want to get in line for lunch at Artie’s New York Delicatessen on Broadway. The line starts to form at 4 a.m., but you can get your order taken by noon if you queue up by 7 a.m. When you finally get up front to order, just go for the corned beef on rye, which comes about a foot high. You can overnight express half the sandwich back to relatives in Bozeman, as it will feed a family of six for a week.

Actually, the office workers bring their own PB&J sandwiches in brown bags, and they eat lunch while pretending to be important people in the line at the Deli. Those big deli sandwiches are just for the tourists and are never eaten by New Yorkers. Those who do not brown bag a sandwich order Chinese takeout when they get back to their cubicles. Haven’t you ever gone to the movies?

The important thing here is to be seen in the line. Other tourists will drive or walk by and take your photo, as you could be Lady Gaga’s niece, twice removed.

Tourists are expected to do certain things like go to “tourist attractions” when visiting an area. On one of our early trips to the Boston area, Theresa and I decided we would do some “tourists things,” one of which was to visit Harvard. This was a must do according to our brochure of attractions.

We take the A train to a certain stop where you exit and get on the C train. I am sitting there wondering what happened to the B train. The C train makes a stop where everyone gets out, so we follow the crowd, much like the subway stop at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Cub’s game day. Like all good tourists, we look at our maps and surroundings after we exit the train.

Not seeing anything that looked like Harvard, I walked over to a long line to inquire at the “Tourist Information” kiosk. The folks in front of us must have had very involved questions, as they seemed to take forever. Finally, I step up to the window where a scholarly looking gentleman looks down at me and says, “yes?”

I had practiced my question carefully while waiting patiently in line, so I very quietly inquire “Sir, we are visiting from Montana, and are looking for Harvard.” The gentleman, with an astonished expression, replies in loud voice heard by the hundreds of people in the near vicinity, “These folks from Montana want to know where Harvard is, well, YOU ARE THERE! Look around, it is right behind you!”

We had been Harvard squared you might say.

Theresa and I had a large coffee as we waited for the folks who had been behind us to be on their way, hoping they would not see us the rest of the day. We took a self-guided tour of Harvard and bypassed the information kiosk on our return trip to Boston.
Someday, humans will be the ultimate tourists as we visit other planets. When we get to a planet populated by intelligent beings, we can do a selfie or hand our cameras to those who greet us, and ask in sign language “Can you do a group photo with us? Wait till Cousin Jack in Montana sees this!” 

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