Monday, November 26, 2007

The Trouble with Tourism

I'm yielding to the urge to reprint some columns from even earlier. This was one of the first I ever ran, and I'm much less grumpy now, thanks.

(News-Herald, June 1998) The trouble with tourism as an industry is that you have to put up with tourists.
I think those who tout tourism for our area sometimes forget this.
My family's roots are in the seacoast region of New Hampshire, an area that benefits financially from tourism, even though the major attraction is the Atlantic Ocean, a body of water that can only be comfortably entered during a two-hour span on a single Wednesday afternoon late in July.
The rest of the year it appeals only to small children, who will play in the waves for hours, then look up with big eyes and blue lips saying, "Wh-wh-what d-d-d-do you m-mean we're g-g-going home?"
Because the ocean is largely inhospitable, tourists in the area resort to the more common tourist activities: getting in the way, behaving rudely, and spending money. It is only their devotion to the latter that makes putting up with all the former at all palatable.
One of the benefits of quasi-rural life as we enjoy it here is that people basically leave each other alone.
Tourists extend no such respect; they consider your home their theme park. And if you are truly committed to having them return repeatedly with their uncles, cousins, boyfriends, and money, you smile sweetly and act as if you have no purpose in life but to make them feel at home.
So, having experienced Venango County's service industries for years, I have some doubts about our readiness for dealing with tourists. In the public interest, let me offer this little quiz. Take it and see if you are prepared to participate in the Oil Region Heritage Stuff Tourist Boom.

1) A customer enters your shop. You are busy with an important magazine article. You should:
A. Wait on him.
B. Ignore him for a while.
C. Ignore him until he goes away.

2) You work in a restaurant. A customer comments thaat his meal was not well-prepared. You should:
A. Apologize and offer to tear up the bill.
B. Give him a free mint.
C. Say, "Yeah, our chef really sucks, huh!"

3) You are trapped on Route 322 behind some elderly folks with out-of-state license plates. They slow down frequently for no apparent reason, turn their signals on and off raandomly, and generally gawk in an obstructive manner. You should:
A. Chuckle gratefully and feel proud of the beauty of Venango County.
B. Honk angrily and gesture expressively.
C. Run them off the road into a beautiful Venango County ditch.

4) One day a woman enters your place of business and offers to pay you half price for an item because it's really garbage and she's "having a terrible time because people in this hick town are so stupid." You should:
A. Smile sweetly and thank her.
B. Take the item in back to wrap up and never return.
C. Point out that you may be stupid, but at least you're not wearing a butt-ugly outfit like hers.

5) A complete stranger drives his car onto your lawn and has a family picnic. While his children play ball in your garden, he rips Aunt Ethel's memorial forsythia out of the ground, knocks on your door, and offers you five bucks for it. You should:
A. Offer to throw in an authentic oil-soaked country rag from your garage for another five.
B. Tell him about a great antique shop up the road and send him to your in-laws.
C. Shoot at him.

If you chose A's, you're ready to strike it rich. B's and you'll at least enjoy yourself. If you picked C's, perhaps it's time for you to write the county commissioners in favor of something less obtrusive than tourism, like a nuclear waste dump.

1 comment:

Ralph said...

That was pretty funny...

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