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March 23, 2007

Los Turistas

On Thursday, March 22, Polly Summar wrote an article in the ABQjournal entitled "Rules of Tourist Etiquette".

It is to laugh.

I know Ms. Summar is well intended. She even makes some good points. I especially agreed with number five, "Do not stand in the middle of the sidewalk during busy times on the Plaza..." Then she says later in the same point, "Would you do this in New York City? No? Well, don't do it here."

The thing of it is, they *would* do the same in New York City. I saw it. Hell, I probably did it. They would do the same in Boston, and San Antonio and Dubuque. That's what tourists do. If you live in a place that is popular with tourists, you have to accept a certain bit of foolish behavior.

And trying to impose Tourist Rules is like shouting at a hurricane. You're going to strain yourself. It's not going to hear you. And it's still gonna blast past you anyway (though hurricanes are not in an all fire rush to buy jewelry from a "real Indian", but that's another post for another day).

In fact, articles like this one can be perceived as being a bit hostile to tourists. For a state like ours that depends on the tourist dollar....I'm not saying cater to their every bad behavior, but you gotta accept some of the cost that comes with the plentiful tourist dollar.

Maybe Ms. Summar should take some 'round the way roads to get where she's going if tourists jamming the Plaza are going to ruin her good day.

The lure of the Plaza is too great. It's beautiful, and Santa Fe is a vacation destination. The Southwest Airlines in flight magazine told me so.

While I've been known to rail against a tourist or two in my life, I've also learned a certain symbiotic relationship with them. We both have a place in the world. We get something out of each other. Heck, when I visited New York for the first time just last year, I was completely the tourist, mouth agape at the skyscrapers. I even scared a cab driver by shouting "holy sh-t!" when he rounded a corner onto Broadway and I laid eyes on Times Square for the first time in my life.

To his credit, that cab driver didn't complain at me or tell me I'd behaved wrong. He asked, "Are you okay?" then said, "It's amazing, isn't it?"

I like to think his kindness was payback for all the tolerance I've shown tourists in my life.

Here's my qualifications:

Grew up in Albuquerque. Endured many a balloon fiesta as a child where grownups trampled me to get a better look.

My parents lived in Carlsbad for several years. You want to talk tourists? Try working a fast food joint in Carlsbad on a hot August day! I did it.

I currently live in the San Francisco Bay Area. My partner lived on Fisherman's Wharf in the early days of our dating. He loved the area and I was skeptical when he first moved in. He was blocks away from Pier 39. Let me tell you, I've been in both Santa Fe and Pier 39 in various tourist heavy times of the year. Ms. Summar, you know nothing of tourists. Pier 39 can best be described as pandemonium. The locals here know better. You *avoid* those areas. You take a more circuitous route because you know those damn turistas are gong to make you crazy. And you know you can't expend the calories letting turistas make you crazy because there is still traffic, your boss and that wiener who stole your parking spot left in the day to drive you bonkers.

And you know that no matter how many rules you try to impose, how many ways you ask nicely for them to respect the locals, how many times you gently request they move off of the sidewalk for that family portrait session, they are not going to change. Tourists enjoy a certain sense of entitlement wherever they go. It's why many other countries don't enjoy American tourists.

For a while there, post 9/11, we all felt a distinct lack of tourists. San Francisco suffered financially because people weren't traveling. Hotels, restaurants, cab drivers, the common man suffered the loss. Funny how your perspective on tourists changes when you don't have them.......

So just know, we can't change 'em. We can only change how we react to 'em. So Ms. Summar, next time you see that guy flossing on the plaza (point four on her list), don't see the uncouth, unaware, buffoon, see instead the dollar bills that fall out of his pocket and help make your historic town and our beautiful state keep percolating along.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
All content of Oh Fair New Mexico by Karen Fayeth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.