Everybody’s a Tourist Somewhere
Sometimes living in a resort town just plain sucks. The people who vacation here, especially those that hail from the “Great State of Texas” (or so they would boorishly tell you) are often rude, belligerent, ignorant, and downright oblivious. They do such stupid things sometimes that I often find myself shaking my head in utter bewilderment and disbelief, like a Dancing with the Stars judge having to watch Tucker Carlson make an absolute buffoon out of himself on national television during Season 3, or nightly on his own program for that matter. In the past couple of weeks alone, I have watched as absentminded tourists have left their 16’ canoe parked across a major stretch of highway while they head back down to the water to grab their paddles, left their car unattended in the middle of the bike path, and walked up to a moose to see if they could pet it (ok, that last one might have been my dad). It’s enough to drive a sober man to drink, and believe me, I am hardly a sober man. But then I remember the serendipitous beauty that brought them here and am grateful that I get to live in the place they feel fortunate just to visit. And besides, everybody’s a tourist somewhere.
Whenever any of us go on vacation, no matter how intelligent and resourceful we may be during our regular day-to-day lives, the first second a fruit-infused cocktail hits our hand (mine usually comes somewhere around the airport departure gate), we have a tendency to transform into a blithering idiot incapable of rational thought. We somehow become blithely unaware of all traffic rules and other common municipal regulations, as if none of them actually apply to US. We park our rental cars wherever the hell we want. We let our kids scream and act like complete little douchebags. The whole world becomes our own personal garbage bin and urinal. Let’s face it- all of us have done things on vacation that we would never do in our own hometown, either out of unadulterated shame or fear of the legal ramifications.
Perhaps, however, there is a lesson in all this regarding our own personal perspectives and our understandings of what we define as “the other”. When I was at Woodstock ’94, I remember being irritated every time I tried to lie down by my tent and get a little rest only to be paraded over and inadvertently kicked by the unending hordes of people passing by. But every time I got up to go see a band playing on one of the secondary stages, suddenly I became one of the hordes doing the unintentional but still annoying parading and kicking. In life, it is best to remember that we are all connected through our basic humanity, ruled by similar impulses and simply trying to do the best we can under the current circumstances. We are all human, after all.
When we see ourselves in the other, recognize a small piece of our own flawed existence in the obnoxious but otherwise harmless tourist blocking up traffic for miles because they have nary a clue where they are going, we discover a more intimate part of the universal ties that bind us all together. We develop the core resources of empathy and compassion for our fellow human beings. Moreover, we learn to afford our own selves the latitude and grace to be imperfect but somehow good creatures nonetheless.
I moved to the mountains because I fell in love with the breathtaking splendor of the peaks, the sublime levity of the air that flowed through my lungs, and the open-ended possibilities for adventure and discovery. A very similar divine revelation is what brought many of them here to visit. I am blessed to have the opportunity to spend my waking moments here, to rise each day in the basking glow of nature. These people are no different than I am. Ok sure, they stop at every street corner taking selfies, stumble haphazardly into the road as if cars did not exist in our sleepy little hamlet where pedestrians are magically inoculated from the harms of oncoming traffic, and act like precocious, whiny brats when the supermarket fails to carry the dietary supplement they can always get at home, but hey, I do the same thing whenever I go to Costa Rica or New Zealand or Lincoln, Nebraska for that matter (which I would never do unless carjacked). The point is that even though we may consider ourselves too-cool-for-school locals when in our own hometown, we could all serve to remember that we do the exact same thing when WE are suddenly the tourists.
Now, not everyone lives in a resort town with this particular dynamic, but the lesson applies far beyond that particular scope. How many times have we mocked someone who is an earnest but pathetic novice trying something at which we are a veritable expert (like me with skiing, for example)? How often have we scoffed at what seemed to us like an unbelievably inept question during a meeting or conference? The fact is that we all sucked at that activity or didn’t know the answer to that question at some other point in our lives. What then gives us the right to sit up on our high horse of scorn and derision to jeer at those who are now where we once were?
When we stop to ponder their true source, derision, frustration, and anger are all borne from the same illusion of separateness that deludes us into a false sense of superiority that makes us feel better about ourselves. But when we realize that at our core we are all bound together in our fallibilities and foibles, that we share a common thread of both simultaneous perfection and imperfection, we open the door to embracing not only ourselves, but others also. Except those fuckers from Texas- they’re just plain assholes….
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com