TITLE: Ugly or Not 7/24/2015
By Pat Small
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Being a guide in the city of New York has presented me with more than my share of ugly tourists. They come in all varieties – short and tall, fat and thin, high falutin’ and the reddest of the rednecks. An interesting lot they surely are.
I remember their dazzling white legs which have not seen the light of day since their last vacation. Why do tourists believe that Bermuda shorts, pristine white Nikes and sun visors are obligatory tourist attire? No matter that New York City is hardly Miami Beach. Still, in summer, it can be stifling hot, so I guess the shorts are ok. Then, of course, there is the $1,000 cameras slung over their shoulders, and very possibly binoculars as we will be touring the harbor. Sunglasses will be perched atop bald heads, bleached blondes and even pink and green bobs.
They climb aboard our bus, jockeying for what they think will be the best seat. They don’t seem to realize that as we change directions on the tour, best seats may quickly become worst seats. Gentlemen and ladies seem to have left their manners and kindness back home. After all, they do want to get their money’s worth on this once a year escape. The children are all excited, and Moms and Pops are easing them along, eager to show them the sights. Their hope is that the kids will remember and talk fondly of this family trip for years to come.
Once everyone has managed to settle into a seat, I start my instructions. No one is listening. I know this because when I stop for a breath, Joe the Plumber asks me one of the questions I just explained at length. But my job is to patiently answer, so I do my best.
We head first for Wall Street. Someone starts a loud rant about the Occupy people, and we’re off. So much for a relaxing, forget your troubles, tour. That gets a loud argument going. Half of the bus thinks the Occupy crowd were doing their civic duty with their protests; the other half thinks they were a bunch of hired guns creating a disturbance and nothing more. With my microphone, a fake smile, and as cheery a voice as I can muster I toss in some history and explain that our next sight will be Chinatown. I hold my breath, hoping against hope, that some zealous patriot will not start a diatribe against all the souvenirs being stamped “Made in China”.
Success. No one brought up the China deal this time. Maybe that was because they have not had time to buy any trinkets yet. Next stop is Fisherman’s Wharf, and I explain that there are shops galore here, and that they should also have some lunch as it may be awhile before they have another opportunity…we’re back on the bus, and everyone hopefully is in a good mood now that their tummies are full and they’ve quenched their thirst.
No such luck! Bill, the bartender, loudly questions: “Did you see what they’re charging for a beer here?” That elicits a multitude of similar complaints. “Fifteen dollars for a sandwich! Do you know how many sandwiches I could make for that? I could feed all four of us.”
We have several foreigners on the bus. I can’t understand all their words, but the tone is sufficient to alert me to their displeasure – over what, I do not know. But, with fear and trembling, we turn towards Ground Zero. It is a must see, but always results in tears, swearing and cursing of the jihadists. I try to keep it toned down. There are children aboard!
Tomorrow will be the Ellis Island visit. The Statue of Liberty, as beautiful a symbol as she is, will also stimulate anger amongst some as our immigration policy is discussed. Some whose ancestors made a stop there will be grateful; others will be less inspired.
Tourists can be an ugly bunch. But in my kinder, more philosophical moments, it comes to me that they are a microcosm of us. Some of us love history; others love politics. Others just want to have fun. It is the tour guide’s job to see that all have an enjoyable, informative, and memorable trip, whether or not they are the proverbial ugly tourist.
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