An Open Letter to Travelers

It’s not that we hate you.

Deep down, every city dweller, beach bum, ski lift operator, and museum guide knows that we’re better off with your money and that our towns are made cooler by the sheer fact of you wanting to visit them.

It’s just that, well, we kind of hate you.

I grew up in the small beach town of Ocean City, MD. In the winter, the population is just over 7,000 and in the summer more than 325,000 people cram onto our 10 mile long, one mile wide peninsula. It’s suffocating. Tourists rain down on the town, leaving trash, vandalizing businesses, and generating crime.

They also spend tons of money on booze, funnel cakes, mini golf, and stupid T-shirts. The majority of OC residents would starve without our summer time friends. I, myself, am the daughter of a small business owner who once had a summer-only mini market. Tourists were our bread and butter.

Now, I live about two and a half hours away in Washington, DC. Many people in the DC metro area have visited OC at some point, and I frequently meet people who spent summers there as kids. Without fail, nine out of ten people who know of OC say the same sentence when they find out where I’m from: “I didn’t know people lived there!” To which I respond:

“Yeah. I’m the one who poured your beer.”

I always imagined that one day, when I moved from OC, one of the perks would be that I would no longer have to put up with “tourons.” Then, I settled in DC. If there is anything dumber than a drunk college kid on spring break, it’s a country bumpkin toting their family through the big city. Goddess help us all.

Every tourist destination has a set of rules, spoken and unspoken. It is your job as a tourist to figure out whether you want to be conscientious of these rules or not. Just remember, in some places, choosing not to blend makes you a target to those people who would take advantage of a tourist.

In DC, we have a rule about escalators. This is the first rule for all tourists. Just ask anyone. It may seem strange, dumb, or not so important to you, but District residents are dead serious about it: we do not stand on the left. EVER.  We stand on the right of the escalator and allow people who wish to go faster to walk on the left.

‘Peep to the Right–Vote for Us!’ courtesy of ‘Hoffmann’

Courtesy of ‘Hoffmann

Why does this matter? Well, not all of us are on vacation, buddy. Some people have to get to work.

How do I know that you’re standing on the left while people are on their way to work? Because you’re a tourist. Which means you probably didn’t think about the fact that you were dragging your kids, bags, and strollers through the metrorail system at rush hour. You thought, “Nine’s a good time to hit a museum.”

Didn’t you? Yeah, you did.

There are plenty of guides out there about what to do or not do in DC and other cities around the world.  And, I don’t have time to write one now so I’ll point you to this excellent list of how not to be a tool when riding the metro. But, to the guy who wants to stand on the left: just remember that you are a target.

In fact, you’re my target. And, I will happily pour my latte all over your fanny pack.




2 responses to “An Open Letter to Travelers

  1. I love the Peeps. I am a geek who loves visiting the museums, but I avoid them at all costs during the summer. I generally hate crowds anyway, but when they’re slow, sweaty, and weighed down with cameras and maps, it REALLY bothers me.

    And the museums open at 10, dammit…

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