Tourist Empathy

No one comes to D.C. without an earnest gene, especially for a vacation.  Tim Keller talks about how everyone with ants in their pants goes to New York.  So everyone who wants to do good considers D.C.  If only for vacation.

I often want to go downtown and help tourists.  Just position myself so I’d bump into them in order to offer advice or directions or rides or cold water.  And if there wasn’t something slightly stalker-ish about it, I’d do it intentionally at least once a week.  As it is, I only do it when I stumble upon an opportunity.  Which is surprisingly often.  An elderly couple and granddaughter from a small town in Texas (Beeville, to be precise) once jumped in my car without a thought and let me drive them to the Dancing Crab (they’d been there years before and had to show their little granddaughter the spot).  My last words to them when they got out of my car were “Don’t make a habit of jumping in cars in D.C.”

There’s something just so poignant and touching about all the fanny packs and pale wanderers on the National Mall.  The (typically) midwestern parents are so earnest about taking their kids on an educational vacation, throwing in a look at Dorothy’s ruby slippers so that the kids won’t rebel entirely.  Honestly… these people kill me.  They are so hopeful, so tired, so diligent.  They look grim, doing death marches between museums, promising Dreamsicles or Push-ups after another lap of culture.

And I feel for ’em.  Or more appropriately for their tired children who want to be on a Gravitron at some amusement park, throwing up after riding 20 times in a row.  Instead they are learning about rocks, minerals, dead presidents and space shuttles.  Cool in theory but not worthy of bragging rights back on the playground.

I don’t know what this says about me but honestly I just want to cry thinking about all that earnestness.  People really do try hard to be good parents, to see to it that their kids have good experiences, are exposed to things, know what it means to be American (which I suppose translates to the kids as buying Obama t-shirts and seeing monuments) and realize that their tax dollars really do provide a lot of cool stuff if they can just get to D.C. to see it all.

So if you ever wonder where I am, I’m likely down on the National Mall encouraging kids to keep marching, telling parents to go easy on themselves and give in to minibar and hotel pool temptations at night, and handing out water bottles to small-town visitors to my fair city.  It’s just one of my weak spots.


~ by Cary on May 10, 2010.

4 Responses to “Tourist Empathy”

  1. […] via Tourist Empathy « Holy Vernacular!. […]

  2. so funny, so true! 🙂 you’re such a nice washingtonian, cary. 🙂 between the tourists and the protesters, i just try to stay inside.

  3. […] via Tourist Empathy « Holy Vernacular!. […]

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