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Living in a tourist area has more positives than not, but sometimes I empathize with a little Charleston girl shouting, “Go home, tourist, go home.”
I love meeting many of the people who visit this area. I have had many a great conversation with people from all around the world.
Seriously, everywhere. A few years ago, a couple approached us in a local sandwich shop asking for directions. Their accents were obvious – Australian. I asked where they were from and they answered, “Australia” – probably a safe assumption since way too many Americans can not name more than a couple of Australian cities. Or think Crocodile Dundee is a fact-based story.
When I asked what city, they answered hesitantly, “Adelaide.” Imagine their surprise when I told them that I not only knew the city, but I had been to Adelaide several times. Many years ago, I had worked on a project in Adelaide and loved the city. We ended up talking about their favorite parts of the area and laughing about my excursions into the Barossa Valley (South Australia wine country).
So, yes, I love meeting the tourists to our area.
Well, most of them. Every now and then, you get the really weird one.
Another day at lunch, we were discussing one of the challenges of our elk. The magnificent creatures can also create a lot of headaches for the farmers and ranchers of the area. They also have a tendency to stand in the road and create terrible traffic obstacles. Nothing quite like rounding a bend in the road and a giant animal is daring you to try and pass.
A guy at the next table joined in the conversation, but not in the most helpful way. He said he was surprised the elk were “allowed” to leave the park (the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – commonly known as the “park” around here). He thought the entire park was fenced off like a zoo. And when we explained there was no such fence, he said we should build one.
Problem solved. (Yes, I will avoid the obvious “and make the elk pay for it” joke. Or, maybe not.)
I ran into another such tourist just recently. Or, more accurately, just narrowly avoided running into one. As our cooler, drier fall air takes over the weather, the views will be for miles – ribbons of colors stretching over distant mountain ranges. The spectacular autumn beauty that Mother Nature provides attracts hordes of people, affectionately known as Leaf Lookers.
In case you think that is a derisive term, let me be clear – I am a Leaf Looker. A proud one. I love driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway and capturing spectacular photographs. But I should highlight out one important safety point.
Do not stop your car in the road for that picture. And, more importantly, do not stand in the road to get the picture.
Every single fall, I have at least one encounter with such a person. And I have already had my first this year. I was driving down the mountain from my house to the valley. The road is a two-lane, winding road with a 15% grade. No, that is not a typo. I am quite serious. 15%.
Driving down the mountain around a blind curve, I first saw the stopped car in my lane. And the driver’s door open. And the driver standing in the center of the road aiming his camera at some trees.
He seemed quite surprised to see me. And surprised to hear my squealing brakes. And a little put out that he needed to move. Once I made my way around, I watched – without any surprise – through my rear view mirror as he walked back into the center of the road to try his photograph again.
At that moment, I muttered a line I heard a little girl mutter years ago.
One of our favorite vacation spots is Charleston, SC. We have been going since I was a teenager, which was a very long time ago. Having visited so many times, we have walked virtually every single street in the peninsula area known as the historic district.
During one of those walks along a quiet residential street, we encountered a mom and little girl pulling into their driveway. They stepped out of their car and started to walk to their front door when the little girl turned and shouted, “Go home, tourist, go home.”
The mom, as you can imagine, was horrified. But, let’s face it, the little girl did not make up that line. She had heard it. Possibly from mom herself. Maybe when they were slowed in traffic. Or had to dodge a photographer standing in the middle of the road. Or someone trying to walk into their house thinking it was a museum.
Seriously. I had people park their car in my driveway once, get out, and start taking pictures. When I asked what they were doing, they replied that they didn’t know anyone lived there. The dogs barking and the car parked in the driveway did not make that clear.
Back to Charleston. We were not insulted by the little girl’s shouted remark. Quite the opposite, we thought it was hilarious. Especially laughed at the mom’s surprised face.
Fast forward a year and our next visit to Charleston. We were again out for one of our strolls and happened to find ourselves on the exact same street. And we spotted the exact same little girl.
Only she was a year older and wiser. And, apparently, had figured out an important advantage of tourists visiting your city:
Yep, the little girl had become an entrepreneur.