Ah, summer in Washington.
The heat. The humidity. The tourists.
I’d take the humidity any time. It does not ask you to take its picture in front of the Lincoln Memorial, surrounded by two dozen individuals in brightly colored matching t-shirts with reflective tape on them that look like the unhappy offspring of a traffic cone.
I am not one of those people who wishes that tourist season were more like duck season. But sometimes I can’t help myself. They come bustling in with their fanny packs and their coordinated t-shirts, proclaiming their place of origin in BIG CAPITAL LETTERS. I didn’t know they made fanny packs in those colors. They shouldn’t.
“Where is the North Dakota section?” they ask.
“I don’t know!” you snap. “Wasn’t Mount Rushmore enough?”
“That’s in South Dakota,” they say.
You glare at each other.
They are in the way when you try to visit the pandas. They are in the way when you try to drive by the Tidal Basin. Jogging, you trip over them as they pose reverently between the knees of Lincoln.
Walking past the monuments or museums is like trying to navigate a level of a video game full of slowly-moving hazards who accost you for directions to a landmark in front of which they are already standing.
Tourists come as surely as mosquitoes, but they ask more questions about where the marble came from.
They come in cars. In duck-boats. In buses. In double-decker buses. On Segways.
They are a bane.
They make it hard to do what every D.C. resident does best: Stride swiftly around with eyes glued to your Very Important Smartphone, paying no attention whatsoever to your surroundings. You keep colliding with them because they are busy stopping to read informative plaques and remarking on the beauty of the tree-lined streets and snapping appreciative photos of the marble edifices that deck this city.
Apparently, you have been walking past a noteworthy statue of Daniel Webster on your way to work for the past two years. Apparently, Francis Scott Key used to live here. Apparently, there are new cheetahs at the zoo.
That is the trouble with tourists. They show you up.
If you want to find out which person in any given crowd is a District-dweller, ask, “Hey, who here has visited one of D.C.’s many wonderful, free museums recently? How about the monuments?” If anyone raises a hand, you know instantly: He is from out of town.
D.C. is lovely. We have cherry blossoms and an increasingly impressive baseball team and more monuments than you can shake a stick at. We have hipsters. We have theater companies. We have all the amenities of a Big Town lying there willing and very, very available.
And every year the tourists come in to town and remind us that we aren’t taking advantage of them. They walk slowly. They seem excited to be here! They marvel at things.
No wonder we can’t stand them.