My Karma is Ok Today

I work for a fairly popular global company. It’s pretty well known and has managed to impact the way we look at a lot of things. It’s wild to me how people associate with the branding of this company.

In fact, my big behemoth of a company is something of a rock star.

In my many years working here, I’ve seen a LOT of people come by, whole families, mom, dad, kids and the dog, to have their picture taken in front of our corporate headquarters. More times than I can count I’ve had people ask me of there is a tour they can take. (Of what, I think…people working at their desks?).

Today I was walking back from a meeting, very thoughtful in my head, composing an email I need to send to an executive that needs to be a bit terse, but comes off as not terse. A fine line, I assure you.

I had occasion to walk by the main sign in front of our building and saw three Japanese tourists there taking photos of each other standing next to the sign.

I remembered how when I, hayseed that I am, was in New York and native New Yorkers would stop and ask if I wanted them to take the picture of me standing next to whatever thing I was taking a photo of. I thought it was SO nice and told many of them I no longer believed the bad rap that New Yorkers get for being mean. It was a love fest. And I’ve told that story to anyone who will listen.

With that in mind, I walked up to the group that was blocking the sidewalk. They turned to look at me, realized I was an employee and got a moment of “she works for the rock star” look in their eyes.

I said, “do you want me to take a picture of all of you?” while pointing and gesturing. The woman looked embarrassed and confused and looked at the man next to her. They exchanged words in their language then looked at the third man. I said again, “I’ll take a picture of all of you” and smiled as though that would somehow translate my American English. Then I began feeling bad because they didn’t understand me and I’d somehow accosted them on their vacation. I turned to walk away when the third man piped up and said “ok!” and without reservation, handed me his camera.

All grins and giggles the three piled up by the sign. I put down my books and sweater and made sure I had them in frame. I didn’t want to mess up this moment. They smiled, I smiled, the shutter went click. I looked at the LCD. It’s a nice photo of three friends, so happy to be by the sign of a company they admire, having their photo taken by an employee of the company.

I hope they have a good story to tell when they get home.

Los Turistas

On Thursday, March 22, Polly Summar wrote an article in the ABQjournal entitled “Rules of Tourist Etiquette”.

It is to laugh.

I know Ms. Summar is well intended. She even makes some good points. I especially agreed with number five, “Do not stand in the middle of the sidewalk during busy times on the Plaza…” Then she says later in the same point, “Would you do this in New York City? No? Well, don’t do it here.”

The thing of it is, they *would* do the same in New York City. I saw it. Hell, I probably did it. They would do the same in Boston, and San Antonio and Dubuque. That’s what tourists do. If you live in a place that is popular with tourists, you have to accept a certain bit of foolish behavior.

And trying to impose Tourist Rules is like shouting at a hurricane. You’re going to strain yourself. It’s not going to hear you. And it’s still gonna blast past you anyway (though hurricanes are not in an all fire rush to buy jewelry from a “real Indian”, but that’s another post for another day).

In fact, articles like this one can be perceived as being a bit hostile to tourists. For a state like ours that depends on the tourist dollar….I’m not saying cater to their every bad behavior, but you gotta accept some of the cost that comes with the plentiful tourist dollar.

Maybe Ms. Summar should take some ’round the way roads to get where she’s going if tourists jamming the Plaza are going to ruin her good day.

The lure of the Plaza is too great. It’s beautiful, and Santa Fe is a vacation destination. The Southwest Airlines in flight magazine told me so.

While I’ve been known to rail against a tourist or two in my life, I’ve also learned a certain symbiotic relationship with them. We both have a place in the world. We get something out of each other. Heck, when I visited New York for the first time just last year, I was completely the tourist, mouth agape at the skyscrapers. I even scared a cab driver by shouting “holy sh-t!” when he rounded a corner onto Broadway and I laid eyes on Times Square for the first time in my life.

To his credit, that cab driver didn’t complain at me or tell me I’d behaved wrong. He asked, “Are you okay?” then said, “It’s amazing, isn’t it?”

I like to think his kindness was payback for all the tolerance I’ve shown tourists in my life.

Here’s my qualifications:

Grew up in Albuquerque. Endured many a balloon fiesta as a child where grownups trampled me to get a better look.

My parents lived in Carlsbad for several years. You want to talk tourists? Try working a fast food joint in Carlsbad on a hot August day! I did it.

I currently live in the San Francisco Bay Area. My partner lived on Fisherman’s Wharf in the early days of our dating. He loved the area and I was skeptical when he first moved in. He was blocks away from Pier 39. Let me tell you, I’ve been in both Santa Fe and Pier 39 in various tourist heavy times of the year. Ms. Summar, you know nothing of tourists. Pier 39 can best be described as pandemonium. The locals here know better. You *avoid* those areas. You take a more circuitous route because you know those damn turistas are gong to make you crazy. And you know you can’t expend the calories letting turistas make you crazy because there is still traffic, your boss and that wiener who stole your parking spot left in the day to drive you bonkers.

And you know that no matter how many rules you try to impose, how many ways you ask nicely for them to respect the locals, how many times you gently request they move off of the sidewalk for that family portrait session, they are not going to change. Tourists enjoy a certain sense of entitlement wherever they go. It’s why many other countries don’t enjoy American tourists.

For a while there, post 9/11, we all felt a distinct lack of tourists. San Francisco suffered financially because people weren’t traveling. Hotels, restaurants, cab drivers, the common man suffered the loss. Funny how your perspective on tourists changes when you don’t have them…….

So just know, we can’t change ’em. We can only change how we react to ’em. So Ms. Summar, next time you see that guy flossing on the plaza (point four on her list), don’t see the uncouth, unaware, buffoon, see instead the dollar bills that fall out of his pocket and help make your historic town and our beautiful state keep percolating along.