How Not to Annoy the Locals

It’s summer and in my neck of the woods (literally, IN THE woods), it means tourist season. The road leading to my house is also the road leading to the main entrance of a very busy (and gorgeous) state park.

So, to these tourists, I would like to say:

Thank you. We rely on you for visiting and spending money. Thank you for coming. Enjoy your stay.

January 2, 2013 062I’d also like to say I enjoy meeting you. I go to the park sometimes to walk the main loop and I’m the one who has seen you trying to get a photo, but needing someone else to take the picture. So I offer to do this for you and we talk about where you’re from and then I tell you that I’m from down the “block”. I love that you come to where I live for your vacations. The international ones of you are my favorite because our state park represents us well and I am touched you came all this way to see our trees. I hope I come off as a friendly and polite American.

And now I’d like to say with that gratitude and spirit of hospitality, that you can also be really annoying. And I know you don’t want to be (I have to believe it’s an accident) and would like to offer some tips:

1) Pull over. You don’t know the roads, I get it. They’re narrow and windy and you’ve seen the deer crossing signs and are freaking out. Just pull over. Do not wait for a line of cars behind you, get out of the way now. Are you in there thinking how great you’re doing? You’re not. I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I’m thinking you need to get out of my way. But you are slow and I mean, slooooooooow. I’m on my way to work or home from work and you going 15 miles per hour tests my Christian fortitude.

2) Do not feed the animals. They are not starving. They are not tame. And they are not props. You’re messing stuff up. Raccoons dependent on you come to my yard when you’re gone. Deer who have been corrupted by you stray too close to roads, losing the fear of you they need to keep safe. Squirrels that look cute scampering tree to tree turn into furry-tailed rats as they seek handouts.

3) Do not compare. There are very few places in the world that have Redwood trees.   We like ours. I don’t want to hear about anyone else’s. If you go to someone’s house do you say, “I like your couch, but Susie’s is better.” No (at least I hope not). So don’t come here telling us how you like some other trees better. You can love those trees and our trees. There is enough love to go around for all the trees. But we love ours and don’t want to hear anything negative.

4) Keep the marveling to a minimum. When you visit our town and see how small and old fashioned it is. Yes, that is our grocery store. Yes, one stop sign. Yes, the fire department is volunteer (and they are awesome). Yes, we go to school here and live here. All these comments like you’ve discovered some remote tribe living in the Amazon make you sound dumb.

5) Keep your wits about you. So when you marvel at us like we’re those exotic natives, we feel compelled to warn you about the bears. Our California accents may change to a Southern drawl and our eyes might sparkle when they meet the glance of another local over your head as we join up to freak you the hell out. It makes us laugh. There are no bears, but your expression when we tell you about their snarling, rabies-driven marauding is so funny, we can’t resist. So keep your BS filter on high and laugh along when you find out we’re just messin’ with you.

The other rules apply too (pack out your trash, only you can prevent forest fires), but my tips are given in appreciation and humor.

Enjoy your visit. We’re sure you’ll love it. Just watch out for the bears.