Tourists

August 20, 2016

 

I've lived on Cape Cod in Massachusetts most of my life. If you were to ask me if I've lived here all of my life, my answer would be, “Not yet.”

Arguably, our main industry is tourism. Our season runs from the third week of June, when kids get out of school, until Labor Day, when everything starts to quiet down again. During the season, the roads are jammed, the beaches are overcrowded, restaurants are full, and it's difficult to go anywhere or do anything.

All of us who live here have tourist stories. One of my favorites happened when I was a kid and working in the ticket office of a local ferry line. A man came running up to the ticket window at about 9:30 in the morning. Completely out of breath, he asked, “What time does the 10:00 boat leave”? I looked him straight in the eye and said “9:45.”

“Thanks!” he yelled, and ran off to get his family organized for the trip. I think he made it.

Near the Kennedy Memorial in Hyannis, there's a small creek that runs under the road and out to Lewis Bay. It's a great creek for finding crabs and shellfish. When I was nine or ten years old I used to hang out at the creek with a couple of my friends. For lunch, we'd dig up a few clams, smash them on a rock, and slurp them down. I didn't think anything of it until I noticed a group of tourists taking pictures of us. I heard one of them say, “Look at what the little native boys are eating!” Of course, that was all we needed to hear—we immediately launched into our “native boy” dance while the cameras clicked away.

We also had fun giving misleading directions to tourists. If you hold up your left arm straight out from your shoulder, bend your elbow 90 degrees, and cup your fingers at the end, you have a pretty good image of the pose adopted by Cape Cod natives when lost New Yorkers ask for directions. “Well, we're here at the bottom of the arm under the bicep, and if you want to go to Eastham, you have to head down the arm, take a left at the elbow, go partway up the forearm, and you're there.” We used to do this to all tourists, but you got bonus points if the tourists were from New York. It's a Yankees/Red Sox thing, and you have to be from New York or New England to even begin to understand it.

A lot of people on Cape Cod complain about the tourists. These people are not Cape Codders. They are transplants and wash-a-shores from somewhere else. Whenever one of these people moves to the Cape, they want to roll up the bridges behind them so no one else can come here. They don't understand the intimate relationship between Cape Cod and its visitors. The money the tourists spend here every summer finances the lifestyle we enjoy the rest of the year. Cape Codders celebrate the tourists. That's not to say we don't make fun of them—we do. The same way I got made fun of when I first went to Florida and asked why the lobster didn't have any claws. It's good sport, and few people take it seriously.

So for all of the tourists I've wronged in my life, I will now tell you the truth. There is no tunnel to either Cape Cod or Martha's Vineyard. The fact that you can buy a tunnel pass in the gift shops is a joke, people! There is also no car catapult over the Cape Cod Canal, despite the regular Facebook postings of the Bourne Police Department. If you want a good laugh, please read their posts. I don't know who does them, but they are hysterical.

There is no easy way to get to Falmouth from anywhere. There's also no way to get to Provincetown from Orleans other than the main road, which can be hazardous. Cape Codders do not go into hibernation every winter and wait for you to come back. From September until July we enjoy everything we can't get to in July and August (and yes, we love it that way).

So the next time you're annoyed by a tourist who stops in the middle of the rotary because they can't figure out where to go, be patient, and remember that if they weren't here spending their money, you wouldn't be here either.

And finally, the 10:00 boat leaves sometime around 10:00, but not before the captain is damn good and ready.

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