by D.D. Jolly, the Dostoevsky of Champagne Dilemmas
D.D. Jolly, here. Despair to my friends. These days tourists are underfoot 365 in town. This is troublesome to a seasoned pedestrian. Your favorite walking routes are littered with bodies, like the meandering spirits damned to everlasting repentance in A Christmas Carol, only with fanny packs and camera phones. I keep meaning to ask my Lord and (cocktail) Mix Master if I have a cartoon balloon over my head that reads: “Please, ask me how to get to Fenway Park.”
However, tourism is important to the City’s “spend your money and leave” economic plan. Despair understands that she is an ambassadress when she ventures down to the Piraeus.
For the edification of the local pedestrians, Despair has penned a guide to tourists in Boston, so that we may make our visitors feel welcome. The universal truism with tourists is that they quadruple in size when they walk on the sidewalk. When approaching a pod of tourists, estimate their total square footage and give yourself an additional six or seven feet to maneuver around them. If necessary, put your shoulder down and drop one into the street, but be subtle. If you are caught, blame the uneven sidewalks, give them your card and offer to represent their personal injury case against the City. (If you are a Boston pedestrian, I assume you are a lawyer, too.)
If you see a mountainous rucksack walking on slim booted legs, that’s a German tourist. The Germans walk with a direct and steady pace, even when they are lost. You have no idea a German is lost until he or she stops abruptly and asks you how to get to Fenway Park.
The French adopt a jaunty pace on the sidewalk that is slow enough to impede your progress but fast enough that you must break into a trot to get around them. They do this because they are intent on displaying their Frenchness at all times.
This is not one of those “the British on holiday are a pack of drunks” screeds. However, they walk like they are drunk, even when they are sober, which is rare. Alcohol improves their gait and their social graces. If you are accosted by a sober Brit, and if you are helpful, you will be treated to comments such as “You aren’t really American, are you? I thought that all Americans were rude and stupid.” Brits want to know where they can buy cowboy boots. (Rick Walker’s, Newbury Street; The Tannery, Boylston Street.) Direct them to the closest taproom. They are more tolerable when they are in their cups.
The Irish make me feel like a tourist in Boston. They are happy to see you, they will tell you what they saw today and what they hope to see tomorrow, and they hope they might see you again, too. Put on your best manners for the Irish because you will see them again. If not the next day, then four years from now when they return, or twelve years from now, when you are in Dublin. They will remember you and they will tell you of the events of their lives since your last encounter. They might stand you for a pint, so be nice.
The Italians, the Spanish, scratch that, the entire Mediterranean
The people of the Mediterranean have mastered the art of walking on the edge of stillness. If you run up against a murder of Mediterraneans, admit defeat and bide your time. There is no getting around these people. If you have somewhere to be, call and tell your spouse, doctor, faith healer, that you will be late.
The Chinese are the politest of the vacationers, bar none. You need not worry about navigating around them because they are usually standing still taking pictures of the sky. Despair imagines that the top of her head must be in the background of thousands of pictures. She might be the “Where’s Waldo?” of Beijing.
The Californians are easy to spot because they appear as if they have woken up from a refreshing nap. They wear wool in September and will ask you when will it snow. Otherwise, they are exactly like the rest of Americans.
The Rest of Americans
The Rest of Americans look as if they have been dropped onto the planet from outer space. Imagine Kal-El emerging from the Jiffy Pop ship, clutching an iPhone, but with no superpowers and pissed off that the landing was bumpy. Americans have a loopy gait. They are not seasoned sidewalk walkers. Be patient with them. They want to soak up the experience by covering as much pavement as possible. Walking around them can be tricky, but if you have ever played Space Invaders, call upon those dormant skills and you will get around them in a lick.
There is nothing distinctive about the Canadians from the Rest of Americans, other than they will inform you they are Canadian before they ask you how to get to Fenway Park.
Send them to the Garden.