Even though it’s nearing the end of the tourist season, I was inspired by a letter to Boston’s Weekly Dig, and thought some advice for out-of-town visitors would be helpful. First, the letter:
Dear Slack-jawed Touristas,
While we appreciate the dollars that you pump into our Menino-pillaged coffers, being from East Bumfuck, Iowa, is no excuse for the complete lack of common sense and/or courtesy that you and your fellow bus-cattle exhibit as you continually add yet more obstacles to our ceaseless urban rat race. Here’s a few helpful hints.
Step away from the center of the thoroughfare while rummaging through your fanny pack, consulting Streetwise for the best baked bean jernt or instructing your brood on navigating a road with more than one traffic light.
As rude as we seem (we’re ruder), we won’t harpoon you if you ask one of us for directions. Hell, we’ll gladly point you in the direction of Fanyooeeill Hall if it will help unclog Washington Street of your corn-fed cankles.
Lastly, don’t expect much from us. We have centuries of hating life that have made us surly and mean. We’ll allow you to gawk, drool and quack to your little hearts’ content, but when we glare back at you like you’re a brown smear on the bottom of our soles, don’t take it as anything more hostile than a superhuman effort to tolerate your inexplicable need to make our lives more difficult in your search for chowda, swan boats and the aura of history that our bitterness toward existence has long since bludgeoned into oblivion.
You should keep in mind that the Dig’s readership is far more bitter than most–the next Dig letter refers to the pathos of pigeons picking through vomit for food. But after that letter, nothing I write could be nearly as obnoxious as that, so with that in mind, here are some tips for tourists visiting Boston:
Bring a street map. You will get lost. You don’t believe me? Then why are you asking me for directions? Your Google search map didn’t help, did it? Seriously, the entire city street system was designed by drunken cows, except for Back Bay, where every street is one way–because otherwise the only existing grid in Boston would be too easy to navigate. Most street directions consist of something like “You go straight until you hit a left that curves. Then you take it until you reach the thing. Take a left, but not the sharp left, until you reach the other thing.” This actually makes sense if you live in Boston, but, remember, you don’t.
Enter the subway (aka “the T”) quickly. As an evolutionary biologist, I realize that being very cautious while entering dark holes in the ground is, overall, an adaptive trait–you never know when there might be a large, scary carnivore down there. But the rest of us have to get to work. I take the T every day, and I assure you there are no large carnivores roaming around. So when someone says “Excuse me” in a tone of voice that really means, “Get of the way, you fucking moron”, it’s because this is a mass transit system, not the fucking Epcot monorail. Think of it this way: back in your suburban paradise, if you were driving home from work and were stuck behind someone doing 27 mph in a 45 mph zone, how happy would you be?
Don’t be an escalump. That person on the left side of the escalator who’s looking really pissed off at you? She’s trying to get by. Move to the right of the escalator. This goes for stairs too, if you’re walking slowly (see the above point).
“The front of the cah looks just like the reah of the cah. Please move to the reah of the cah.” Very sage advice offered by more than one driver. Don’t enter the car (“cah”) and then mill around because you’re confused right by the entrance. You can be just as confused farther into the car. The rest of us need to get on the train.
Don’t ‘keep it real’ on the subway. Mistakenly, you might think that you’re fooling the rest of us into thinking you’re not a tourist by leaning up against the entire vertical pole. Granted, we all have our fantasies, but here’s the problem with what you’re doing: the rest of us actually need to grab on to the pole, so we don’t go flying once the train starts moving again. We will grab your ass, as flabby and pathetic as it is, so we don’t fall on ours.
Don’t ‘keep it real’ on the subway, part deux. Inexplicably, I once saw a group of foreign high school students in a desperate effort to ‘keep it real’ (or whatever their culture’s equivalent thereof was) by sitting on the floor of the car (“cah”). You don’t have to be a microbiologist to realize that the floor is…sticky. What were they thinking? To boot, these wonder kids were blocking the way to about fifteen seats. The next stop was largely a tourist stop, but one native got on the train, and roared at them, “Get off the fucking floah!” (floor). They got off easy.
Mysteriously, the train will eventually resume moving in the forward direction. As sure as the sun rises and sets, several tourists will enter the car, stand with their feet parallel to the direction of the movement of the train, and then go flying backwards into someone, often spilling a dark, staining liquid in the process. Said tourist will then look surprised, as if to say, “Gee, I had no idea that the train would start moving again.” Just out of curiosity, how do think the train got there in the first place, you moron?
Yes, the Cheers bar is by the big “Cheers” sign. This is self-explanatory. And stop over-pronouncing your R’s.
Enjoy your trip!