Now that the summer tourist season has passed, we head into what the tourism people like to call the "shoulder season". That's shoulder, apparently, as in the link between the big summer and winter arms of tourism.
Back when I worked in the tourism business they called it "slack" season. Slack gives the impression that business really goes to pot, which it did back then, for a few months, something local tourism officials never want to imply.
So shoulder season it is. And with its arrival it's time to highlight some of this year's best examples of stupid tourist tricks.
Let's be clear, tourists do dumb things. They don’t do them purposefully but, as an executive from the Marriott Corporation once explained at a tourism conference, "they do so because once they go on vacation, they tend to shut their minds off."
One of the example the Marriott exec used to illustrate his remark was that of a CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation who on arriving at a resort hotel locked his keys in his car. To make matters worse he' also locked his two-year old son in the car and it was a scorching 100-degree day. There are probably hundreds of examples of local stupid tourist tricks. But before I get to a few, a disclaimer is in order. That's because as sure as the sun rises, someone from COVA (Central Oregon Visitors Association), VisitBend or the Downtowners will read this blog and immediately go into an apoplectic state. In said state, they'll reason that someone in San Jose, Anaheim, Boulder, Albuquerque, or wherever just might also read the blog and decide to never ever visit Bend again. Sure.
My advice to the our sometimes hyper thin-skinned tourism folks is to relax and concentrate your efforts on countering all the bad press Bend has been receiving nationally and internationally as boomtown gone bust.
And by the way, I'm as guilty as anyone of doing stupid tourist tricks. Several years ago on a business trip to Salt Lake City I was driving down one of that city's wide main streets when I realized I was headed west instead of east. In full stupid tourist mode, I simply made a U-turn causing cars in the eastbound lane to come to screeching halts to avoid hitting me.
Undaunted I drove on when a car pulled up alongside me and a very upset guy in the passenger seat screamed out his window: "what the f_ _ _ did you do that for?
"I did it, because I'm a stupid freaking tourist," I replied.
The guy gave me a quizzical look and then smiled and shouted back: "right on."
Good attitude that and I wish I'd had some of it in August when a jumbo SUV came barreling the wrong way down Bond Street seemingly oblivious to the fact that the light at Bond and Franklin had changed and a herd of cars were headed his way.
Things were about to get a bit dicey, when the driver of the SUV awoke from his daydreaming and made a quick turn onto Minnesota Street. Major accident narrowly avoided.
Speaking of Bond Street a repeated stupid tourist trick (usually done by large groups of same) this past summer was crossing Bond Street at Louisiana on their way to McMenamins without checking for on-coming traffic. It must be the smell of the food or beer in the air that dulls their senses because they often just wander aimlessly across the street as if protected by an invisible shield.
The same shield that out-of-town kayakers, canoeists, rafter and tubers must feel they have protecting them when they put-in on the Deschutes River. This summer saw more than a few "they (the tourism brochures we assume) never told us the river was that difficult" and "we don’t own life preservers" moments plus Alder Creek employees pulling three people out of the Colorado Street dam. Thankfully there were no deaths or permanent injuries.
Not being prepared, not looking and driving the wrong way on downtown streets are some of more visible stupid tourist tricks. The less visible are more fun.
My favorite this summer began with an encounter with a runner on an old logging road near Shevlin Park. Resplendent in a tee-shirt emblazoned with the name of his California hometown, he waved me down frantically as I approached on my mountain bike.
"How, "he inquired, "do I get back to Bend?"
I inquired where he thought he was. He gave a long response full of road and place names I'd never heard before.
After explaining three times how he could eventually connect to Skyliners Road and head back into town he jogged off.
Getting lost is something we all do away from home. But in one of those irony of ironies situations, the next day I was sitting in the locker room at the Juniper Swim and Fitness Center after a morning swim wondering to myself if the runner had made it safely back to Bend, when voice disturbed my reverie.
I looked up to find my lost runner asking: "could you tell me how to get to the pool from here."
I guess he just gets lost no matter where he is.
Moving from stupid tourist tricks to stupid tourism tricks, let's discuss the whole "dollar value" thing now associated with everything that's printed about our fair city. Let's say Outside Magazine mentions that Bend is a cool place to live if you're young, some sort of world champion in some sport and have a trust fund. Immediately a local tourism flack will claim that the exposure is worth say $40,000 in equivalent advertising dollars.
It's publicity money can't buy, but I'll attach a dollar figure to it anyway must be the flack's logic. So every time Bend gets some ink, we get the whole "dollar value" rationale. I'm curious as to what a bend-related story in "Knitting Monthly", "Llama Breader" and "Survivalist" magazine worth?
And does the flack who comes up with all these dollar values have a negative dollar value for all those stories that lambaste Bend for its rise and fall during the past several years? How about that one in New York Times having a negative dollar value of say, $100,000?
Tourism is a tricky business. It's a lot about making nice. And that's why the French actress Brigette Bardot will never make it as a tourism flack after stating about her hometown village in the south of France: "I am leaving the town to the invaders; increasingly numerous, mediocre, dirty, badly behaved, shameless tourists"