Have I Ruined my Kids for Tourism?

I just got back from a vacation with my family. Basically being a slug, I had originally planned to go to the shore in Maine. I don’t know why, it just seemed like the thing to do. However, I realized that Maine is a long way from here, my kids don’t eat lobster, and I’m not really sure what else they do out there. So we decided to go to Williamsburg, VA, and the Smithsonian.

Being a history nut (I started out to get a degree in History but changed to Political Science because History majors have trouble finding jobs and Poli Sci majors are so much more marketable), it seemed like a good idea. The rest of the family thought so too. However, it seems that we have not done a good job in teaching our children to survive in the world of today’s tourists.

We have taught them that they should look at exhibits, ask questions if they have one, and move on. We wait patiently for the people ahead of us to move on and do our best to be polite. On this trip we discovered that these skills are no longer relevant, but the following skills are actually needed.

The ability to take as many pictures as possible of as many things as possible is important. It was tough to walk down the corridor between exhibition rooms at the Smithsonian without getting in the way of someone taking a picture of someone or something. It reminded me of the joke about the woman who couldn’t wait to get home to look at the pictures – she had been so busy taking them that she hadn’t had time to actually look at what was going on.

The best part was looking at the Hope diamond. It is displayed in a box which revolves so that it can be seen from all sides of the box. As I was getting close, I was pushed out of the way by a man who wanted to take a picture of it. Yes, actually pushed by a man who wanted to take a picture of something rotating in a bullet-proof box. It didn’t seem so strange after I noticed that I was the only one there without a camera. Seriously, you can get a better picture either in their magazine or on their website.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems to me that looking at thousands of somebody else’s vacation pictures on their phone is not a huge improvement over them having you over for dessert and showing their slides. Or maybe it’s a way for guys to get a girl close to him (or vice versa).

From what I saw, parents no longer teach their children about what they are watching. The kids come in for a couple of minutes, look bored, and leave. Or they come in, the parents look bored, and leave (which may be why they are not teaching their children). I wonder if some of the families came so the kids would have something for their “What I did Over the Summer” essays other than “I slept til noon then played on the computer until midnight”. The teacher probably wouldn’t be interested in hearing 30 kids report on their mastery of Blackhawk Down.

Or maybe they thought the information would be absorbed by osmosis. I knew someone in Jr. High who believed that sleeping with the book would increase their knowledge of the subject. (I’m not sure how that worked out for them.)

Some of us no longer have the patience to listen to the docent/interpretive guide. We were in one building where the poor woman tried multiple times to start talking as people came in, but they all walked past. I would have been tempted to trip some of them. It was an old church, and I think it would have been particularly unexpected there. But that is why I am stocking cheese rather than standing in heavy 18th century clothing trying to talk to people who don’t want to listen. (I do sweat less.)

There was one huge advantage to not being up-to-date on public practices. We were practically the only people who actually stopped at each exhibit to read the signs, listen to the people, and ask serious questions. There really weren’t many people around for us to worry about blocking their view or slowing them down.

And I finally know the difference between a musket and a fowling piece (or fowler).

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