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As tourist season approaches it's time to review our state's basic policies on tourists, tourism and other "shady" enterprises.
As we all know, tourism is an important business here in Maine.
"That's nice, John," I hear some of you say, "But who, besides you, knows this bit of useless information and who, besides you, cares?"
Probably nobody. I just thought it would be nice to review our state's policies so that if you happen to see a tourist wandering aimlessly through your part of Maine you'll be able to tell that tourist exactly where to go.
It just happens that Maine's office of tourism puts out a little-known pamphlet that gives tips to us natives on how to help our 'summer visitors.'
"Our state really does have a policy on those people, John?"
Yes it does and - for one thing – we try not to refer to those people as 'those people.'
"Sorry, so what's the state's first tip?"
The first tip is: "When it comes to tourism, be utilitarian."
When they say be “utilitarian,” they mean be sociable and polite, while at the same time exhibiting that stone-cold, quiet reserve that us Mainers are known for, that tourists drive here to experience.
Anyway, from Memorial Day to Labor Day the tourist is supposed to be the most important person in our state - whether using cash, check, major credit card, barter or even text messages.
"Does that include the tourists in those enormous, lumbering, slow-moving, gas-guzzling motor homes - those 100-foot long, hazardous-habitats on wheels, those unsafe 'fat globules' that continually clog our state's already saturated traffic arteries all summer?"
Are you through? Yes, it even includes 'those people.'
"Wait a minute, John. What about a tourist who's lost? A wandering bunch of lost tourists, now there's a dependent lot, if I ever saw one."
True. But even here you must never make a tourist FEEL dependent and must never use a lost tourist for your amusement or sport. When a tourist rudely interrupts to ask for directions to some popular over-priced destination that you could never hope to afford, you should avoid the temptation to direct them in circles just to see if they're clever enough to follow your directions and then see how long it takes them to figure it out.
When asked by a tourist: "What's the quickest way to Bangor?" don't ask: "Are you going by car?" and when they say "Yes" you chuckle and say, "A-yuh, that's the quickest way."
The folks in the tourist industry have a saying - 'A tourist is not an interruption of our lives here in Maine; a tourist is the reason we are alive. "
"Tourist people really say things like that, John?"
I know it sounds pretty numb but, yes, they really talk like that when no one else is around. And they say a lot of other things about tourists, most of which we couldn't print in our wholesome, family newspapers. The point is our state's tourist people take their hospitality business very seriously.
Tourist people really believe that every visitor who comes through the York toll booth on the Maine Turnpike is an important addition to the state.
The legendary Leon Leonwood Bean of Freeport, who knew a thing or two about dealing profitably with folks from away, used to tell his employees, "A customer is not someone to argue or match wits with. Nobody ever won an argument with a customer."
"L.L. Bean said that? Is he also the one who said: "Matching wits with some tourists is like dueling with an unarmed man?"
No! I'm sure he never said anything like that, at least when there was a summer complaint within earshot. In fact that's just the kind of smart-alecky remark that L.L.Bean was talking about.
"I never knew any of this about tourists, the tourist industry or the people who run the tourist industry, John. I'm sure glad we had this review."
I'm glad we did, too. Oh, and there will be a quiz!
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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