Mikey and I were talking over our pre-dawn morning coffee (- which is the only time in the day, really, in which we can talk uninterrupted and freely) about how surprised we were at how some people have treated us.
“It’s as if they have us pegged as asshole tourists,” Mikey said with a wry shrug and took a deep swing of his (highly sweetened and milkly fortified) coffee. “Yeah!”, I pounced, happy to have him hit the nail on the feeling I’d been trying to put words to. “Exactly! That’s exactly it, they think we are asshole tourists. They don’t know us at all.”
I wanted to march over to the office right there at that campground and tell the manager that we were not – emphatically NOT asshole tourists – just save that for the guys in the Airstream Bambi – and I paused. What makes the guy traveling in the Airstream Bambi an asshole anyway? The fact that he’s traveling in something that cost a chunk of change I’ve never personally held in my lifetime? Is it money that makes people assholes? Isn’t it just assholes that are assholes?
I grew up primarily in Fiji and Hawai’i – tourist areas like the Pope is Catholic. I didn’t mock tourists on a daily basis (I had better things to do), but they were pretty low on the totem. If they were on the totem at all? But what was it about them that set them so low for us? Was it the general vibe they gave off of just not giving a shit about anyone who actually lived there? Being mind-blowingly disrespectful of the Fijian/Hawaiian cultures? Or was it jealousy on our parts, that we didn’t have the money to do what they were doing (and probably never would)? If it was the latter, did we ever stop to consider (what I learned years later in Japan) that those tourists may have worked their asses off for years to afford that trip? That the trip was special beyond belief to them, something they’d savour for years to come?
No, we didn’t. That type of consideration never teased the edges of our thoughts. Ever.
It was simply, “those asshole tourists.”
Some of them definitely deserved it – the disrespectful scum, the ones that didn’t give a flying crap about any of us. But all of them, assholes? A blanket term for everyone? Nah. That’s not fair.
Here we are, driving this truck and big old Alaskan camper. The grand total for both comes to well under $3,000 and we scrimped and saved and tried and strived for two years to get this show on the road. We are not rich. We are a simple family with big, fat, juicy dreams of setting up an Inn that will be by and for disability!
We aren’t asshole tourists!
But who is going to ever stop and ask? Who is going to look deeper? Ask questions and discover that what we have on us is all that we own in this world. We don’t have a house waiting for us somewhere, we don’t have land we are renting out, we don’t have more than 10 small boxes of old photos in storage. This is it, baby! So how are people going to not lump us with other people with a “California” license plate – others who may or may not also deserve that title. How are we ever going to know who really deserves it?
And does anyone really deserve it?
I suppose this isn’t a straightforward thing. It’s never for sure what part of it all is envy, what part is real and true touristic assholery. What part might be someone just having a bad day, because that happens too, right?
Moral of the story? Is there one? Yeah, there kind of has to be one for someone who grew up as religious as I did! So it’s this: I want to remember that everyone has their story, everyone has their something, their tale of woe, their moments of personal assholery and moments in which judgment comes quick and questions come slowly.
I wish it weren’t so, wish we asked questions more than we judged.