Wednesday, August 24, 2005

August People

There is a thing in the world called an "August Person."

August people are folks who have waited all summer and are finally on vacation, dammit! They tend to be fairly stupid and very demanding. The saunter into the shop at 2:16 in the afternoon and are upset that I don't have an afternoon kayak trip to put them on. (I have both 1:00 and 2:00 trips.) They want me to guarantee that they'll see wildlife. They want me to read their minds when they ask questions like, "So, what's the story with the currents today?" They whine that 3 hours is too long and don't I have any shorter trips? They are indignant that I won't just rent them a kayak, never mind that the tide change can be up to 13 feet and we have some pretty tricky currents. They want to carry their 3-year-old in their lap while they paddle. They definitely wait until they're on the beach and suited up in sunscreen, hat, expensive outdoor wear, spray skirt and PFD before telling the guide that they have carpal tunnel/bad back/shoulder surgery and will this be a very strenuous activity? If they're from California, they can't go on the morning or the evening trips because it will be too cold. They insist that they've just called me and made a reservation that they now have to cancel and take five minutes of convincing that they're not describing the directions to any of my launch sites, I'm the only one answering the phone and I have no memory of speaking to them, and I have no idea why hitting redial on your cell phone called me. Speaking of cell phones, they are visibly and audibly offended that - although they've chosen a somewhat remote island in order to "get away from it all" - their cell phones don't work consistently. They're so wrapped up in their own world-view that the mechanics of how cell phones work is no longer something they have to know, in the same way that the inner workings of a toilet would mystify them if they really stopped to try to puzzle out how it worked. They don't know and they don't care how it works, they just want it to work. Cell tower? What's that? Mountains? Rural area?

I think that the really hard thing about the invasion of the August people is what is does to the locals. Even if we can greet most of the rudeness and ignorance with humor and detachment, we're also working as many hours in a week as we'll work all year. Making hay while the sun shines, you know? That density of interaction with tourists means that we have less time to decompress from one day to the next and so tempers get short. We have less ability to be civil to one another. What's nice is that you can usually apologize and explain that "it's just August, I'm sorry." Still, no one likes to be snapped at and no one likes to be reminded that they're capable of snapping like that. On my best days, I enjoy the whole experience: the grumpiness, the surreality, the changes in personality. Other days, I go home for some quiet time reading a book or watching a movie. Last night, I watched High Fidelity for the first time since I saw it in the theater. I'm feeling much better now, thank you. :-)

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