Summer’s here and the tourists have invaded Boston like mosquitoes in a swamp during the rainy season. The Duck boats rumble by quacking and the locals shake their heads like they’re too cool to be caught dead on a tourist trap, when in fact every single Bostonian has played tour guide to an out-of-towner and found themselves on a Duck Tour kind of enjoying themselves.
Unlike a lot of people who lament the tourists and get annoyed by their clustering on the sidewalk, I like them. They’re excited to visit Boston, and why not? It’s a great city. Sure, maybe they need help finding the Freedom Trail (the clearly marked red stripe on the sidewalk through the city) or want to know where the Public Gardens is (um, you’re in it, ma’am), but they’re a good lot. They could have opted for San Francisco or Chicago, but they chose us, and I can’t help but feel victorious. I’m competitive like that.
Whenever I see a couple turning a map around and around, I ask if they need directions; it’s as if I’ve unlocked the city for them. Having been to New York City recently where I tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to orient myself to the north and south, I know a quick point in the right direction makes you want to hug a stranger. Sometimes though, if they’re grumpy or funny-looking tourists, I’ll send them to the Museum of Fine Arts by way of say, Kansas.
I’m kidding, of course.
The other day I asked a couple if they needed directions. Simultaneously, he said “no,” and she said “yes.” Oh, stereotypes. Another group, a threesome of women on a shopping mission, was so excited about Filene’s Basement (before the original closed), that I wanted to forget work and go with them to scout for bargains. Recently, a Japanese couple pointed on the their outdated map to the Institute of Contemporary Art, which is now in a new location, so I shook my head and tried pointing to the waterfront, but I doubt my charades made any sense to them. I should have wielded my Pictionary skills.
Last week I struck up a conversation with a guy while standing on Newbury St.—a spot where you’re more apt to see a man wearing a bowler than a baseball cap; he was wearing the latter, looking boyish in a very good way. After chatting about whether it was best to walk across the Mass. Ave. bridge to Cambridge or to take the T, I had manufactured a connection, at least in my mind, when it occurred to me that the flirtation was kind of pointless given that he didn’t live in my city. But I was a good ambassador nonetheless; who’s to say that given a warm welcome and friendly advice he wouldn’t just up and move here?