For about four years now, I've had knocking around in the back of my head a list of Stupid Tourist Tricks: How to Avoid Being THAT Jerk. When you divide your time between home and Washington, D.C., you have ample opportunity to observe some of the dumbest and rudest behavior around. These are the behaviors that have everyone nearby trying to figure out how they can make shoving the offenders under the nearest bus without getting caught. I've personally fantasized about grabbing the SFF (self-focused tourist) and strapping headphones on them, plugged into a iPod playing Justin Bieber on a full-volume loop. That list keeps growing and I've even mentally composed in my mind some of what it would include. But tonight I've learned, and now know with certainty, that it's not just a tourist thing. It's a thing. And I'm looking at you: 20-something & 30-something people with small children. All kids are cute. Yours aren't cuter than others and the sooner you teach them they're not the center of the universe, the easier life will be for them.
The precipitating event? A small, local concert. The village administrators planned a weekly summer series of free music on the plaza. They lined up some high quality musicians. They set up about 4 rows of chairs for the mostly elderly crowd who really look forward to this easily accessed entertainment. There's a fair bit of preparation that goes into planning a one hour window in the week to bring music and enjoyment to the residents of the village. So, you'd think for just that one hour, the parents who gather at the village plaza with their children on a weeknight would think for just that one hour about other people. There's plenty of room on the far side of the plaza for the children to run and play, but these parents stood smiling proudly as their children raced up and down the aisle and in front of the concertgoers shouting and screaming at full volume. The parents themselves gathered in small groups chattering rapidly, voices raised to hear each other above the music. This isn't a rock concert. It's a variety of music...and it's just one hour. One hour out of the week. It is impossible for these parents to be parents for just that one hour and teach their children that the elderly people and the not-as-elderly people who came to the plaza to listen to music might deserve just one shred of courtesy. It really, truly does not occur to these people that their children are rude and their cuteness has slipped over the edge.
Next week, the village leadership has planned a children's concert. I can envision those chairs in front being filled by the proudest, beamingest moms & dads, voraciously photographing and video recording their darling child's every nuanced reaction to the music. The concert is for kids. For just one hour. Don't be surprised if you hear of a bunch of gray-haired folks getting arrested for disturbing the peace when they crash around the audience with their walkers and shout at each other to be heard in "animated" conversation. Because you know the complaints about the old people ruining their kids' concert would come rapidly and fiercely from the most godawful, self-focused parents in the world.
And I'll get to the rest of the list later.