As with politics, Ryan, Christian and I have agreed to do our best to steer clear of religion on this site. I’m going to violate that agreement today and tell you about a particular religious belief of mine. Here is what I believe happened during the time when God was working with Moses to free the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt:
Moses: Well, let’s see. We’ve tried blood, frogs, lice, flies, dead livestock, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness, and these guys are holding their ground. I actually kind of admire them. When you think about it, it’s, You know, pretty remarkable. Just a lot of grit and heart over there at Pharaoh’s place. Anyway, the point is we’ve got to figure out a way to deliver a knock-out punch. I was thinking – and this is just an idea, mind You – that maybe – and I know this is probably going to seem like overkill, and maybe even make me seem like something of a sadist – I was thinking maybe we should send a plague of tourists.
God: That’s not going to do anything. Pharoah’s heart is made of iron, and his will is strong like steel. A few suicide bombings – even a dirty bomb – isn’t going to do a thing.”
Moses: Oh, no, I said “tourists,” not “terrorists.”
God: Tourists? Geeeeeez. Take it easy. Let’s not get carried away here. Let’s just kill all their firstborn children.
You lucky son of a gun.
I’ve really only ever had 5 real, full-time jobs in my life, and 3 of those 5 jobs were housed in office buildings that required close contact with tourists. The first of these offices was the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Building in Washington, D.C. The Reagan Building is a beautiful new office building that houses a variety of government agencies and businesses, and lies within a few blocks of the White House, the Smithsonian, the Capitol, the National Mall, and every other place that you would go if you were a group of 8th Graders from Franklin D. Pierce Middle School in Minneapolis accompanied by a harried, exhausted teacher who is wondering why he didn’t go to law school. And because the genius who developed it decided to put a really nice food court in the bottom of it, complete with tons of seating and nice, clean bathrooms, it’s become a haven for student tour groups. I’m not sure how the student tours caught wind of such a haven – maybe there was a story in Harried, Exhausted Middle School Teachers Weekly Gazette.
Regardless, from June through August the place is absolutely overrun with student tour groups. I’d head down on my lunch break, just hoping to quickly grab a sandwich at Subway, only to find 40 14 year-olds waiting in line, all of whom want half Coke half Diet Coke with a pinch of Sprite. This sounds like a small thing, but it’s not. I started trying to make advance reservations at Sbarro – “Bell, party of one, for 12:30 PM; if possible I’d like a seat with a view of the girl who works at Smoothie King.” In addition to the long wait times, these awkward little menaces made it incredibly difficult to find a seat. And even if I did manage to find one I could just forget about the possibility of quietly reading my magazine while eating in peace. The laughing and the flirting and the tattling to the teacher and the speaking in British accents and loudly singing songs from “Wicked” were enough to make me cut my lunch break short.
I don’t work there anymore, so I don’t mind revealing this to you: if you’re ever in D.C., go to this food court and visit Larry’s Cookies. I’m wearing 30 lbs. of them, and I don’t regret it.
But you know what really used to drive me crazy about these kids? They’d all buy Washington, D.C. apparel and then wear it in Washington, D.C. That’s like going to a Backstreet Boys concert, buying a Backstreet Boys concert tour t-shirt, and then putting it on in the bathroom right before the show. I’m cool with you buying a souvenir t-shirt that says, “Washington, D.C.” on it, but wait until you get home to wear it. And stop staring at the girl at Smoothie King. Her name is Stephanie, and she’s taken.
Two jobs later, I landed in an office building smack in the middle of Times Square. Right next to the M&Ms Store. Question: Why is there such a thing as an M&Ms Store? And why is it in Times Square? What is the connection between New York City and M&Ms? There is none. And if you’re a tourist visiting New York City, why do you want to go in there? You have M&Ms at home! The M&M store is just a store that sells M&Ms candy and M&Ms t-shirts and stuffed toys. Why does this exist? Why do people want to go there? Help me understand.
Anyway, did you know 26 million tourists visit Times Square every year? And did you know that every single one of them does that thing where they walk in front of you, very slowly, and so you try to pass them on the right and they can sense it and they step to the right, so you step to the left and they step to the left? And then they bleed to death because you stabbed them hundreds of times in the back of the neck and head?
I don’t understand.
Pretty much every night I’d get out of work at either 8 PM or 10 PM. Do you know what happens at 8 PM? That’s when all the Broadway shows start. Do you know what happens at 10 PM? That’s when the shows get out. And those tiny little Broadway theaters are like clown cars, because as small as they look, at 10 PM they eject millions and millions of people, all linked by their love of show tunes and their desire to block my route home. There’s nothing like getting out of work at 10 PM, getting into a cab, and then getting stuck for 15 minutes while you wait for a herd of tourists to graze their way across 48th Street.
And so now where do I work? Rockefeller Center. Have you heard of it? Oh, you’ve visited it? Really? Wow, what are the chances. It was working while working here that I realized what I hate most about dealing with tourists on a daily basis: smelling their sunscreen. Smell is a powerful thing, and the smell of sunscreen tricks my brain into thinking that I’m heading to the beach or that I’m on vacation, when in fact it’s 1:34 PM on a Tuesday and I’m just grabbing a salad and then heading back to my desk. Honestly, there’s nothing more demoralizing than smelling sunscreen on a work day. And I guess that’s probably the nub of why I hate dealing with tourists at my office: I’m at work, and they’re on vacation.
That is a picture of the door to my building. Barricaded by drunken participants of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.