By guest writer, Erich Mende. From the Summer 2010 issue of Highline Magazine.
When my friends and I were younger, stupider and generally better looking, we used to make a game out of shocking, disrupting and generally outraging as many tourists as we could. We saw them as an affliction. We would pitch burning firecrackers behind them while they peacefully strolled the Bow River path. We would propel ourselves as fast as our little legs could pedal down the centre of the sidewalk on Banff Avenue creating an elderly wake of bodies, cameras, sandals and bad sweatshirts. And at some point or another, we may or may not have been involved in an incident whose name we dare not speak that involved a tour group from Gainesville, Florida, twenty eight litres of lemon-lime Canada Cooler and a poisonous monkey. Our capers were spirited, plentiful, and in our 12 year old wisdom, victimless.
I’m proud to announce that an evolution of my juvenile thinking now allows me nothing but pride in sharing the place I call home with excursionists from all corners of the planet. Any thinking Bow Valley resident knows how important our tourist friends are, even if we all, episodically and in our weaker moments, make fun of, shake our fists at, and generally wish a slow and excruciating death to our visitors sometime very close to the moment after they settle their bill. But we always remember ourselves and come to understand that their ability to continue breathing and returning and recommending the mountains of Alberta to friends and relatives makes them a lifeblood of our valley. Those who came to hike our trails, eat in our restaurants, ski our slopes and experience our splendor are a big part of the reason we are allowed to make a living where we do.
And before those who don’t get it become too ensconced in the velvet that is our local righteousness, let us remember that we too damn well do the exact same silly things when we go on vacation. Our exits from the Bow Valley have us driving around lost, asking silly questions, buying abominable souvenirs and attempting intimate contact with dangerous local animals for photo opportunities.
The reason that we live, work and play in the Bow Valley is the exact same reason that t-shirt buying mouthbreathers from all over the world come here to spend vacations. The human species toils weekly in windowless cubicles, hides it’s extra dollars under filthy mattresses and stuffs Sears luggage full of socks and underwear periodically leaving home to explore, to play in different playgrounds, to experience new cultures, languages, foods and sights.
I need not remind you how very important a constant injection of suitcased wayfarers has become in light of the global financial cataclysm. With Wal-Mart the last remaining profitable enterprise on Earth these days, and while most of the world sits unemployed under bridges in makeshift shantytowns heating stolen beans over open fires, we must all do our very best to make sure the Bow Valley remains a favourite destination for global travel. Be a little nicer to them. Go that extra mile to ensure that they are well looked after. Leave a little bit of money in their wallets as you clean their hotel rooms.
While we must come to honour, value and respect our tourists, that doesn’t mean that we can’t have a little bit of relatively harmless and injury free fun at their expense while they are here:
- Let visitors from around the world will go home and regale their grandchildren with photos and videos of Mount Vesuvius, the Montgomery Burns ground squirrel and Lake Gretzky.
- Let them bore their neighbours with tales of an attempted rear mount of the majestic bull elk.
- Let them experience the small Alberta town where Star Wars was filmed.
- Let them excitedly hike to the top of Sulpher Mountain to witness the mating of the dishwasher from Truro and the front desk agent from Saint-Paul-de-la-Croix.
I raise a glass to our visitors, whether from Calgary, Cairo or Chicago: to you, your beer, your ski hills and your women. May none of them be flat.
If you do, however, happen to find yourself jumping out of the way of a war-crying hellion on a BMX bike flying down the sidewalk jousting souvenir bags, please dear reader don’t let it sour your mountain experience. Suppress your desire to scold, laugh quietly, step swiftly to the side and take solace in the fact that in 25 years that tubby little bastard will most likely still be living in his parents basement thumbing through quite the handsome collection of rejection letters from the New Yorker while he earns a living serving tourists from all over the globe.