We get a lot of tourists here in York and they all seem to want to walk on the wrong side of the pavement; just like they drive on the wrong side of the road in their own countries. I’m forced to weave from one side of the path to the other. It’s rather annoying and it makes me want to have a t-shirt printed that says You’re on the Wrong Side of the Path!
Of course, they think they’re walking on the right side, but in a country where the right side is the left side – they’re simply walking on the wrong right side.
You’d think that Japanese tourists wouldn’t have any problem walking on the right side of the path – the left side that is. This is because they actually drive on the right side of the road back home – the left side. But no, they have a different system altogether. They walk on all the sides of the path.
In fact, they form so large a group that they blithely occupy the road too. When walking, they form an amorphous mass, roughly heading in one direction – towards the next building. When they reach the building they spread out and begin the time-honoured ritual of photographing it from all possible angles.
I imagine that when they return to Japan they organise all day events at which they show the barest highlights of their photographic feast. Just the best of the best snaps.
I can picture the scene … ‘and here’s a series of images I took of a particularly interesting window.’ Fourteen identical shots of the left casement of Mrs Geary’s house appear – one by one. Thirteen of these will clearly show the aforementioned lady peering out of the window with a frightened look on her face.
The audience won’t even notice.
In fact, tourists, on the whole, seem completely oblivious to the fact that there are already people living in the places they visit. Perhaps the visitors think that they are moving through a living museum and that the people sharing the path are merely actors hired to give the streets a more authentic feel. Or perhaps that these ‘locals’ are just holograms that they can walk through at will.
Next time you’re in York, try talking to a local person to hear what they have to say. You might even have an interesting conversation.
Unless you happen to meet me, that is.
I took a break on the way to work the other morning and sat down on a bench. I was enjoying the sunshine and half-listening to the angelic sounds of the choir practising in the York Minster when I noticed someone approaching the bench.
An elderly, but sprightly lady stuck her face into mine forcing me to look up from my book. I dimly perceived at that point that there were two people standing there.
“You don’t mind if we share your bench do you?” she said with an American drawl as they sat down without waiting for my reply.
I could tell that they were American simply because of how loud she spoke. I distinctly heard the choir pause as her voice erupted into the quiet of the morning. Her mouth was three inches away from my face.
“No, not at all, so long as you’re very quiet,” I replied politely as I returned my eyes to the book.
“Well, that’s not going to … ” she began. And then, perhaps registering that she was not on home territory, she lapsed into what seemed like an unnatural silence.
I tried to concentrate on my book, but it was no good. Goshdarnit, I could still hear her. I could hear the thoughts bouncing around in her mind. She was still too loud for me, even when her mouth was closed.
Defeated, I put away my book, stood, and departed the bench without a word or a backwards glance.
And yet, even now I can hear her thoughts.
‘But why? What did I do wrong?! I was being soooo quiet!!!!’