Archived Story

Joanie Miars Gentry: Local yokels and out-of-towners

Published 8:53pm Wednesday, June 29, 2011

There I stood in line for the bathroom on the island of Crete. It was hot and mosquitoes buzzed threateningly around me. I was impatient, my focus riveted on the line and its significant lack of progress.

There was a lady at the door of the restroom with her hand out, asking for coins from each woman as they entered. I had no idea why she wanted coins since this was a free restroom, according to the signs. My pigeon Greek was not good enough to understand what the woman was saying, so I thought I’d wing it and wave her away, saying “Efcharisto” (“Thank you”) and continuing on briskly into the restroom. The woman touched my arm, trying to explain to me what she was doing, but I remained aloof and brushed her off. As I entered the stall with relief, I regretfully discovered the woman’s role (pardon the pun): Toilet Paper Seller. As I exited the building I saw a basket with small portions of toilet paper that women were taking after paying for them. Sigh.

At that point I promised myself to show renewed patience to out-of-towners in our beautiful, desirable corner of Michigan. All through the long winter, what kept me going was dreaming of a summer filled with fruit-picking, walking on the beach, swimming in the local lakes and attending our festivals and fairs. I told myself that I would not become exasperated with out-of-towners when they streamed into our space. It is a promise that I have kept carefully for almost an entire month this summer.

Now that it’s almost July and the tourists are here in force, I am faltering. Well, what can I say? I’m trying my darndest and I really do want to be kind. I realize that they are a large part of our area’s income and that many of us are dependent upon their coming here for our livelihoods. All of that is crystal clear to me and I am grateful for their support. Really. I am.

It’s just that it can be so very annoying at times. The sense of entitlement that some out-of-towners have really irritates me. Some of them act as if we are all here just to serve them. And, in fairness, if you work in the travel and leisure-related sectors, you are. I get that, I really do. But when I can’t even get into the beaches and restaurants, shops and festivals because the parking lots are filled to capacity with out-of-towners, that’s the last straw. All my dreaming of beautiful sunsets, blueberry-picking, outdoor concerts and festival food that kept me alive through the hard, unforgiving isolation of winter quickly disappears. As rude as it seems, I have to confess that I feel like shouting: “Hey! I live here! I made it through another winter here and I want my fair share of enjoying a pure Michigan summer!”

So, if you are an out-of-towner and you’re reading this, please try to understand how we local yokels feel and when you cross the state line, try to greet us with a smile and some appreciation for the effort involved in hosting such a huge influx of visitors each year. It can only make things better for all of us.

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