Thursday, April 28, 2011

By the sea, by the beautiful sea.

It’s true. I live in a very class town. 2011

It’s true. I live in a very classy town.

Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the picture above. You might have a place in your town where there’s an “old country pancake house.” But does your old country pancake house charge $895 for the pleasure of having that breakfast “Southern Style”?

I think not.

Can you get your name engraved on a grain of rice where you live? Or buy a rice necklace or a rice keychain?

Thought so.

From time to time I do research for our local tourism industry. Even when I’m not doing anything with them, I still try to keep an eye on what’s going on in our resort area.

Like a lot of people my age who grew up here, I worked all kinds of tourism-related jobs when I was young. At spring break, I cleaned pools, painted and did landscape clean up. During the summer I toted bags, waited tables, told tourists how to get to Colonial Williamsburg and watched Shore Patrol officers break up fights between drunken sailors outside the Peppermint Lounge.

These days many of the people working along the resort strip are temporary workers from former Soviet countries. College students, most of them. The official line is that they come here to work on their English and make some money for school. But what they really want is a taste of the American life they’ve seen on television. Some local people complain that these young people are taking jobs from Americans. But the tourist industry depends on them because few local kids are willing to work in hotels and restaurants any more and those who do quit before the end of the season. The temporary workers are mistreated by some employers, shunned by landlords and subjected to jeers from redneck tourists who treat them like aliens because of their accents, which is a shame since it is this impression of America that they take home with them.

April is the time of year when the resort hotels, restaurants and attractions put their finishing touches on things. Memorial Day is the traditional kick off of the summer season. But if the weather’s nice, as it has been this year, people start coming earlier. It used to be that only a few hotels were winterized enough to even open this early. Now just about everyone’s open year-round and touting their ocean views, low rates, free parking, swimming pools, hot tubs and wi-fi connections.

Yesterday afternoon Atlantic Avenue was lined with trucks belonging to carpenters, plumbers, painters and pool repairmen. During the summer they’ll be replaced by trucks delivering food, beer and clean towels and bed linens. Every few blocks there’ll be a booth staffed with perky young men and women selling timeshares. The trolleys that run up and down the main drag will be full of sunburned visitors from Pittsburgh, Buffalo, New York and Boston.

When this happens I’ll shift my walking to the residential north end of the oceanfront and count the days until fall when all the tourists go home.

1 comment:

  1. I grew up on St. Simons Island and have lived in several college towns. On a resort island, it's the fall and winter you long for and in a college town, it's the summer you love.

    I totally get it.