I walked to the brink of the Falls Sunday night at sunset. It’s our backyard, and it truly is beautiful. Most of us locals see potholes, construction cones, litter, and we bitch about it. The tourists have the ability to look past the things that upset us, because they are about to see something magnificent. Most folks are glued to their cameras or phones grabbing selfies by the dozen. Everyone is smiling. Kids are running, skipping, laughing. Dads are in protection mode, and Moms are studying the maps. The words that are spoken amongst families and tour groups are irrelevant. They are barely audible over the roar of the water, and mostly spoken in foreign tongues that we wouldn’t understand if they were speaking directly into our ear buds. But just watch these people when they discover our backyard. If you position yourself in an area where you can see a person’s reaction when he first sets his eyes on this natural wonder, you just might start to look at what we have a bit differently. Let’s learn from our visitors.
One family was trudging along the rapids, kids hanging and sliding their hands on the railing along the bank of the mighty Niagara River, while the mother was trying to tie sneaker laces on a moving target. The Dad was watching the crowd for kidnappers or wild dogs. The first little tyke tourist saw the water going over the edge and let out a scream that caught many off guard. As the family caught up, they were overcome with delight; probably as close to a religious experience they will ever personally witness. I laughed to myself and wanted to offer to autograph their bus schedule cause I lived here.
Married couples holding hands were truly moved as evidenced by the decreasing distance between their bodies as they walked close to the brink. Groups of Asians? Well they’re just a happy lot anyway, so you can imagine how many pictures were being taken back to the bus. Even the dogs looked happy. Then there was the young man dressed in full Boston Red Sox support group clothing. He shuffled his way past a family from the Ukraine and stood for a moment at the apex of Prospect Point. He turned and walked away and said to his friends, “Dude, we’ve gotta find some popcorn.” Go Sox.
So why are so many of us down on the whole Niagara Falls experience? City Hall is dysfunctional, Albany is corrupt, 400 people want to get methadone at the tourist center, so what? Suck it up Niagarains. Be a tourist or be a host once in a while and restart your attitude. I did.
So get out and walk the Gorge, Goat Island, Cruise thru the State Parks, and meander through the crowds downtown. Try some of these tricks and have fun in your own backyard:
- Make eye contact with tourists and smile. It’ll either drive them nuts or make them feel welcome. It may also result in some interesting dialog where you can introduce some of the rest of these ideas.
- Offer to take a picture for someone, better yet, ask someone to take a picture of you. They feel good about helping you, and when was the last time you got a picture on your phone of you at the falls?
- Tell them their dog is cute or beautiful, even tho it smells like a salmon and looks like a bat.(don’t try this with their kids, tho, they’ll know you are lying)
- Put a dollar in the hat for they guy playing the guitar and tell him thanks for being here.
- Engage in conversation if possible. Tell a tourist about some tradition here. Tell them how to get to the Como or Gadawski’s. Tell them we are really a master race, but are very welcoming and humble. Tell them to stick around, and to tell their friends to come in the Winter.
- Don’t honk at the family who stops in the middle of the road cause they are lost, pull up and offer to help. Even if you give them the wrong directions, they’ll think you were nice to try.
- If the litter really bugs you, pick up one cup and throw it in the trash. (the green tote) Maybe someone will see you and do the same. If someone sees them… before you know it, not much more will have happened, but you thought you knew where I was going with that.
- Breathe the air by the falls. That water that is churning has come from around the world to be right here, just like all the people walking in your presence. Use this to put a new value on the rest of your day, and and restart as an insignificant member of our global community. Then forget about bitching and go do something good.
Any other ideas? Send us a comment, picture, or video of a tourist experience. If the response is the same as documenting the City Administrator’s lack of productivity, there won’t be a follow up.