I work the entrance station shift several times a week (in fact, I’m sitting in it right now), and I’ll admit it’s not my favorite part of the job. Being isolated in a little booth by yourself for 5 hours at a time, repeating the same thing to visitors over and over again, isn’t exactly what I’d call ‘fun.’ But most of the time it’s not too painful, and I’ve got a great view. The entrance station is a great place to watch the storms roll by, the rice grass glow in the sun, and the wildlife going about their merry day. But the best views of all are of the tourists.
In the past few weeks out here, I’ve made quite a few interesting observations about the visitors to our park:
For one, the men nearly always drive. Okay, so this is something I realized a long time ago, but the idea is magnified when you’re sitting in a booth, watching car after car go by. Why is it, exactly, that we women always let the men take the wheel? Is it just the societal standard? Something we don’t think about at all and simply subconsciously conform to. Or is it more than that? Does it mean more to the man than the woman to sit in that front left-hand seat? Are we women being stereotypically submissive? Or is it that we simply don’t care as much? Is this a case of power? Or are all of these questions completely irrelevant? I think it’s probably irrelevant – at least in my personal experiences – but it’s worth thinking about.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that although I’m working in a US National Park, most of the visitors that come through are foreign. I think it’s great that people come from all over the world to see this place – and they should! But it makes me sad to think about how few American visitors we get in comparison. The parks were created for us after all, and yet so few of us get out there to experience them. Another sad fact about Americans is this – I’ve talked to several rangers from different parks about which nationality of visitor is the rudest – and the Americans win across the board. They show up to our entrance stations upset that they must pay a whole $10 to get in. They walk into our visitor centers and throw temper tantrums when they find the bathrooms aren’t exactly where they thought they were or that a ranger is unsure about some completely obscure piece of information concerning a weed that doesn’t even grow in the area. They go out into the park and don’t feel the need to use trails or trashcans. The children refuse to share the explorer packs that are given out for free, and the adults get obnoxiously drunk at the campsites. They come to the parks and feel entitled rather than appreciative. Honestly, it’s disgusting.
Also, everyone looks the same. They’re all white. Most of our foreigners come from Germany, France and Italy. We get quite a few Asian tour groups, but as far as non-Caucasians go, that’s it. I might meet one African-American family every other week, and even fewer Latinos. Why is this? It’s their country too.
And then, there is the golden rule of the entrance station: Thou shalt sit idly for hours, lest a single car approach, until the moment thou shalt make an attempt at productivity, at which time multiple vehicles shall pile up, and continue to appear at thy window until all gains in productivity are lost forever.
Translation: People will only enter the park at the moments you try to do something productive – whether that be reading or studying or working on a program (or writing a ranting blog post). This rule is multiplied by 10 at closing time.