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Folks around here who depend on credit card –toting tourists for a good chunk of their annual income, are always concerned about how the summer tourist season will be, You can't blame them. There are so many things to worry about.
If travel is too expensive, our summer visitors might decide to skip a trip north to Maine and just stay home and use a lawn sprinkler to cool off when the weather to our south gets hazy, hot and humid. Tourists might figure it's not worth it to fight the traffic crawling through New Hampshire's Hampton tolls just to have the privilege of crawling at a snail's pace through our own York tolls an hour or two later - the whole time burning gallons of precious gasoline. It's not something we Mainers want our summer visitors going through just before they arrive here for a period of rest and relaxation.
Why? Because after going through all that aggravation on the highways, it's likely they’d be short-tempered and difficult to deal with once they arrive. And, after paying record prices for travel and everything else along the way they'd have little extra cash or credit to buy all the things we've been planning to sell them this summer – all that cheap, questionable stuff we import from China, just for our “summer complaints.”
For those of you saying: But John, the summer people have always been short-tempered and difficult to deal with no matter how much they've gone through to get here, and no matter how much they had to pay for fuel and tolls. They could get a free ride to Maine and most of them would still be difficult when they arrived. Well, that may be true, but it doesn't answer the question of what we're going to do with the tourists we were hoping to make money off of when they all show up all aggravated and/or broke or worse -- they never show up at all.
Maine used to be famous for low-budget vacations and some of us might have to go back to those days just to survive the current economic slump. When I was a kid I remember restaurants that served things like cream cheese and olive sandwiches. I can't remember how much they were but I remember they were awfully cheap.
I also remember there were folks in town with large farmhouses who would rent out rooms to summer people. The cost for a room would be a few bucks per-person per night and would often include your breakfast and your dinner. You were on your own for the noon meal.
If the guests didn't want to join the family in the field for a day of back-breaking work they could choose from a short list of activities. Rather than have a “recreation director” to plan all kinds of foolishness for visitors, the farm family would rattle off a list of things the guests could do during the day: take a walk, go for a swim, row the skiff around the cove, drive to town, read a good book, take a nap. Nothing fancy, but it didn't cost anything, so you couldn't complain.
All this talk of economical vacations has made me think. Excuse me while I start cleaning out our spare room and see if our skiff is seaworthy enough to row around the cove a few times.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at mainestoryteller@yahoo.com or 899-1868.
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