The word is ‘respect’…

This marks the 15th year I’ve lived along the Florida Gulf Coast. It is a gorgeous region and I have grown to love my adopted state. But… there are aspects of living here that are not so great.

There is the oppressive summer heat and humidity, but that’s tempered by mild winters (no snow!). There is a six-month long hurricane season, there is fine sand EVERYWHERE, and all kinds of creepy-crawly bugs.

Then worst of all – tourists.

Last year when our beautiful Gulf Coast was assaulted by the BP Oil Spill it had a severely detrimental effect on local commerce. Resorts, restaurants, the fishing fleet, nearly everyone was touched in some way by the disaster. My own daughter, who works summers at a local Gulf front seafood restaurant, lost income because of the spill.

I feel guilty that even in the midst of all this, I did not miss the crowds. That I was able to return to our beaches, practically having the coast to myself, was a welcome change of pace.

This season, tourists are headed back. The beaches are clean and beautiful, the water clear and warm.

We are now in the last days of Spring Breaks. Beginning in early March through the end of April, thousands of college and high students, and families arrived in town for a few days of sunshine and warm weather. A welcome change from months of snow and frigid cold.

During peak tourist season it’s not unreasonable to estimate our population doubles, if not triples. A typical 15 minute drive into town can turn into an hour of grid lock. Where a normal wait for a table at any of our local restaurants during off season may stretch to 30 minutes, it’s not uncommon to have a two-hour wait during summer months.

It’s not even the crowds that are annoying. That I can understand… it’s the atmosphere of entitlement that many tourist have once arriving on our shores.

That it’s considered appropriate to behave in ways that they would never act in their hometowns.

• Our beautiful beaches are not litter boxes or landfills. If you wouldn’t crap in your neighbor’s backyard or leave piles of trash there, don’t do that in mine.

• If you wouldn’t shop in your hometown stores dressed only in a bikini, don’t do that here. No shirt, no shoes, no PANTS… no service.

• It’s considered bad form to change your baby’s diaper on top of the dining table. We are a modern city, our restaurants have nicely appointed restrooms, many are equipped with changing tables. Your server and fellow diners would greatly appreciate it.

• It’s possible that tourists are terrible drivers at home, but it’s obvious many disregard traffic rules while on vacation. Turn signals aren’t used; cutting across four lanes of traffic to make a sudden right turn into the mall is standard; ‘Stop’ signs are interpreted as ‘Slide;’ they aren’t satisfied with their own lane, they want mine too; coming to a complete stop in the middle of the road to take a photo should be a felony.

• The same can be said of pedestrians. There are many attractions all within walking distance from resorts and beaches. Cross walks and signals are there for your protection, walking out into traffic against lights could severely curtail your vacation fun.

• Just as servers at restaurants in your hometown are your children, and your neighbors’ children, the same holds true here. Working long hours on their feet, dealing with lecherous drunks; undisciplined, rowdy children; foul-mouthed diners; all for low wages, it is not okay to demean, verbally abuse, and cheat your server just because you can get away with it.

• We employ a colored-coded flag system to identify surf conditions. Explanations of the flags are posted at every beach access and at hotels and resorts. It’s understandable that if you came a long distance to enjoy the Gulf, you want to swim. However, if red flags or double red flags are flying it means that surf conditions are too dangerous, so no swimming is allowed. By ignoring the warnings you are putting good people ~ your lifeguards ~ in peril. Too many of these first responders have died pulling your ass out of the water. It’s not worth it.

Remember, you are here for only a few days, we live here, work and attend school and church here, this is our home. Please respect that.

Submitted as part of Shell’s “Pour Your Heart Out” writing prompt. Please stop by to read the other posts, and give a little comment love.

9 thoughts on “The word is ‘respect’…

  1. How did I not know you weren’t always living there? I feel for you with tourists. I generally detest them myself. I used to laugh at them when I lived in the city – they stuck out like sore thumbs. But that an impact for you in a bad way! 😦


  2. Amen. Well said!

    I always strive to “blend in” when I’m traveling. It amazes me, though, how few people do that. It’s like they want to scream, “TOURIST! BOW TO ME!” Yeah, tourism dollars are something places thrive on, but it doesn’t mean we have to bow to ’em. Meh.


  3. Extremely well said! Too bad it can’t be posted in every hotel room! People REALLY change diapers on the dining table?

    Tara R: I’ve seen table top diapering many times. You’d be surprised where people change diapers. My daughter has friends who work at local retail stores who find full diapers in changing rooms, along with ruined, un-paided for merchandise that was used to clean the baby.


  4. Great post! I think we as vacationer’s don’t have this in our consciousness, that the area is a home to people. Florida is the mecca of march break hotspots around our parts. And I served tables for nearly 20 years and GET IT. Thanks for this eye-opener! It doesn’t hurt that you are a terrific writer!


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