A tourist here in early April is like a Christmas tree in July: nice looking, but oddly out of place.
I am writing this during a spring school vacation week, so there are quite a few people wandering up and down Commercial Street, visiting what shops are open and looking in the windows of those that aren’t. Actually, I am making that up. It seems to be what they are doing. I have been out of touch with downtown, for obvious reasons, so I am less certain about what the hell they are doing and how they are doing it. I just drive by these wandering souls on my way to the bank or the post office or out to the end of the wharf to search for seabirds.
I have to admire these tourists: they all have such hopeful and optimistic looks on their faces, and they seem psyched to be here, in this (today) gray and drizzly weather. Personally, I find travel stressful: you somehow get somewhere and then have to decide what to do, where to go and what to see, what to eat, how not to get lost, what trinket to buy to show you were there, whether you should talk to strangers, and which strangers seem the safest to engage. Too many decisions. All that angst: Did you just get cheated? Did you get the best lobster roll or second best? Are you having enough fun? Where is a decent bathroom? Now add Covid. I admire these stalwart souls who just venture forth and try to wrest some fun or amusement or edification out of life. Determined, even in a damp drizzle.
If I were even half sociologist, I would conduct a study of their motivations. Of course, the people with kids just have to get them out of the house. Those unencumbered with the next generation need to give themselves a change of scenery, even if it is just an hour’s drive away. So here they come, around the rotary, through Eastham; few enticements there, sorry to say (but a nice place to live!); perhaps they move up the line and stop in Wellfleet: frankly, that downtown stroll will take about 15 minutes; further along Route 6 they see the sign for Truro’s town center, but, like Nirvana, they never do find it; so they push on to Provincetown and a bit of life at the end of the line. Life: people, dogs, shops, galleries, restaurants, bars — now, we’re talking!
Just to be around other people — but not too close! — bunches of people strolling around; nothing like summer, mind you, but something, after all that housebound existence. The charm of this town is apparent, even in this bleak time of year. The stately Pilgrim Monument looks down on all our petty doings, and Town Hall presides in all its majesty. You can almost hear the echoes of the many thousands of footsteps from July and August; there is a vibrancy left hanging in the air. And, really, we are predisposed to welcome tourists — we are in one of the friendliest towns in America, according to a new national poll reported in the Boston Globe. There is an atmosphere of not just tolerance but acceptance, a feeling of no judgment, and, most important, a sense of fun. Provincetown is the classic small town, but with a difference: two pot shops, for one thing.
Of course, I am leaving out the beautiful beaches, bayside and oceanside, the ponds, the dunes, and the wooded pathways. But at some point people need people and seek them out. We tend to cluster. And these clusters of cheery tourists bring us all up a notch on the happiness scale.
So, I say, to any and all April travelers: Welcome!