Chapter 06
Sightseeing Tours

Walk this way

One day I see a girl xxx young woman with a Hahvahd T-shirt being a tour guide right in the middle of Harvard Square. I ask to photograph her in her Hahvahd shirt because of the title of this series. She liked the idea and agreed. (See the picture above.) She is a sophomore at Harvard, and at the end of the summer works for a tour company that will guide parents, families with student children, around the campus and the city. I watched for a couple minutes, and there were few takers for real tours just then, but she spent a lot of time directing people to parking, and even answering questions about where Car Talk is recorded.

Aside: The home of Car Talk, in the offices of Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe, are right across the street in the middle of the square. Many people notice the names in the window of the building across from the Coop. Everyone takes a picture. The recording studio, however, is over at WBUR somewhere in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston. Sadly, the season of Car Talk is now over. Click and Clack have announced their retirement, and the show is or soon will be in reruns. A serious loss to American culture.

There are two different types of organized (commercial) walking tours around the campus. The one pictured here is shorts-and-T-shirts. There is another by a competitive company where the guides are in "period dress," that is, dressed like ladies and gentlemen of, oh, 1880-ish. Both take groups of a dozen-ish tourists around many high spots of the area, town and campus, providing colorful historical commentary about the buildings, statues, and other sights. I haven't taken either of the tours, so I don't really know what all they guide you through. I hear just little bits as I walk past them.

The leaders walk the group from place to place with some patter on the way. Then they stand in front of a statue or a building for a few minutes while the guide declaims about who did what in the building or who the statue is supposed to be and what students do to it. It's hard to hear the guide sometimes over the constant buzz of cameras shutters. Then it's off to see the next sight.

The other kind of tour visible here is the huge tour bus full of tourists who come to walk around the campus. These buses show up, one or two a day in good weather, and disgorge dozens of Chinese parents and dozens of Chinese children, all with dozens of Japanese cameras and smartphones, so that there is actually more than one camera per person. The kids are there to see where they would like to go to college; the parents are there to see where they woule like to send their children and their life savings. I assume that these bus tours make the rounds of colleges all over New England, or perhaps the entire Northeast. They take pictures of everything, every building, every gate into the yard, every store on Mass Ave., every person standing in front of every building and gate and store. These groups are much larger than the more organized ones. Their commentary is in Mandarin. Their camera shutters are even more insistent.

I assume there is a similar dance a mile downstream at MIT.