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You Are a Tourist

You Are a Tourist
Savannah I. Whaley

Tourists eagerly observe the many features of this Virginia cavern, only pausing briefly to check Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and, what the heck, Tinder. Children screech merrily around them, disturbing and eroding ancient stone formations with their carefree trampling, as a tour guide looks hopelessly on.

LURAY, Va.—I keep seeing the signs as we drive through Virginia: “See the famous caverns! The most cavernous caverns around! An experience not to be missed!” The threat of FOMO (fear of missing out) does indeed motivate me to pay good money to descend into the bowels of the earth. While the tour guide waits for slower members of the group to catch up, those of us with schedules flood past him like we’re water molecules of the Red Sea and he is Moses. His feeble but polite “Have a nice day!” echoes throughout the admittedly very cavernous cavern.

Having decided to freelance it, I can only speculate as to what created the caverns. I think I remember something about a great Appalachian Sea washing through here a thousand years ago and doing some remodeling. The advantage of this theory is that I can pretend the water dripping on me is centuries-old sea water instead of cave slime. It’s a pretty cool cavern, though, especially for the first 50 yards when the novelty of stalagmites and stalactites has not yet worn off. Incidentally, I’ve discovered the difference between the two: Stalactites are awesome, like upside-down sand-drip castles, and stalagmites are gross piles of accumulated filth.

Unfortunately, the other Red Sea molecules and I are taking in the wonders of the cavern so efficiently that we actually catch up to another tour, and this tour guide is less tolerant of such hijinks. He blocks our path forward with a widely planted stance and begins his patented Tour Guide lecture, with its weird emphases: “If you look to my left you WILL IN FACT see ANOTHER rock formation. We DO IN FACT have models of this rock formation available for purchase. And on your right IS ANOTHER rock formation, it WAS DAMAGED by thoughtless tourists like yourselves, so I WILL have to ask that you DO refrain from licking it.” This directive is necessary given the fact that there are roughly 500 toddlers currently in the cavern. The rock formation in question is “seasonal”—they call it an ice cream cone in the summer (hence the licking), a Christmas tree in the winter, and so on. This is really fantastic marketing on the cavern people’s part because the rock formation most strongly resembles the poop emoji. They also do marriages here, because who needs flowers when you have fungi?

The cavern people gently relieve us of any extra cash we may have in exchange for an unflattering green-screen photo at the exit, and we emerge from our unforgettable experience only a little worse for wear. Next summer, though, I think I’ll go to Disneyland.


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Savannah I. Whaley '18, a Crimson multimedia editor, lives in Mather House.

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