A definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Albert Einstein couldn’t have said it better.
We, the residents of Goshen and the rest of the Northwest, face a bleak future. We have lost tens of thousands of jobs in the forest industry, and we feel abandoned by the governments we elected, the corporations we made rich, and the gods we worshipped. There is one star that glimmers faintly in the firmament. Tourism. If only the tourists would come, we would be saved.
What can we offer? “WOW! Fishing, hunting, affordable housing prices, boating, great people, fresh air, and no traffic jams”. Outsiders looking in might describe this as heaven.
These are the words of a marketing consultant. He wrote them to the residents of Thunder Bay a couple months ago. Okay, Thunder Bay has no fish, and no wild game, and no fresh air, so he was really talking about Goshen, and the rest of the Northwest. And, incidentally, T-Bay does have traffic jams. As well as plum jam. And toe jam.
So, explain me this: (a) Why do we in the Northwest not offer what we have? And (b), Why aren’t we telling everyone we possibly can that we live in a paradise? Let’s study on that awhile.
Literally. Let’s have another study. Let’s think up a modest name for it, such as Premier Ranked Tourist Destination Project – PRTDP ̶ as opposed to our second choice, Another Stupid Study to Win Incredible Prosperity, Eh?
Yes, all levels of government have contributed to PRTDP – a quarter-million dollars. And in two years, when it reports, we will know why we are still poor. Meanwhile, kiss goodbye to more hundreds of businesses and another ten thousand jobs
That marketing guy said that some guy told him about us guys. Some guy had paid us a visit, and he had had a WOW! experience. So the consultant paid us a visit, a year ago, and kept coming back, month after month. He told someone else, who told someone else, and WOW!, now these guys are paying us visits.
Listen, friends, I am not asking for a quarter-million bucks. I’m a writer, not a consultant, so I’ve taken a vow of poverty. I’m going to give you my report, in two minutes, not two years, and it won’t cost you a cent, though it’s worth a hundred, a thousand times that.
Walk into any municipal building or tourism office or development agency in the Northwest, and you will find a shelf lined with studies to boost tourism. Check out the archives, which is always in the basement in a damp and windowless room behind the furnace, and you will find boxes of studies. Check out the studies, and you will run across the familiar names of agents who commissioned them, of consultants who charged for them, and of committees who ignored them.
Or come to Goshen this spring and summer. We host hundreds of young people from across the nation. They live, total strangers to one another, in tents in the howling wilderness, where they swat blackflies, and eat slop, and plant trees. And every week or so, the tree planters are bussed to town to recover from the ordeal. They just want to wash their socks, and inhale an ice cream, and relate to people who live normal lives.
So, I could tell you that, for hours, these boys and these girls wander aimlessly in their grubbies, shrink under the stony stares of the locals, and gaze at their underwear in the rinse cycle. I could tell you that, but I won’t.
Instead, I will tell you a fable. These young people, who one day will have hundreds, nay, thousands of cents in their pockets, are embraced by the community of Goshen. They are invited to a fish fry, and they are introduced to the canoe and the ATV and the sauna, and they are transported to lovely lakes to lie in the sun and sand and suck on the ice cubes from their flavoured drinks and they have, well, WOW! experiences.
At the end of the day, they are tucked into their buses with armsful of cokes and glossy mags and warm memories and, fortified for a few more days, returned to a grubby existence.
And if it turns out that these hundreds of youths do have homes to which they will one day return, and that each one will tell a brother or a sister or a mother or a father or a grandparent or a godparent or a college buddy or a significant other or ̶ perishthethought! ̶ a total STRANGER, who, in turn, tells someone else, then before you know it, hundreds, nay, thousands of strangers with tens of thousands of cents in their pockets will descend upon Goshen. There’s a name for this sort of stranger. What is it? Oh yeah. Friend for life.
Okay, this has been a fable. In real life, hundreds of strangers drive through Goshen every day, and can’t wait to leave. Now, you have the brains, for after all, you are reading this. And you have the imagination, for you know the acronym for Another Stupid Study to Win Incredible Prosperity, Eh? So put your brains and your imagination to work.
Fund another study. And above all, do not be nice to strangers.
That would be insane.
Originally published in The Gardens of Goshen, Volume 3, January 2007.