There seems to be a concept on MDI of ‘August People’ or ‘100 days of August’. Sometimes people just say ‘August’ in an exasperated tone. There may be different ways of putting it but the basic idea is for locals, August is the time when a less pleasant crowd comes to town, and where work hours and sanity are stretched for those serving them.

Tourists (and those relatively new to the area), of course, have no idea. I didn’t get this until about five years into my life here, mainly because my job is less tourism focused and because I lived in parts of town tourists didn’t really frequent.

100 Days Of August (we could also call this Temporary New York City But Without Many Conveniences) are what happens when people get crammed together in a small geographic area… and in the case of MDI, there are two groups with two distinct agendas:

  1. People visiting who are on vacation.
  2. People living here who have to work.

Locals are dealing with an increased workload (and decreased relaxation/sleep), increased events/obligations (the friend’s wedding, the visiting family, the non-profit’s fundraiser you feel you should support), and increased lack of personal space which irritates them.

Now you locals may say, “But Nicole, August people are the WORST.” Now without testing these groups cognitively or otherwise, none of us can say for sure that August visitors are any less empathetic, more demanding, etc, but we do know the demographics in August are different than September and October.  August visitors are families with school aged kids or working professionals (fall visitors tend to have more flexible schedules or be retired). We also know August folks are less likely to take a tour bus or less likely to get on a cruise ship and steam out at the end of the day so they are more free to move around the island. In other words, they are unavoidable. (Because if you really want to, you can find out the cruise ship schedule and find out the bus routes/tours and just stay away from those concentrations of people, unless you work for them of course.)

Tourists are annoyed that they come to what they thought was a quaint little island and have to deal with things like traffic, parking, and reserving tables at busy restaurants that they didn’t expect. Things they thought they could get on MDI, whether it’s their Starbucks coffee or food delivered, are not available. In many cases, this is a vacation they’ve saved for or otherwise is expensive to them. Their expectations are in some cases not met by reality, all of which can be irritating. 

So both groups, tourists and locals, are annoyed and so we get 100 Days Of August (31 days that feel like triple that). And it makes sense- when you have an island full of people who are generally hot, overtired, crowded together, and stretched to their limits (both vacationers and locals), there’s a chance people aren’t feeling or acting their best.

What can we do about this issue that creates a sometimes tense or difficult environment? I have some ideas, for both sides of the equation (if you have others, please leave them in the comments. Note: I will delete rude ones; this isn’t a venting session but a place to come up with actual solutions).

For the tourists:

  1. In general, if you would feel ashamed if a neighbor back home saw you do something, don’t do it on MDI. Ask yourself, would I be okay if my child was acting this way at my local restaurant? How would my mom feel if she knew this was how I was about to dump all my car’s trash in a clearly non-public trashcan?
  2. Respect the roads. If you see a pretty vista, use your blinker and turn off the road gradually. Use crosswalks. Don’t park in the middle of the road while you drop ten people off on Main Street.
  3.  Don’t take souvenirs out of Acadia National Park and don’t leave things there. Also don’t alter the landscape (ex: piling rocks).
  4. Use your magic words, even if the person behind the counter is kind of being a jerk. Their jerkiness might be because they haven’t had a day off in two weeks (in other words, try to find some empathy).  The magic words without condescension will potentially turn them around. Or not. Don’t take it personally.
  5. Don’t go into a business and loudly proclaim you could buy this online/at Walmart for way cheaper or ask them nosy questions or give them ‘business tips’ on how they could do better. If you don’t want to buy something, it is perfectly ok to tell the sales person to have a nice day and walk out, ideally not in a huff.
  6. Don’t count on the availability of the internet or cell phone reception. Plan your day ahead of time (that’s why lots of us still have paper maps in our cars) so you can avoid frustration or panic when you can’t get the trail map to load on your phone. While you’re at it, pack extra snacks and water. Really.
  7. Say anything nice you can think of. Was your waitress really kind? Sincerely thank her after your meal, verbally and with your tip. Was the front desk person at the hotel helpful? A thank you note can go a long way. (I worked the front desk of a hotel and while I treated everyone as well as I could, I remember those three thank you notes I got.) Consider flattering online reviews that can help businesses succeed and employees in them get recognition.
  8. Help. If you see a mom struggling to get her stroller out of her car, ask if you can help her. (Note ask first and if she says no, let her be!) If you see a piece of litter, pick it up. It adds to the overall feeling of kindness and as a bonus, you’ll probably feel better for having done something positive.
  9. Make plans way ahead. I can’t tell you how many people ask me on Thursday if they can come visit Friday. (It’s August, what do you think!?!) If you make plans ahead, it’s easier to accommodate you (this includes hotel reservations and restaurants, especially if you have a large party).
  10. Ask only if you plan to listen to the answer. Most of us locals know the answers to basic questions (Where do I get a lobster roll? Why is high tide and low tide at different times every day?) But if I give you three suggestions on where you can get a lobster roll and you ask me about a fourth, I’m going to think ‘Why didn’t you just ask me about X place straight away?’ Keep in mind, many of us have already had this same conversation hundreds of times in the preceding months of the season, so don’t be afraid to ask but be direct and listen to the answer (even if you plan to not follow their advice), and thank them for their time.

For the locals:

  1. Be patient. Remember how exciting it is for people to be here and cut them some slack (that whole “empathy” thing). A quick ‘excuse me’ to get someone to move over on the sidewalk doesn’t cost you much. Waiting while someone attempts to parallel park four times could be a nice moment to listen to some classical music and take some cleansing breaths.
  2. Offer DIY information. I wrote a ten page guide book that I have at my house for visitors and they love it. They also ask me way less questions. Take the time to write up what you know about things visitors you interact with may be nervous about: parking, going up early or otherwise making arrangements to watch the sunrise on Cadillac, etc. Offer them a few alternatives when possible so if something doesn’t work out, they see other possibilities. If you have a business or non-profit, consider posting this information on your website, in your location, or other places visitors interact with you. You can’t overly inform people, especially if they are in a new place and maybe a little nervous.
  3. Get to “Why.” If someone is asking you a seemingly dumb question, there may be an underlying reason. If they are asking the hours of three restaurants in a row, in asking “why” you may find out their boat cruise only comes in at 9 pm. Your conversation just got a lot less annoying as now you can tell them their options and be on your way. Sometimes they don’t know what questions to ask, but we can help get them there.
  4.  Help tourists and each other. Does the person behind you seem in a hurry at the grocery store? Let them go ahead. See a family wandering around saying ‘I think it’s this way…’, ask them if you can help them find something.
  5.  Use resources during off peak hours. Being a little thoughtful about when you go places and even how you get there can save on road congestion and decrease the stress level of those working there.
  6.  Give drives an extra 15 minutes. I have built this into my schedule of when I leave the house in July and August and it has made me less stressed out on my commute.
  7. Consider a part time job. I know that many businesses get crunched when the college kids go back in August. Maybe those of us with non tourism day jobs can give a hand one or two nights a week or part of a weekend day and not only potentially earn a little extra cash but help our local businesses and non-profits during this crunch time.
  8. Say anything nice you can think of. Was that couple that stayed at your campground nice enough to leave their extra wood for the next camper? Tell them you appreciate it. Did you see a family do some expert level parenting at the park? Walk over and say so. Not all visitors during 100 Days of August are jerkfaces so thank the ones that aren’t.
  9. Make sure your basic needs are met. Eat as well as you can. Take naps if you can’t get enough sleep. Drink some water. It’s hard to pour from an empty cup so make sure you do what you can to take care of yourself during this time of extra stress.
  10. Think of self care. Book a massage or someone to come clean your house. Ask a family member if they can do the grocery shopping this week. While you can’t really take a vacation this time of year, a little time for self care goes a long way. Think of an hour or so you can steal away as a mini vacation. Grab your lunch and head to Compass Harbor. Take a walk to get your coffee. Enjoy actually being here, even if these moments are short and stolen.

100 Days Of August is hard on everyone, let’s think of ways to make it less so. 

I plan on keeping this a living document so I hope you leave your comments below about things we could add/edit on these lists. Note: comments with solutions/ideas only will be kept, we have places we can vent that are not here if we are on either side of this issue!

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