Day 35: Mean Girls Guide to Oxford Tourist Identification (Pt. 2 of 2)

On “Day 34” I laid out my case for categorical identification of people I’ve spied on the sidewalks of Oxford.  It’s rather like bird watching, only with human beings.

Since then, I’ve become a local hero.  Well, actually I was just validated by the bartender at the college pub plus one other person…but it was a wholehearted validation, to be sure.

Well, they listened to my theory for about five minutes and then put in their own two cents for about 55 minutes.  But I think they agreed with me.  Yeah, I’m pretty sure they did.

I had just finished my EU Law final.  The professor says, “Hey lets go grab a drink before I go to Brussels.” So we go downstairs and start making small talk.  The entire rest of the class has had hours of pub time with this guy, but since I don’t frequent the pub I’m not exactly sure what to do.

The bartender chimed in with some banter and helped out a bit.  I asked the prof how many students he teaches each year.   And then – not knowing what else to talk about – I just sort of blurted out my tourist identification theory.  One hour later, the bartender and the professor were still talking about their own categories and having a jolly old time.

So, I suppose the moral of this little intro is that there is an audience for just about any type of writing.  And, I know at least two people now who have spent years of personal energy also fighting the mobs on the sidewalks.  Therefore, since I’ve now been personally fortified let’s finished this thing out, shall we?

We’re on category nine.  BTW – my brained is conditioned for life on the phrase “number 9.”  The Beatles and the 1970s backmasking scares have been imprinted my psyche for evermore.

9.  I threw this one in here because I’m still a “Friends” fan.  In honor of Joey’s famous not-so-manly man bag, here are the “Man Bag Dudes.” The big guys wear larger ones, the small guys wear smaller ones.  But most all the tourists, the male students and any dude with a Euro look falls into the “Man Bag Dude” category.

I actually think they are really practical, and can’t see how you would get around town much without them.  But I tell you true – there aren’t many back in Oklahoma.

Man-Bag Dudes
General tourist groups

10.  This next category earns the “Most Annoying Thing on the Sidewalk” award.  I’ve been a member myself, and I’ve struggled to get around them while NOT a member.  It’s the “General Tourist Group” category.  I could write an entire post on the behaviors indicative of this phenomenon.  But I won’t.  I want to stay in a happy mood today.

Women-wearing-hijabs group...

11.  Next on the list is the “Women-Wearing-Hijabs Group.”  I’m adding this category because it is a distinction I don’t see much in Oklahoma, even at our universities.  If you look at demographics from various geography websites, you’ll see that Oklahoma has such a negligible Muslim population it is listed as 0%.  In the UK, there are 2.4 million persons of the Muslim faith.  So, I thought my friends back home might be interested in seeing that pink must be the “in” color this year!

12.  This next category (see above) is another power group.  I call them a power group because they stick together so tightly that you just have to sort of flatten your back against the wall and let them walk on by.  These are the “female student groups.” Generally entrenched in a deep conversation, they represent a populous force in the sidewalk.  As genteel as the business crowd is, these are the opposite.  Spot them early, and look for exits in case of emergency.

13.  I’ve already written about the Oxford cyclists.  So I’ll just reiterate that they are many.  They are legion.  They are everywhere.

14.  We’re getting close to concluding.  However, there are two other groups I feel are noteworthy. In our EU class there has been a good deal of discussion about the still-ingrained class system within the UK.  My bartender conversation I mentioned earlier also included a discussion about what we in the U.S. call the “transitional year” – – or the first year at a university.  Like it or not, Oxford encompasses a student body who represent an enormous amount of wealth.  The joked that the students learn one thing during their transitional year: “Okay – you’re rich, but so is everyone else…so get over yourself!”  Along this line, I’ve noticed a sub-group around the streets that I’m classifying as the “Eurocratic Student Couples.”  It’s interesting in that those who seem the most richly dressed and stay to themselves are frequently “coupled up.”  I’m not sure why…but it is a distinction that I’m calling valid until proven incorrect.

15. I’m going to wrap up my groups with an outlier.  In research, an “outlier” is something that doesn’t fall within the larger groups of data.  There are a few around, but not many.  In general, they are the individual older male tourist, or perhaps professorial, sidewalk folks.  There is a female counterpart, but they are even more rare.  This last photo is of an outlier gentleman I first saw during the pouring rain on Day 24.

I have to tell you that he got my attention because he was so incredibly kind.  He smiled at every person in the room, tipped his hat as he did, opened doors for people, waved at people…he eked warmth.  I later saw him in the post office, and then again once walking into a clothing store.  If I see him again, I’ll just introduce myself and tell him he made it into my blog.  Who knows…maybe HE has his OWN categories of those he meets on the streets.  I can tell you one thing, though – I’ll bet he’s nicer to them than I.

As I end my Day 35 post, I am realizing I have a new goal.  Next time I walk out onto the busy sidewalks of Oxford, I’ll try and put my invisible touristy-professory hat on and be nicer to those I meet.

After all, I think being an outlier is a really good thing.

(Note: December 8, 2010 – when we transferred sites, several of our photograph links got broken.  I lost the photo of this man, unfortunately, so I don’t think I’ll replace it with something else.  I’ll just sit with the memory of him. RDK)