As you’ve no doubt seen on Facebook, Seattle is cleaning 20 years’ worth of gum from its famous “Gum Wall” near the also-famous Pike Place Market.
The Market, of course, is where you see guys toss fish to each other every time a network camera crew shows up to film something about Seattle. This is how they prove to the audience that they are really in Seattle, and not in Cleveland or Omaha or other places where there is little fish-tossing. Although there probably isn’t much fish-tossing in Seattle, either, when there are no cameras around.
If you’re like me, you probably never expected to see the words “famous” and “gum wall” used in a sentence. But then we never expected to hear the words “famous” and “Kardashians” used together, either. I suspect the Gum Wall may be a lot more interesting than the Kardashians, and yet it’s being removed while the Kardashians continue to be the Dumb Dynasty.
No doubt, Seattle will lose millions in tourist dollars by removing the gum. Why would anyone visit Seattle now? Of course, like most of you, I had never heard of the Gum Wall until it was announced they were cleaning it.
It’s like that bridge in Paris that had all the locks on it. It wasn’t until they decided to take off the locks that most people even heard of it. And now that it’s gone, why in the world would you go to Paris? Without the lock bridge, it’s just another city with an Eiffel Tower, a Louvre, a Notre Dame and a few thousand other measly things. Hardly worth the trip if you can’t put a lock on a bridge.
And it’s hardly worth going to Seattle if we can’t see gum on a wall. What else is there to do there?
It’s stories like this, that attract wall-to-wall news coverage and social media posts, that must have chambers of commerce across the country wondering what low-cost, bizarre attractions they can come up with to bring in tourist dollars. Why bother with the World’s Biggest Ball of Twine or the World’s Largest Frying Pan when all you need is a local version of the Gum Wall? Right now, some town out there is brainstorming a way to make some easy money by turning a local liability into a tourist trap.
Can the “Longest-burning Tire Dump in America” be your town’s claim to fame? How long before we start hearing stories about the “Home of the World’s Oldest Twinkie,” “What’s That Funny Smell,” or “Don’t Miss Our Open Pit Mine”?
Is there a wrong time of year to visit your city? Not anymore! Just market it right: “It’s Algae Bloom Day!” “Come Enjoy Mud Season!” “Annual Ragweed Festival — Fun for the Whole Family!”
Some places have been promoting their worst features for years, with great success. If you think a volcano constantly erupting next to your town might be something you wouldn’t want to advertise, let me introduce you to the Big Island of Hawaii. Tourists come from thousands of miles away to see molten rocks roll down hillsides, destroying everything in their path. It would be hard to think of anything worse to put on your tourist brochure, but it works for them.
So the next time a sinkhole opens up in your city and swallows up a dozen cars, you should probably stop your mayor from running to the TV cameras and telling everyone how quickly it’ll be fixed. It could be your ticket to lower taxes and higher tourist dollars.
Got a lot of potholes? Brag about them. Most snow? Most corrupt politicians? Longest traffic jams, most pollution, losingest football team, biggest rats, most expensive gas, worst power company, a tar pit, a Mafia social club — what are you worried about?
Tell the world about it, and watch the tour buses line up outside your door.
Contact Jim Mullen at JimMullenBooks.com