It’s no secret that Bill Bryson is my favourite author. It might be less well-known that The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America is one of my favourite Bryson books (second only, perhaps, to A Walk in the Woods). I pulled The Lost Continent off the shelf this evening and opened it randomly and found myself following him on his visit to Philadelphia (not exactly small town, but whatever), where I happened upon this truth:
National park visitors’ centres are always the same.
They have some displays in glass cases that manage to be both boring and uninformative, a locked auditorium with a board out front saying that the next showing of the free twelve-minute introductory film will be at 4 p.m. (just before 4 p.m. somebody comes and changes it to 10 a.m.), some racks of books and brochures with titles like Pewter in History and Vegetables of Old Philadelphia, which are too dull even to browse through, much less buy, and a drinking fountain and rest-rooms, which everyone makes use of because there’s not much else to do. Every visitor to every national park goes into the visitors’ centre, stands around kind of stupidly for a while, then has a pee and a drink of water and wanders back outside (p. 156).
It’s funny ’cause it’s true, in Canada as well.