I knew they were tourists before we climbed inside. Even with Will boldly clutching the $2.50 for the driver, I was still weighed down with a large tote bag, stroller, and Kate, all in my arms. If they were from here, I wouldn’t have so much as put one foot onto the unfolded step before someone soundlessly took an object from me to help us on board. It’s just the way things happen here.
Eventually the kids and I stumbled into the Streetcar and rambled down the isle to an open seat. Two open seats, actually, as the kids took turns hopping between empty benches on each side of the isle, changing with each stop. It is July in New Orleans and it is hot: both kids wanted the breeze from the open windows and to be out of the sun. Their seat experimentation was just them working to find the coolest space available.
“This area doesn’t look like it got hurt by the storm,” the lady in front of me says. “Oh, right,” her companion incorrectly chimes in, “but the Garden District got it real bad.” Definitely tourists. I am about to ask them where they are from, to chat them up and welcome them here, to be that friendly spot of hospitality one expects here for good reason. But then the stroller I’ve laid beside our seat comes to smack me in the shin; the companion sitting in front of me is pushing it back, away from where one end has rolled into her personal space. I decide to say nothing, listening instead to the women periodically comment on the “interesting” and “unusual” and occasionally “beautiful” architecture that unfolds before us as we roll along the tracks.
Finally, we turn the corner to Carrollton Avenue, where the Streetcar driver announces: “End of St. Charles, Carrollton Avenue, Camilla Grill!” Everyone around us gets ready to depart.
One of the women asks, “Isn’t this it? Camilla Grill? Is this where we go?” She is looking around as if her expectations weren’t quite being met.
“I’m not sure. I guess so. Everyone else is,” her friend answers.
Then Will, who has been silently looking out the window snaps to attention. “Get a Cheeseburger. They’re the best here.” He says it right to the women, who take a moment to realize from where this sage advice has come.
“Really?” the first woman responds, “cheeseburgers?”
“And a chocolate milkshake,” Will remembers.
“Cheeseburger,” Kate adds.
For a split second I find myself wistfully wanting a third child, one who would pipe up and offer that last bit of important advice, “and get it dressed.”