Life Lessons from Ron Swanson

Have you ever watched the TV show ‘Parks and Recreation’? If not, I would highly recommend it – especially if you’ve ever worked in the public sector, or if you like mockumentary style shows like ‘The Office’.

I recently finished a catch-up marathon of the show … and so I’m now left impatiently waiting for more episodes … The series centres around Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), the Deputy Director of the Parks and Recreation Department in the fictional town of Pawnee (a brief aside: Amy Poehler usually irritates the hell out of me, but she has not bothered me once in this show). While Leslie is all enthusiasm and positive thinking, the rest of the ‘Parks and Rec’ team are less so. Having worked in government for many years, I can definitely say that I’ve encountered most of the personalities featured in the show – there’s the ambitious at any cost, the lazy, the uncooperative, the stickler for the rules, and of course you just can’t go past all that red tape. Aside from the natural comedy created by the ridiculousness of government structure and policy, the character’s interactions with each other are also lots of fun … and of course, there’s plenty of romance and relationship tensions to keep things extra interesting.

All of the characters are wonderful in their own way, but my absolute favourite of them all would have to be the Department’s Director, Ron Swanson – he hates government and how it operates, but he’s also a fascinating and rather sweet guy. The most perfect thing about Ron Swanson (well apart from his incredible moustache and unexpected after-hours talents) are the insights he offers into the people around him. In speaking to Leslie about why she might be feeling dissatisfied with her current boyfriend, he had this to say:

‘He’s a tourist. He vacations in people’s lives, takes pictures, puts them in his scrapbook, and moves on. All he’s interested in are stories. Basically, Leslie, he’s selfish. And you’re not. That’s why you don’t like him.’

This statement just blew me away. I’ve known (and still do know) a few people like this. The kind of people that are only interested in you as part of a ‘network’ or using you as a signpost to finding a better place in the world for themselves. Often such people are completely lovely and don’t actually mean any harm, but personally I’d much rather devote my time and energy to people that really want to know and understand me. Give me real relationships and genuine interactions every single time.

How about you? Have you ever come across these ‘tourists’ or acquaintance ‘collectors?


  1. Sonia

    I’ve not heard of this show, but I can completely relate to why you’d enjoy it. I feel I’ve always had a good solid circle of friends, and quite lucky in that way.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Sonia – I sometimes think that perhaps I’ve worked in government too long! 😉
      … But I do find this show very funny … and I nice substitute for when I’m waiting for new episodes of The Office to appear. Having a good solid circle of friends is a wonderful thing indeed – that’s always been much better in my opinion than having a wide circle of acquaintances.

  2. Gabrielle

    What a great description – a tourist – yes, met a few like that. I haven’t watched the show but would probably like it, having worked in beaurocracies before – amazing the range of personalities you come across.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Gabrielle – I know, describing a person as ‘a tourist’ is perfect. It really struck a chord with me, especially given that I’ve known a few people like that over the years.

      Even though it has got mixed reviews, I think you would like the show Gabrielle – I think it provides particular amusement for people who are familiar with the inner workings and frustrations of bureaucracy.

  3. Jennie Miller

    I’ve heard it is a goodun… must watch

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Jennie – I find it very amusing, though I know a lot of people either don’t like it or find it takes them a while to ‘warm’ to the characters … I admit that I was smitten from the start.

      There are so many TV shows to keep track of though, I wonder if that’s a good enough reason to take the day off work? 😉

  4. hila

    ha, she irritates me sometimes too and while this show is funny, I don’t think it’s quite as funny as I’d like it to be.

    I’ve met many “collectors”, and they usually collect to look cool. Silly people.

    p.s. I’ve tagged you on my blog!

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Hila – I always really disliked anything that Amy Poehler did previously, so I think it’s pretty amazing that she doesn’t bother me at all in this … wonders never cease! 🙂

      I know a lot of people don’t find the show SUPER funny, perhaps it suggests I’ve been dealing with government situations and government people for too long now? 😉

      Collectors are indeed silly people, after all it doesn’t matter what other people think – it’s more important to make this life count and surrounding ourselves with wonderful people.

      Thanks for the blog tag … I’m playing along later this week! 🙂

  5. Mel

    No, never heard of this – not sure we have it in the UK. Do you get our version of The Office, the US one, or is it one of your own?

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Mel – While it’s an American TV show, perhaps you can pick it up on one of your channels? I think it’s lots of fun.

      As for ‘The Office’, we don’t have our own Aussie version … I love both the UK and the US versions (they each have their different charms).

  6. jason

    “community”, which precedes both the office and parks ‘n’ rec in the states, is pretty wonderful too – yet another show to keep track of!

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Jason – Oh cool, thanks for the recommendation. I know a few people have mentioned ‘community’ … so I think it’s about time I checked it out. Thanks!

  7. Des

    What a great statement. That’s really thought-provoking. I’m afraid I’ve been a “tourist” more times than I’d care to admit to myself.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Des – I agree … Ron Swanson really knows his stuff! I think all of us have been a tourist from time to time … it’s easier to fix once you notice it though I think! 🙂

  8. bart

    i just watched this episode, immediately googled for this quote and came across your site..
    i think this short scene is such a great moment in television.. The Office had pretty short momens like these too. Short unnoticable interactions at first, but when you replay them they become awesome… every word is correct and the reaction equally
    I never could find the exact description for these kind of persons, but ‘tourist’ is spot on.. have been one myself too by the way..

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