Hello again. My hair fire is extinguished. I am taking a quick time out from packing and readying because I knocked quite a few things off the get ready to go list. Whew. We will hit the road in the morning.
Back to tour guiding. It seemed I was hired on the spot because of my experience in Ecuador; the tall red head told me I would be called back. I was delighted. What happened next was quite fascinating. Based on the initial interviews on the day of the open house, the company invited approximately forty people on a familiarization tour, or fam tour, for short. This is before we were hired. A sort of “try before you buy” deal for the tour company. I got the call as promised.
We were invited on a bus tour! Five Canadian cities in five days! Niagara, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec! Exciting stuff! The company is based in Rhode Island and the job applicants hailed from all parts of New England. It was February, a typically slow time of the year in the tour business and they were looking for the next crop of tour guides. I should add this was twenty years ago.
The tour guide manager and three or four senior tour guides accompanied us on the trip. They were actually evaluating us as future tour guides at every step of the trip. These people were professionals at the art of hospitality. Warm and friendly. But to be clear, it was a game of Survivor, long before reality television became, well, a reality. Jobs offers were not necessarily going to be extended to all the applicants on the fam tour. Without a doubt, we were being scored for our demeanor, our behavior, our personalities. We were under the microscope travelling at 65 mph in a shiny motorcoach. Ah, the pressure.
One of the first hurdles to clear was speaking on the microphone. Once we were all aboard the motorcoach on the first day of the tour, we took turns introducing ourselves via the microphone at the front of the bus. The typical stuff; name, where you were from, where you went to school, hobbies and whatnot. Right off the bat, there was an obvious issue for one woman. She simply couldn’t do it. She could not look at us, hold the mike, and talk. Her hand shook violently. The senior guide had her sit and face front. She managed to croak out a few quick words, but it was clear her level of discomfort was too high to expect any soliloquys. Next! And, so once we were all introduced, we were matched up with our roommates for the tour.
My roommate was a petite redhead from western Massachusetts. She was so nice. We hit it off right away. The days on tour were highly structured. On the bus in the morning. The tour guides would take turns talking to us about the job and actually doing with us some of the things they would be doing with tour patrons such as giving speeches about the sights we would be seeing, telling interesting stories, playing bus appropriate games, mini stand-up comedy routines, passing out word-searches and other printed puzzles, and, of course, the mandatory sing-along. The tour company had printed booklets with songs from my grandparents’ generation that were to be used on each tour. A bit daunting for me; I can’t carry a tune with a bucket. Mid-morning we stopped for a coffee break. Then back on the bus for more tour guide training until lunch. Then an hour long stop for lunch. Then back to the bus for sightseeing and more training until we reached our destination around dinnertime.
Several times a day we would shift seats on the bus. Basically we would move forward after every stop until we reached the front seats and then go to the back of the bus after our stint in those coveted front seats. It was the fair way to handle seating aboard a motorcoach, especially with paying customers. This is where it got interesting after lunch. Folks are typically a bit drowsy, with full stomachs, riding on the highway in comfy seats. The drone of the highway. People were falling asleep, especially in the back of the bus. Ah! Big mistake! The tour company was looking for future tour guides to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at all times! No sleeping! I am certain points were taken off for those who had fallen asleep. I stayed awake and kept smiling.
At the end of the day, once we reached the hotel, we had a bit of free time to freshen up, then a group dinner. More speeches and training. After dinner, we had free time to socialize. And socialize we did. Imagine having forty high-energy extroverts together trying to impress the manager and the senior tour guides in order to get one of these coveted tour guiding positions. OMG. It went something like this:
I feel pretty,
Oh, so pretty,
I feel pretty and witty and bright!
And I pity
Any girl who isn’t me tonight.
I feel charming,
Oh, so charming
It’s alarming how charming I feel!
And so pretty
That I hardly can believe I’m real.
TIMES FORTY!!! We were strutting our stuff. You get the idea.
This has been fun, but I have just got to get back to packing and readying. Tomorrow, or perhaps the day after, I will tell you how my roommate got me my job.