Day Five: Boston – Ogunquit

posted by elizabeth on 9.19.2011 under career  •  Comments Off on Day Five: Boston – Ogunquit

Day Five started out with a three-hour city tour using a step-on guide whose accent was so thick *I* could hardly understand her and our Israeli couple barely ever knew what she was saying.

Then we turned them loose at Quincy Market for three hours. I again delicately ditched my training companions, found a hamburger, then snuck off to Starbucks and basically worked. There is so much prep work to do for this job and a lot of paperwork along the way, and I needed somewhere I could sit and read through it and start to make some notes for my actual tour.

We were to meet up exactly where we split up at 3:30. By 3:45, we still didn’t have Cranky Lady, and she didn’t show up until 3:50. (Company policy gives you half an hour. Then, you leave them. These people are adults.) Of course she blamed it on the meeting place, saying it was too hard to find. Georgina pointed out that we were dropped off at the exact same place and every single other person managed to find it on time. I don’t think it made much of a difference.

From there we headed to Ogunquit, Maine, which is, again, just gorgeous. I’m so fortunate to be doing this tour, getting to see this part of the country at this time of year, it’s just amazing.

We were supposed to go out for a traditional lobster bake, but we didn’t have enough people, so we all went into “town” for dinner. I took the time to talk to my parents and was lamenting the fact that I couldn’t find a restaurant that didn’t have “Lobster” in the title, so of course my dad gets on his phone while we’re talking and finds a steak house a little bit away from town. I had a chicken caeser salad and a vodka tonic, and both were delicious.

After we got back to the hotel, we had a trainer/trainee meeting to close out our timesheets. Josie is really high-strung about everything and freaking out about how much she doesn’t understand. Karen is dismissive and short. I am so over them.

Day Four: Plymouth – Hyannis – Boston

posted by elizabeth on 9.19.2011 under career  •  Comments Off on Day Four: Plymouth – Hyannis – Boston

(I’m a few days behind writing this due to lack of time and spotty wifi access, and even though it is currently Day Six, I had to look at my itinerary to remember what Day Four was about. There is definitely an “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium” thing happening, although I have already kind of lost track of days of the week.)

On Day Four, we left one gorgeous place, Plymouth, and went to another gorgeous place, Hyannis. I’ve never been out on Cape Cod before at all, so I was really excited about it. Because we had something cancel the day before, our itinerary was moved back a bit, so we had almost three hours on our own in Hyannis which is probably about an hour too long. The town, although quaint, is not that big, and you can walk from one end of the main drag to the other and back again, with a stop for a meal, in two hours, easily.

I start every block of free time trying to extricate myself from my fellow trainees. There honestly aren’t many people I don’t like, but I don’t really like either of them. They just both have very specific and very different personalities that won’t mesh even a little. Karen is too brash and negative. Josie is hard to describe, she’s just really random and oddly blunt. And they are both antagonistic in their own ways. Neither one of them has any sense of humor that I’ve found, and being that I’m kind of annoyingly cheerful most of the time, it’s just tiring to me to be around them.

Anyway, I walked through Hyannis at a leisurely pace, had a great meal, visited the JFK Museum (which consists of a bunch of photos of his kids and not much else), and got back to the bus about half an hour early to meet Georgina before our cruise of the bay. Cranky Lady was already on the bus and frantically asking where Georgina was. I told her she wasn’t coming back until 1:00, and it was only 12:30. Then I said to her, in my cheerful voice, “The weather is so beautiful today. Did you have a nice walk through town?”

To which she replied: “No! It’s boring!”

So I left. I really did just turn around and leave without saying anything else to her. She’s clearly decided not to have a good time. What else can you say?

After a lovely cruise past the Kennedy mansions, we went up to Boston and checked into our kind of sketchy hotel. (It’s an alternate, and fortunately not one I’ll be going back to on my own tours.) But, randomly, I ran into another tour director there, one who was on the Collette trip with me in the spring. She was dropping off one group and headed back to NYC the next day, so I was able to ditch my dour companions and go have a drink with her, which was super cool.

Day Three: Plymouth

posted by elizabeth on 9.16.2011 under career  •  Comments Off on Day Three: Plymouth

It’s about 9:30, and I will be lights out by 10. I am tiiiired.

Today was entirely in Plymouth, which is delightful and charming. Our first stop was the Plimoth Plantation, which contains a completely authentic recreation of the Pilgrim settlement, from the construction of the houses to the  reenactors who are absolutely 100% in character and it’s kind of amazing. I walked into one house and found a woman tending a fire and giving instructions to a younger man, and they were obviously in character before I walked in, which means that they must spend the entire day like this. (From a theatrical perspective, this kind of astounds me.) You ask them questions about their lifestyle and they answer you with really extraordinary detail, and in accents as close as they can approximate.

From there we were headed to a three-hour whale-watching cruise, which was cancelled because of rough seas. As much as you want everything to go perfectly on tour, it’s probably actually better for training purposes to be on one where things go haywire, so we can see how to manage it. We were able to reschedule our visit to the Mayflower II (a reconstruction of the original Mayflower, which was dismantled and sold for scrap after its return voyage, did you know that? I didn’t know that!) which wasn’t supposed to happen until the next morning, as well as back up our visit to a working grist mill.

The passengers continue to be fine except for the Crazy Lady who continues to be Crazy. The other two trainees continue to exhaust me. Karen is sarcastic and negative and continues to be mildly racist and determined to be unimpressed by everything. Josie is wide-eyed and nervous and continues to be generally baffled. Georgina the trainer continues to be awesome.

I am learning an extraordinary amount. Even these personality clashes are instructive, if only because I know I will have passengers who will be needier than others, and I will have passengers who won’t like me no matter what I do, and I will have passengers who may be a bit nuts. But I actually feel confident in my ability to handle all of that, and I think I can make sure most people have a good time.

In short, I am pretty sure I can do this, and I still actually *want* to do it, and both of these things make me really happy.

Day Two: New York City to Plymouth

posted by elizabeth on 9.15.2011 under career  •  Comments Off on Day Two: New York City to Plymouth

It’s the second day of the tour, the first day on the road. We met in the lobby of the hotel in NYC at 6:30 this morning (which seems like days ago) and got the bags on the bus, a seemingly inane thing but kind of a huge part of our job. The worst thing you can do is leave a passenger behind, the second worst thing you can do is leave a bag behind.

Then we got the passengers on, and already had the one person who came up and told Georgina how she *has* to sit in front all the time. There is, according to every tour director ever, one of these people in every group. We almost always do a seat rotation, so at some point everyone sits in the front and the back and on either side, and there’s always one person who has some cockamamie reason why they have to sit in front. (With motion sickness, you’re actually better off in the middle of the coach.)

And then we were off, heading up the West Side Highway, out of the city, across Connecticut, and into Newport, Rhode Island, where we stopped for lunch.

I am making a concerted effort not to be joined at the hip to my fellow trainees. Karen is a forceful person and I’m always just kind of waiting for her to say something vaguely offensive, and Josie is just a bit… I don’t know. Confusing. She often doesn’t look like she understands what you’re saying, and I often don’t understand what she’s saying. It’s like a couple of wires are crossed somewhere. Just a couple, but still.

Every day I feel better about being able to do this job, and I’m really looking forward to getting my own group. The other trainees are recording everything Georgina says in terms of commentary, which I am not doing. I’m making notes of the things she talks about but I already have most of my commentary planned. I figure that if I prepare topics that are interesting to *me*, I’ll be more likely to (1) remember them and (2) be able to make them interesting to other people.

As for the passengers, we have an older British woman travelling alone who is so adorable I kind of squee internally every time she opens her mouth. We have two British couples who are polite and lovely. We have an Israeli couple, and the husband is a tour guide in Israel. There’s a mother/daughter combo from Australia, an American couple where the husband is 89 and served in WW2, another American couple from Florida by way of North Carolina, and one elderly lady who is, it must be said, batshit crazy. (Seriously. She almost cancelled her trip because of the story about the three men who came into the country before 9/11 and then disappeared, or whatever. When we were in NYC, she asked where the United Nations was, because she wanted to stop by and tell them why they were horrible. She’s absolutely insane but it’s hilarious.)

So tonight we’re in Plymouth, but we only pulled in for dinner so we haven’t seen anything yet really. Tomorrow is a visit to the Plimoth Plantation (full of actors in character which I know some people find cheesy but I think is completely awesome), then a whale-watching boat ride, then dinner, then a walking tour and visit to a grist mill. It seems exhausting, writing it out, but I’m getting paid to do it, and that’s kind of brilliant.

Day One: New York City

posted by elizabeth on 9.14.2011 under career  •  Comments Off on Day One: New York City

I mean, I have stopped and started this thing so often that I can’t really promise anything.  But my first sort-of tour starts today (sort-of = training, so I’m not conducting the tour), and from what I understand I will have a little bit of time each evening, so we’ll see how it goes.

So, I’m in New York right now. I took Amtrak up from DC after a sleepless night and a stressful morning (my family is dealing with something scary and difficult right now, but I have to go back and figure out how private this thing is before I feel like I can go into any of that). Being that this is my first job, I have not yet learned how to pack properly, and so have a large suitcase, a medium suitcase, a shoulder bag, and a purse, all of which I had to schlep on and off the train and then, pulling both suitcases, barrel-ass my way down Eighth Avenue from Penn Station to my hotel on 29th Street. I must have looked ridiculous but everyone got out of my way, so apparently I can be quite the New Yorker when I want to be!

Fortunately the hotel had a room ready for me even though it was only 12:30, so I collapsed on the bed but didn’t really sleep, alternating between flailing about whether I can do this job and worrying about my family.  Finally around 2:00 I got up, walked up to the subway at Penn Station, took the 3 to the 7 to the 6 uptown to the new Laduree at 71st and Madison, and bought six macarons. I ate three of them on a bench by Central Park. It’s amazing what macarons and a bench on Park Avenue can do for your mood.

I took a New York City bus for the first time back downtown and got in touch with my two fellow trainees, who told me that they had found our trainer, and were meeting for dinner at 6. As I was leaving my room, the door right next to mine opened, and she said “Are you Elizabeth?” and I said yes and she introduced herself as the trainer (Georgina) and I liked her immediately. You know how sometimes you can like someone absolutely instantly? I did, and it made me feel so much better about how the training tour was going to go.  She’s probably in her mid-60’s, one of those women who just exudes positive energy and makes you want to ask her to take you home and cook you pot roast.

Then you know how you can meet someone and not like them immediately? We went downstairs and found one of my fellow trainees outside smoking. I mean, I didn’t dislike her immediately because of the smoking, I disliked her immediately because she just started talking to the trainer without acknowledging me at all, even though I know she knew who I was and we had talked on the phone earlier to make these plans, but still, a simple introduction is always nice. Finally I said “Hi, I’m Elizabeth,” and she said “I figured. I’m Karen,” and I thought, okay, well, we won’t be besties but that’s fine.

The other trainee is Josie and she seems okay except that she let us call her Mary (her actual first name and the name the company had given us when they told everyone who they’d be training with) for about four hours before saying she preferred Josie, and I thought that was weird, why not say it the first time you introduce yourself?

Anyway, the four of us went to dinner and Karen continued to be kind of annoying, the kind of person who has to either disagree with everything you say or be sarcastic about everything or one-up you about everything, and then she was talking about teen pregnancy rates in San Antonio (where she is from) and used the phrase “colored cultures” (that’s right) and about nine other randomly offensive things and I thought, right, from now on you get my totally fake polite face and otherwise I shall try not to talk to you at all.

The jury is still out on Josie-Mary, she is kind of soft-spoken and sometimes I feel like a steamroller around soft-spoken people. Both Karen and Josie-Mary are in their 50’s, and as much as I would have liked someone else a bit closer to my age to train with, I’m sort of fine if they bond with each other and leave me to pay as much attention to Georgina as I can.

Anyway, today is our first official day of work. We set up in the lobby at 1:00 and greet passengers as they arrive from the airport, give them maps and some introductory information and luggage tags and such. They’re all British and coming in from overnight flights, so we get them checked in and then let them know where they can go if they want to wander New York for a couple of hours in the evening.

I am mostly excited, but also still nervous. Obviously I’m going to feel much better once the training tour is over and I’ve had an opportunity to watch someone who is clearly awesome and encouraging.

I will try to write at least a little bit every night! Says Chicken Little. But I will!

(P.S. In case you missed it before, I have turned off comments on here because the Russian spam was completely out of control. When I get back I’ll figure out how to fix it, or maybe move the whole thing to Typepad, or something.)

what i am…

posted by elizabeth on 7.3.2011 under miscellanea  •  Comments Off on what i am…


British television. Part of the reason I decided to give up cable is because I watch British television almost exclusively now, much more than what they show on BBCA, and I can acquire it perfectly legally without cable.

Anyone who knows me knows I fell and fell hard for Sherlock; I can, at this point, pretty much recite the 4.5 hours of this show that exist. They are filming the next three episodes right now, before Martin Freeman goes back to Hobbiting and Benedict Cumberbatch maybe possibly hopefully comes to Broadway in the fall, though unfortunately not in Frankenstein, which I would turn inside out to see, but a pre-WWI piece called After the Dance. Anyway, Sherlock should be back in August. Cannot. Wait.

Also watching: Luther, which is brilliant. The first season of 6 episodes aired last year; the second season, which I fear only has 4 episodes, is airing right now in the UK. Both will be shown later this summer on BBCA (first season also streams on Netflix), so mark your calendars. Idris Elba is hot, and Ruth Wilson is creepy. It’s all good.

Doctor Who had a really strong start this season, then inexplicably and annoyingly went on hiatus. I actually don’t know when it’s supposed to come back, but I’m looking forward to it. I was quite “meh” on last season, although there was much I liked about Matt Smith, but they’ve been knocking it out of the park this year, except for that stupid episode about the pirates.

Game of Thrones is hot and awesome and for about four episodes I was thoroughly confused about pretty much everything, but then Eliza Explained It All and it got even better. Jonesing for more costumes and violence, I also started rewatching Rome (which I thought maybe I would understand better than I did the first time after having read the brilliant new biography of Cleopatra, and I do understand it now but interspersing it with Game of Thrones got kind of confusing). I always forget how much of an older-man crush I have on Ciaran Hinds; this has been so ever since he played that professor in Circle of Friends who told the students it’d be okay if they all went off and had sex.


Him Her Him Again the End of Him, by Patricia Marx. I’ve had this book for years and never bothered to read it, but I discovered it under the bed a couple of weeks ago and decided to give it a go. It’s funny, but I’m only about 80 pages in, and the humor might get old if the plot doesn’t start moving along soon.

In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson. The Devil in the White City is one of my favorite books, and I have been kind of into stuff about World War II lately. The reviews on this have been good but I am only just past the Introduction and somewhere in the middle of Chapter One.

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. No, I haven’t read this yet, and yes, my mother harasses me about it constantly, so I’m reading it. And yes, it’s really good.

Revolution, by Jennifer Donnelly. I don’t ordinarily read YA but Melissa brought this for me and told me to read it and I have found that when Melissa tells you to read something, it’s usually a good idea.

At Home, by Bill Bryson, on audio. Bill Bryson is one of my favorite writers. He is not, I am finding, one of my favorite readers. A lot of people on Audible seem to love his voice but I am constantly pulled out of the narrative by his lack of enunciation and the odd accent Americans develop when they’ve lived in England for twenty years. The book is also not my favorite of his; it’s an interesting topic, but he wanders off onto tangents rather a lot.

The Emperor of All Maladies, by Siddhartha Mukherjee, also on audio. The thing is, listening to people talk about disease makes me kind of physically uncomfortable. My joints hurt. I don’t know why, that’s just how it is, that’s how it’s always been when I listen to stuff that freaks me out. I tried once to listen to that book about the family who were slowly dying because they had some disorder that would never ever let them sleep, and I couldn’t get through it. But I do want to finish this one, so I might need to get an actual copy of the actual book.


posted by elizabeth on 7.2.2011 under miscellanea  •  Comments Off on cablelessness.

In a week or so, I’m going to start the experiment of going without cable television. I have to start seriously looking at ways to cut back, and this seems a logical place to start. I’ve realized that I can get almost everything I watch through Hulu or other perfectly legal means of acquisition, and given that 90% of my current television habits are British series, it seems ridiculous to keep shelling out $80 a month for a bazillion channels I don’t watch.

I’m keeping Comcast’s internet for now, though I am investigating other options for that too. I doubt there’s anything that will be able to stream and download the amount I need, but that’s today, and who knows what will be available tomorrow.

It does feel like a pretty big change, but one that, at the end of the day, I think will make a lot of sense.



posted by elizabeth on 7.1.2011 under miscellanea  •  Comments Off on julidailies.

I am going to try to write every day in July. No, I am going to write every day in July. I will.

(I mean, we’ll see. If I make it to the 15th updating every day, then I’ll notify that I’m doing it.)

I’m home right now, and by “home” I mean the house where my parents live and where I have never actually lived for any length of time. I think this might be only a connotation of single people, calling where your parents are “home”. Anyway, I’m home right now, and usually, when I’m here, I go completely offline. I check e-mail and Twitter when I go to bed, but otherwise, I have this strange underlying techno-anxiety. I like to disconnect from my real life completely while I’m here.

So this is an unusual step, even turning the computer on, and I do have anxiety about it, but I’m doing it anyway.

This weekend, the 4th of July weekend, is the one-year anniversary of when I first decided to completely change the direction of my life, and it felt like an occasion to be marked.

Take three, four, five… oh, who knows.

posted by elizabeth on 4.12.2011 under miscellanea  •  Comments Off on Take three, four, five… oh, who knows.

First of all, I’ve turned off the comments. The Russian spam was alarmingly frequent and kind of disheartening, and I can’t figure out how to install Captcha. So now I really am old school, like back when blogs were “journals” and you had to e-mail writers to comment on what they wrote! It’s like 1999 around here.

Some updates on the new career:

(1) Weirdly, I have not yet figured out how to concisely explain what I’m trying to do. Whenever people at the firm where I’ve been temping ask me what I’m going to do next, I can’t just say “tour director” because no one knows what that means, but “tour guide” is not quite accurate, and just “working in travel and tourism” is super vague. I have to work on an answer that’s 25 words or less.

(2) I finally compiled all the paperwork (which included a piece of paper indicating that I haven’t been arrested), submitted it, and took the DC Tour Guide License examination, which I passed, so I’m now official. I was totally all No Child Left Behind about it, though, and just studied what I needed to know for the test, so I still, on the whole, don’t know much about anything. I’m learning, though. As of right now, I can do five minutes each on the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Washington Monument. I’m trying to add a new five minutes every couple of days.

(3) In a few hours, I’ll be meeting my first student tour group. I’m working for a company that primarily tours 8th grade groups, as that’s when most students around the country study American government. For the next couple of days, I’ll be shadowing a course leader (that’s what this company calls their guides), and then on Sunday, this very Sunday, I’ll have my own group for the first time. I’m kind of excited, but mostly terrified. At least for this tour, I don’t have to do anything but sit in the back of the coach and take notes like mad.

(4) In early May, I’ll be going to Boston for a three-day interview tour with Collette through Vermont and New Hampshire. This is really exciting, because Collette hires its employees, which means there would be year-round work, and benefits. There will be 16 of us, including two of my ITMI classmates, and we’ll basically be doing exactly what ITMI trained us to do on our overnight trip. We have to introduce ourselves, and then prepare a 10-minute presentation on a topic they provide. (Mine is candle-making! Presumably candle-making was important in New Hampshire or Vermont; I assume I will find that out when I start researching it.) I assume there will be other interviewy-type things along the way. I’m really keeping my fingers crossed for this, and considering the expense of flying everyone to Boston, putting us up, and paying three days of salary (I’m not sure why that happens, but it’s awesome), they’re probably not doing it looking to hire just one or two people, so hopefully I have a real chance.

So that’s the current state of things. It will be interesting to see how it goes. (And it will be interesting to see if I actually keep writing.)

for crying out loud.

posted by elizabeth on 12.7.2010 under miscellanea  •  3 comments

I don’t know why I’m having so much trouble with this. I very much want to keep writing, to maintain this little presence. It doesn’t feel like a chore, it doesn’t fill me with anxiety, and I’m not ridiculously busy, so I don’t know why I ignore it.

I had a very odd, totally random dream last night where one of my ITMI classmates and I went to see a Hamlet production starring Robert Downey Jr. I mean, really, I do not know why any of that is the case: why this particular classmate, who I completely adored but no more than any of my other classmates (okay, maybe a teeny bit more, because he is awesome), why Hamlet (other than having listened to David Tennant’s Desert Island Discs interview yesterday) and why Robert Downey Jr. (I mean, I am currently completely obsessed with Sherlock, but with the BBC’s Sherlock, with Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, not Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock, although I do love him too.).

Anyway, I thought it was funny, so I e-mailed him through Facebook to say hello and tell him about my wacky dream and that I hope his move was going smoothly (he is relocating to San Francisco) and that I was really looking forward to seeing him in January at our symposium in Atlanta, and he wrote back with such affection and positive energy and it made me sink into a little daydream about those amazing 18 days in San Francisco in October, and I wanted to write that down, make note of it.

I needed to hear his words of encouragement. The grudge work of finding a job is not something I’m particularly good at. I mean, the patience part of it. The waiting. The sending off of resumes into the great and powerful void and hearing nothing back, not one word, about 90% of them. (Used to be, when I got out of college, back in the dark but civilized days of bond paper and the U.S. Postal Service, you’d send a resume to a company and if they didn’t call you for an interview, they’d at least send you a thanks-and-we’ll-keep-your-resume-on-file letter back. It is so incredibly frustrating how many companies don’t acknowledge a resume at all anymore, not even bothering with a generic auto-responder that can at least let the person know that the resume has been received.) The accepting that I’m going to have to start doing something else temporarily, and soon, or I’m going to run out of money.

Anyway. I do have an interview next week, with a student travel company, so that is exciting. The work won’t start immediately, but it’s a bite and I’ll take it. And I know that Atlanta is going to be a crucial step in getting work lined up for the high season. I just have to bide my time, get my DC license, try to make some money in the meantime, and find some zen.

I’m also going to try lightening up around here. Maybe it’s the nothing-but-navel-gazing approach that has me down. Maybe I need to write a story about how I made shepherd’s pie from scratch with no recipe and it was so unbelievably awesome, I sat there and ate every bite marveling at my own cooking prowess. Or about how my dad has suddenly discovered texting (I so wish he hadn’t). Or about how much time I spent filling out the forms at Bureau of Communication to send to people I would never in a million years actually send but totally wanted to. Or about how a woman’s knitting podcast has kind of changed my life. Or about how much I want this map of Paris.

And, well, let’s be honest, it might be about Sherlock. We’ll see how it goes.