Tour Guides are People Too

Sometimes you don’t want to go to work. Whether you’re in a bad mood, you’re sick, you didn’t get enough sleep, or even, the weather- there are days when trekking to work isn’t the funnest thing in the world. I intern at the House of the Temple in Dupont ( a fifteen minute walk from the circle) and let me tell you, last week because of the snow, I was not digging going into work. Don’t get me wrong- I love my internship and I love snow. But commuting in bad weather in business casual is just terrible. So when I woke up and saw that the federal government was open (we run off their schedule) and didn’t have a text from my boss saying to not come in… I was naht happy.

I got up begrudgingly and got ready to go to work. I was sure to wear sneakers and bring a change of shoes- nothing worse than being a tour guide with wet feet/shoes on marble floors. Did I mention that the atrium, where the intern desk is, does not have a heating or cooling system? The walls are eight feet thick and made of limestone so that pretty much squashes any attempt for AC or heat. Thus, it’s pretty cold (and ridiculously hot in the summer). The interns have a space heater, but that can only go so far. All I could think about was showing up to work freezing cold and wet and unable to warm up. Did I mention that I was in a really bad mood?

My bus was late. I got to work late. I showed up discombobulated and frazzled only to see a man waiting in the atrium for a tour. All I wanted to do was sit down by the space heater and compose myself- but I had to throw my stuff down, put on a happy face, and bring this man around the building. A part of me felt bad because I knew that he wasn’t going to get the best tour with me being in the worst mood- but the other part of me was just angry that he was there. Thoughts like, why would you come here in this weather? don’t you realize that this isn’t what I want to be doing? etc., ran through my head.

We started the tour and we introduced ourselves. Upon asking him what brought him to the House of the Temple he said, I’ve been a mason for twenty three years, I’m from Minnesota and I’ve been waiting my whole masonic life to come here. He was so happy to be there- I could see it on his face. I’m in the House of the Temple so frequently that I take for granted how amazing it is. I immediately felt extremely guilty for my attitude toward him and being at work. All this man wanted was to see a building that was very special to him and I knew I could not be the person to ruin that for him.

His jokes and passion for Scottish Rite Freemasonry lightened my mood. He taught me a couple things I didn’t know about masonry (pretty typical for any tour I have with masons) and I got to teach him everything about the building. It ended up being a great one-on-one tour and I still felt bad for coming into it as a grouch. The tour with this man combined with later shenanigans with fellow interns trying to beat each other’s high score in spider solitaire, ended up turning my day around. I was happy to be at work. I even got to see a masonic ritual book from the 1890s in the archives (history major geek alert).

At any internship or job dealing with the general public, in an ideal world, you’re supposed to always present your best self- always be in a good mood- always be happy to be at work- and always be willing to help anyone who needs you. I learned this quite quickly back in the day as a waitress and it applies to being a tour guide as well. It’s one of the problems with teaching history through guides- guides can’t always be having their best day everyday. You cannot guarantee the same experience to visitors at any historic site when they are being led around by a guide- because we all have bad days. We’re human. It happens.

But it’s important to remember that the people on the tour don’t have anything to do with your bad mood (unless they’re tough customers) and they’re there for the experience. And when you’re a tour guide, the experience the guests have is strongly dependent on your ability to give a great tour. On top of that, you never know, someone on a tour might throw a positive spin on your day or teach you things you didn’t know. The experience goes both ways. It’s one of the many reasons why  I love my job.