Friday, July 11, 2008


The Accidental Tour Guide

Way back in December, one of my colleagues put an appointment in the team's diaries:
We've been asked to do a historic walk tour in July. Someone from the team will need to do a quick talk for a bunch of tourists. The organiser will contact the team nearer the time.
And there it stayed. Lurking in the diary. Waiting...
Monday at the weekly team planning meeting, I piped up:
"Um, guys? do we know anything about this talk thing i've got in my diary for Friday?
"Oh no, wouldn't worry about it. Haven't heard anything."
Wednesday, the phone rings and I pick up:
"Hi there, this is the tour organiser. Who's going to be meeting us on Friday?"
"Um, can I call you back?"
"Who's going to do this talk?"
"Let's worry about it tomorrow"
Thursday, an email from da boss:
That talk.... why don't you do it? It'll be good experience for you of talking to people about our work etc.
Friday dawns. Two hours before I'm due to meet my audience and while I'm trying to compile a very long and complex history into two pages of notes to fill a 10-minute slot, the organiser calls again.
"Hi there, just checking who'll be meeting us"
"That would be... me. Just putting the finishing touches to my talk now."
"Brilliant. See you then."
"Before you go, er, how many people are you expecting?"
"Last time it was about 30. There's been more publicity this year, but a lot of the interested people would have come last year, so probably about the same or fewer."
The hour of reckoning comes. I stand nervously at the meeting spot. Then I spot them, a group heading in a very determined fashion towards me.
And they keep coming.
And coming.
All in all, there's around fifty of them. What's more, I don't know if it's because their advanced years have taken a toll on their hearing, or because of an insatiable thirst for history, but the group's concept of personal space seems to be markedly different to mine. Instead of the nice horseshoe of listeners around me I was expecting, I am completely surrounded by the group, and I'm nose-to-nose with the front row.

Despite shouting in several people's faces to ensure I can be heard at the back, I somehow got through it, even dealing with the preposterously detailed questions with aplomb. My dozen leaflets were practically ripped from my hand at the end.

Monday afternoon, and an email lands in my inbox:
Thanks very much for your help providing the guided tours. It went very well, and I hope you will be able to help us with a similar tour next summer.


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