Needed-Praise for Tour Guides
the day all too well. If you are a mortal being, you can understand this statement provided that you think about it. "You can live a thousand days, but only live one."
The year: 1989.
The place: Silver Springs, Fla.
The event: my family vacation.
Is it What You Thought
it was going to be, the statement about a thousand days? Great stuff if you like to attend those higher-level parties and throw around this philosophical axiom. I've attended a few parties, but no higher-level to-do's. I'm a simple man.
I fondly remember when I met "Shanna." My family and I were on our yearly one week vacation in Silver Springs, Florida, the darling of tourist attractions because of their Glass Bottom Boat rides and other oddities that made this place very lucrative.
I was sitting with my wife and daughter, who had turned 14, and knew every secret of the universe, and I was struggling to overcome a massive hang-over from throwing back too many Bud's the night before. But at the time, I wasn't thinking about the pain just waiting for my head in the horrific Florida sunshine and the quickest way to get in and out of Silver Springs.
The first look I took of "Shanna," was sheer pleasure. She was so pretty, petite, and yet, there was something troubled about her as she stood ready to get into her tourist spill that the company had written for her to say during her shift. I have to believe that the company didn't have to write their thoughts for her to talk about because she was ignorant. No. It was all about "Shanna's" bosses who wanted her to sound so good that the tourists whom she led on her shift would be sure to come back. And during our wait to start our tour with "Shanna," I felt sad for her--which now overtook the Budweiser-created pain that was beating my head like Ringo Starr on the bass drum.
As life had it, things between my sight in "Shanna," began to change. Maybe I was growing more mature. One sign was that in another day and time, I would have shared a few wise cracks with my daughter, Angie, about how "Shanna" looked so rigid and firm, like a storefront mannequin, but something inside of me changed. I held my tongue. But facts are facts. Angie would have loved to listen to my observations about our tour guide. Angie had one more sharp sense of humor. The truth about our tour was she was like me: we despised the Florida sun and those kamikaze mosquitoes that were bombarding us as if they were telling us to "Yank, Go Home!"
"Shanna" would look so distant at times, then look as if she was preparing to open a million-dollar Christmas gift with her smile although looking quite welded to her pretty face. And then she would just look down at the ground and start the sequence all over again. If she were concealing some type of misery, she hid it well.
"Lad---ees and gen--tul men, my name's 'Shan--nuh.' I will be taking you through your tour to view the sights from this glass bottom boat. Don't be afraid. Nothing short of a boulder the size of a car can break this glass," "Shanna" said with her perfect diction and never missing one syllable. She would at every point, snap her eyelashes as if she were giving Morse Code which put me into the mind of Admiral Jeremiah Denton, whose best-selling book, "When Hell Was in Session"--the story of Denton's life as a P.O.W. in the Hanoi Hilton in Vietnam.
I was hot and the sweat was beginning to roll down underneath my clothing. But I noticed that "Shanna," did not show one drop of sweat. I was impressed at how pristine she stood holding to the safety bar near the front of the boat and clutching her microphone telling us facts that we would forget in an hour or so--and she was not reading one word from her rehearsed presentation. Between each point of interest, she would smile extra wide, stand extra straight, and keep her eyes going from left to right. I was beginning to admire this very professional tour guide.
As we entered a huge cave that had lights installed at the bottom for people to see the fish from the glass bottom boat and making the tour a bit more enjoyable because we were now in the cool of the cave and no longer drenched in the sun. And "Shanna" kept giving out a few interesting facts about how Silver Springs became to be. She also told us who was responsible for the property and the more that she talked, the more that I wished that I could shout out: "I love you, 'Shanna,'" but my wife and daughter would have hated me and I needed a way home.
Oh, a few romantic thoughts ran through my mind, but they didn't take root. A girl in her early 20s and me in my mid-30s. No chance for a lasting relationship. And there was this one time that as I watched her give her presentation, her face went from a serious, college professor giving a lecture that no student liked, to a warm, friendly look on her face. I was tempted to wink at her. But I didn't. Maturity and wisdom had made a union.
I remember now, having thoughts about "Shanna," and how the speed of our tour had went to a decent time to slow and drowsy, but "Shanna" was a true trooper. She gave us everything about what we were to see and know about Silver Springs as well as how long that she had worked since she was a junior in some local high school. She added that in one more year, she would be leaving to head to Gainesville, Fla., to attend college. I felt myself growing sadder by the minute. She shared that she had worked for pretty much every summer to save her money for college tuition--and this thought made me feel sorry for her to know that her other friends spent those lazy summers at the beach, partying and just having fun.
As our tour boat pulled into the dock where we started, I waited for the rest of the tourist to get up and leave. And as we walked toward "Shanna," I felt that I had to tell her what a genuine, great time we had with her as our guide and how professional that she conducted herself and I also told her that I wished her the best in her college years and for her to make everything that she could make with her education.
"Shanna" smiled. I smiled and shook her hand. Then as I walked away, I overheard her say, "will I be seeing you?" I stopped, smiled again. And winked.
June 1, 2018____________________________________________
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© 2018 Kenneth Avery