Yet there are positives to group tours (advance planning done by someone else, admission fees and transportation covered, a simple safety net), so I’ve taken a few here and there. Tom and I recently returned from one, which visited Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City, Canada, in 11 days. During the down times on the bus (and sometimes during guided tours), I found my mind drifting to the job of tour guide. I realized that no matter how much one knows about a particular city, island or country, not everyone is cut out for that sort of thing. I’m certainly not a guide candidate, even for someplace like North Caicos, which I love and have known for nearly 30 years. Here’s why I will never be a tour guide:
--I’m not into numbers. How high is Niagara Falls? Don’t care. What’s the population of North Caicos? I keep hearing the number, but it never sticks. I’m sure there’s an impressive number of churches on North, but I don’t know it. Those people who love and are wowed by numbers would find me a lousy guide.
--I don’t do superlatives, and even actively hate “best” lists. Highest, longest, most beautiful, biggest, most luxurious … those words will never pass my lips.
--Real estate bores me. I don’t know the current cost of beachfront property, and I couldn’t possibly impress my group with how much the latest mega-mansion on Parrot Cay sold for. I consider big resorts blights on the land, and would rather take people to see the local bushman than recommend a spa.
--You probably guessed this next one: Nix on name-dropping. It’s easily done in the TCI, but even though I know tourists lap it up, I think it’s tacky.
Enough of my spiel on the van, or lack thereof. Let’s hop off and find more reasons not to hire me to lead your group.
--I can’t stand ditherers or lollygaggers. When the guide says, “Follow me,” I expect everyone to follow, tout-suite. With a group behind me, I would be a drill sergeant, or Captain Von Trapp with his kids. Keep up or get lost!
--In every group, there’s always that one person. You know who I mean. They ask the question that has just been answered, state the obvious, arrive late, find the flaws forthwith and otherwise make things slow and miserable for everyone else. I have no tolerance for that person. And I’m sure it would show on my face.
--I am too honest about my opinions. As a tour guide, it would be my job to support all the local businesses. But if someone asked me about a particular restaurant, hotel or shop that I believed had lousy service? Well… I fear I would have no tongue left after all that biting.
It’s a tough job, guiding groups of tourists. It requires tact, a positive attitude, good local knowledge and a genuine appreciation of people in all their crazy craziness. In a way, every island resident is a guide, so we need to work on these skills. I’m trying. But making it a full-time position? No, thank you!