Tag Archives: tourism

How Many Blonde Moments Can I Have In A Day?

Oddly enough, I remember the day as if it were yesterday.  The day in question occurred in the summer of 2004.

Now, why is it, I can remember this moment exactly, but if I were to be introduced to a  person in the next 5 minutes, there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell I’d remember their name 2 minutes later?

I digress.  Let’s get back on track.

I was walking between two 40′ motor coaches, both running, at the cruise ship terminal in Juneau.  My brain said:

Self, you will never drive a bus.  Couldn’t do it.   No way.  Thank goodness.  I can’t imagine having to do THAT.

Little did I know, 8 months later I would be eating my words.  Lesson learned: never say never.  I learned to drive a 40′ coach.  All along, I kept thinking silently to myself:

Are these people crazy?  Me?  Drive a coach?  Really?  Have you seen my car?  It’s a Toyota Yaris – TWO DOOR!  It would fit in the luggage bay of one of these beasts!

Having me drive a 40′ coach is like having Gumby learning how to use a pogo-stick …. stretched out and bewildered.  Aspirin, need aspirin.

The one thing in training that resonates in my head is the mantra of “steer the rear.”  Whatever you do, you want to “steer the rear.”

To this day, I have no idea what that means.  I am too damn busy trying not to hit anything.  No, I haven’t hit anything – thank you.  I drive by feel.  Luckily it’s not the kind of feeling that creates dents, scrapes and costs money.  I go with the gut type of feeling.

Thank goodness I have a sturdy gut.   So far, it’s never been wrong.

Of course, if I could figure out the whole, “steer the rear” concept, I would probably be able to back a coach up without looking like a drunken snake.  That bus goes all over the place except where it’s supposed to go.  However, I can parallel park it if I had to.

Okay, in reality, I did it successfully a handful of times.  If I had to again, on command,  I’m 95% sure I could get the coach into the space.  Straight?  Maybe not.  But I’d get it into the space.

After a winter of not driving, time ran out and my number came up.  I had to drive last Monday to help out with tour transfers.  Yes.  Funny you should ask.  Of course I have a favorite bus.

Coach 213.  Lucky number 13.  She’s yellow.  The only yellow one in our fleet.  Do you really think I’d be driving the same exact thing as everyone else?  Not likely.  Duh.

My first day of driving this season can be summed up in one word:

Bewilderment.

Now, I’m not a blonde by any means.  My natural hair is mousey brown.  Currently my locks are dyed Snow White black.  Am I a Snow White?  Not a chance.  Could I play Snow White?  Only with the proper shoes.

My first blonde moment of the day began to roll along when I read my dispatch and noticed it said:

100 coaches fuel before the day starts.

200 coaches fuel after the day ends.

Alright then, well this is going to be an interesting start to the day.  In 7 years, I have not had the pleasure of fueling a coach.   I always figured the fuel fairy came every night and filled up the coaches.  You mean there’s no such thing as a fuel fairy?  Don’t tell me the fuel fairy ranks along the same blood lines as the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.  How disappointing.  You can imagine my upset – similar to when a child learns there’s no Santa Claus.

It can’t be.  There must be an explanation.

I wander over to the maintenance shop and ask if our Fleet Director is around.  He’ll understand my predicament.  We affectionately refer to him as Little Buddy.  The mechanic says Little Buddy is around but hiding.  Well, that only means one thing – he’s working on an engine and is sitting inside the engine compartment.

I walk over to the next bus bay and lo and behold, there’s Little Buddy inside the engine compartment working away.  Without fan fare, I explain my situation, show him the dispatch and before I can utter the words, “Yeah, I’m not fueling….”  He says he’ll show me how.

Over the next few minutes I learn where the mechanics keep the fuel key, where the fuel tank is located and where to pull the coach up for fueling.  Luckily, since Little Buddy is only a few inches taller than me he agreed I don’t have to climb on top of the fuel tank to reset the meter.  Good thing because this isn’t Ladies Night at the Lucky Saloon and I’m not riding the mechanical bull in dress pants and heels.

Then the blonde moment hits.  I have to admit, out loud, to the Director of Fleet Maintenance, the brutally honest fact of:

I don’t know where the gas tank is on the coach.

If I thought about it, I’m certain I would have been able to narrow down it’s location.  However, with time being of the essence and hating to waste time, it was easier to admit I didn’t know and move on with the correct answer.

Oh, so THAT’S what is under that door.  Always wondered.  Never looked.  Huh.

Blonde moment #1 complete.

I walk back to my coach and finish preparing to take it out for the afternoon.  I ponder going to fuel now and avoiding the rush at the end of the day.  It was Little Buddy’s idea and a good one.  Ladies and gentlemen start your engines!

213 groans to life and together we contemplate the thought of fueling early.  More specifically, fueling while nobody else is around to watch.

I drive 213 over to the spot and park her.  I climb out, get the key and turn on the pump.  Thankfully she didn’t need much fuel and I’m able to get everything all squared away.

But wait, here come Blonde Moment #2.

Since they were working on a coach in front of me, I had two options.

1.  Back it up

2.  Go forward, angling the coach to go around the building.

I decided to try and go forward.  As Murphy’s Law would allow, I was either going to take the downspout off the corner of the wash bay OR put the coach in the ditch.  By this time Bon Jovi, our other mechanic, came out and was tryingh is best to direct me on steering.

Finally, I just looked at him.  He came over to my door and ever so politely – to avoid making me feel like an idiot (in case I wanted to continue down this painfully slow road of 2 inches forward, 1 inch back) asked if I would prefer if he just hopped in and moved the coach to a safe location.

Hell, YES!   I am a girlie girl and while I’m not afraid of loosing a nail (since I don’t have any to speak of) sometimes I just need help.  Most of the time I am not going to ask for help – so you better just jump in with both feet, roll up your sleeves and plan to get wet trying to rescue me from my idiot circumstances.

End of Blonde Moment #2.

I’m not even going to mention the time I got a company van stuck in a bank exit lane – and had to call the Director of Safety.  Yes.  That would be the first and last time I tried using their “handy” drive thru parking lot area.

As I approach my first duty of the day I say a silent prayer.  Please, don’t let there be any other buses in this lot.  If there are, let them be off to the side.  It’s my first out for the season, let this be an easy one.  Come on Goddess of Big Ass Coach Driving….big money….no whammies.

I pull into the lot, check the area to my left, where I have to back up and not like I expected anything different.  WHAM….a bus.  Smack in the middle of the space.  Really?  Like you couldn’t share the area?

Cheese Its.

Now I could have asked him to move over, but he was actively loading passengers.  I had to move my coach, for fear another one would come down the drive and be behind me.  There’d be no room for any of us to go anywhere at that point.

With a big exhale and contemplative chew of my bottom lip….I throw 213 into reverse and double beep.  Now, I’ve done this move 100 times.  Why this time is any different is because it’s my first time for the season and I’m nervous.  It’s ridiculous.

Enter, Blonde Moment #3.

Thank god things come in threes.  This meant I was arriving at the conclusion of my Blonde Moments.

To avoid hitting the neighboring coach and to avoid hitting the giant embankment on the other side.  I went forward and backwards so many times I was worried they were going to ask me to turn off the back up beeper.

By the time I got 213 parked, I was pitted out of my shirt and in desperate need of the restroom.  I only had one more duty and was delighted my day was coming to a quick conclusion.

I’m slightly anxious for my driving next week.  I know I’ll be needed, possibly Sunday but likely on Monday.  Perhaps I’ll get out my long blonde wig.  What?  You aren’t really surprised I have a blonde wig are you?  Truth be told, I have several.

A Rant on Tourists

I live in a tourist town.  We have tourists from May thru September.  Most of them arrive on giant floating cities.  Some arrive via metal tubes that shoot through the air.

It doesn’t matter how they get here.

Either way they arrive….

Some where.

Some how.

They’ve lost all their smarts and have become clueless.

Is there an alien space craft that hoovers over these crowds of people and sucks out their abilities to think reasonably before they land?  Or is it something in the water served on board?  Don’t eat the tiny bag of peanuts, it’s contaminated with brain enzymes that will eat away your sense of logic for the next 7 days….

Here’s my list of current concerns with the tourists.  I thought about putting it in a David Letterman style of list, but they’re all just as equally aggravating to me.  It doesn’t matter where you’re at, all tourists are the same, the blind leading the blind.  Remember, when you go on vacation – don’t forget to pack your brain – I’d put it in my carry on if I were you.

1.  Know where you’re going.  Alaska, is not part of Canada.  Nor, are we part of Russia.  Alaska is not off the California coastline, near Hawaii.  Responding to a question with “I don’t know.  My spouse arranged the trip.  Where are we today?  Kansas?”  No, Dorothy, not Kansas….and don’t make me break out my flying monkeys….they haven’t had breakfast yet today.”

1.  What’s with the shoes?  Next time you go on a vacation, check out the shoes.  90% of the people on vacation buy new shoes to wear on the trip.  For Alaska, that means they buy big, chunky, heavy soled hiking boots.   After all, they’re coming to Alaska where there’s only dirt trails, igloos and wild native people running around.

Apparently, there’s a lot of hiking to be done between the diamond store and the tanzanite store and the gold nugget shop and the t-shirt store and the trinket shop and the kettle corn stand and the opal store and the bus tour excursion and the restaurant and the….

When you go on vacation, don’t you want your feet to be happy?  Why wear something that’s going to make you miserable.  Oh, wait!  I get it!  You’re trying to fit in with the locals!  Ah ha.  Right.

(I do have to share one story where I had a couple sitting in the front seat of the bus who were going on a tour, that I was driving the transfer for.  Both the husband and wife were decked out in the latest hiking clothing, freshly pressed, brand new hiking boots and jungle hats.  Each was frantically tapping away on their iPhones.  When I announced the parking area we’d be stopping in for their tour would be muddy, they both instantly looked up at me and curled their lips back in disgust.  I nearly said something – but held back.  Isn’t that the reason you’re dressed the way you are?  To experience a true Alaskan adventure?  Apparently not.)

1.  Make a Decision!  I work in a building, that has several small retail shops on the first two floors.  Tourists, always, always, always stop in front of the door in a far off daze….confused as to what to do next.  Here’s a hint:  either you’re in or your out.  Which one is it?  There’s not revolving door here like at the Trump Tower so you only have to choose a direction….are you going inside to shop or continuing on the sidewalk?  Either way, make a decision and move it!

1.  Share the Sidewalk.  Without fail, daily walks up and down the street outside my office have become a battle ground that would be worthy of a competition.  People are lolly-gaging around, looking every which way but where they’re going.  If you’re a party of three and see someone approaching you – move over and share the sidewalk.  If you’ve just run into Marge and Steve and want to talk about tonight’s dinner options, then move over to the side so other folks can pass by you easily!

Why is it people feel the need to own it all?  Then they’re annoyed when you go around them by saying, “excuse me.”

Note to yourself:  Rude is  not sharing the sidewalk.  Especially with the locals.

1.  Watch the Umbrella!  The primary use of an umbrella is to keep you dry.  The secondary use of an umbrella is to gouge out people’s eye balls.  Note:  when raining and you’re walking under blocks of canopied sidewalk – an umbrella is unnecessary.  Secondary note:  It’s all fun and games until someone looses an eyeball.

If you did your vacation destination research, you’d already know southeast Alaska is part of the Tongass National RAINFOREST.  Which means…it rains….a lot.  Showing up unprepared and either having to wear a cheap trash bag rain poncho or better yet, tying a plastic bag over your head is inexcusable.  Did you know, you can actually purchase rain jackets?  Complete with a hood!  At a decent price!  They come in any color to match your hair/eye/lipstick color? Better yet, guess what?  You can by these in your home town and even online!  Shocking, isn’t it?!  Choose the rain jacket – forget the trash bag.

Note to yourself:  Yes, you can even get matching his and her’s rain jackets!  Amazing what clothing manufactures have thought of these days.  You say your husband will only wear this one men’s style?  Easy fix for you! Just get the man’s version in a smaller size for yourself.  Problem solved.

1.  Picture Taking.   Although there may be 4 giant cruise ships in town on the day you are visiting.  Although the sidewalks may be packed with tourists carrying souvenir bags.  Although people are stopping left and right to take pictures of our quaint town.  This town is still a fully functioning city.  Complete with people who work full time jobs.  The cars, going down the road…guess what…they’re real!

Stopping to take a picture in the middle of the street is stupid.  This isn’t Disneyland.  When you turn around and realize there’s a 2 ton pick up truck waiting patiently to continue down the street, don’t look annoyed – they could have run you down.  Did they honk the horn at you?  Oh, wait, they did….because you had to take more than one picture from that spot….and you’re holding up local traffic!

1.  Crosswalks.  We have a multitude of cross walks and two situations commonly occur at these locations.  Either, people think the crosswalk automatically forces cars to stop immediately – or they believe it’s a great spot to take a picture.  In either case, the visitor isn’t looking – they step right off the sidewalk….into the middle of oncoming traffic, completely unaware of the car that had to come to a screaming halt to avoid hitting them.

Note to yourself:  When at a crosswalk, you still have to stop and look both ways before crossing.  There’s not an invisible barrier shield in place to protect you.

Second note to yourself:  When you are 3/4 of the way across the street – KEEP GOING!  Stopping 5 feet from the other sidewalk – is not the sidewalk!  You are still IN THE STREET and likely to get hit.

1.  Did you know?   When you step off the curb, you are in the street?  Did you know cars go back and forth on the street?  Did you know you can get killed or hit by a car when you blindly step off the curb, into the street, in front of a car?

Note to yourself:  When planning to step off the curb, into the street, you might want to see what kind of vehicle is about to pass you.  You know, to avoid that run down feeling.

1. P’s & Q’s.   Kindness matters.  People will go out of their way to help a person who shows a hint of common courtesy and good manners.  Did it every occur to you to say thank you to your tour bus driver?  How about offering your front seat to the lady with a walking disability?  Or waving to the local who kindly stopped for you in the middle of the street – as you darted out from between parked cars?  The local who explained to you how to get to a particular restaurant – did you say thanks?  Or just turn around and walk away?  Right.

1.  You Know What They Say About Assuming.  Just because someone is driving a tour bus, working as a crossing guard, serving patrons in a bar or volunteering in a visitor center….doesn’t mean they are the uneducated and low-life people you are assuming they are…since that is the job they are doing.  On the contrary my friend.  Chances are those people are company managers, business owners, office managers, retired military, school teachers and other respected community members.  Even if they weren’t, it doesn’t give you the right to think any less of them – and disregard their kindness when they assist you.

We do these jobs because we enjoy them.  We enjoy sharing our love for Alaska with visitors every day.  We don’t expect much, but an occasional thank you and appreciative nod goes along way.

Note to yourself:  Hey!  Saying thank you, please or just hello – it won’t hurt me and might even brighten my day a bit!

1.  Don’t Insult the Locals.  I work in tourism.  I deal with tourists on a regular basis.  Nothing aggravates me more than when someone who thinks I can’t hear them says: “Who would want to live here?  I could never live here.  I wouldn’t be caught dead living here.”

Good news!

You don’t have to worry about living in my community!

We only let people with a positive attitude, sparkling personality,  witty sense of humor, appreciation for the beauty of Mother Nature, the easy going attitude of whatever Mother Nature throws at us, we can handle, the ability to handle hurricane force winds on a seasonal basis without blinking an eye, common sense when driving in the snow, adjustment to living with wild animals such as bears – knowing they can rip our heads off therefore approaching to pet them is not a smart move, cook a mean dinner and throw a good right hook when necessary…. into this state.

Don’t worry! You are safe.  We have already voted you off the island.  See ya!

1.  Can You Hear Me Now?  My number one pet peeve of all time is “don’t waste my time.”  Hate it.  Drives me insane.  It’s simple.  My time is just as valuable as your time.   When I explain to you, in great detail, how to get back to your ship using the city shuttle.  I’m actually, literally, POINTING out where you need to go — and you turn around 3 minutes later to ask me the same question – you’re an idiot and shouldn’t have gotten off the ship.  Don’t worry, I’ll contact the village and let them know you’re okay.