Being a tour guide is sometimes fantastic, and sometimes miserable. Whether it’s transcendentally awesome or utterly terrible depends on the kind of group you get. Below are people I encounter regularly, ranked from best to worst.
People who are totally into it and are geeking out as much as you
I like history and architecture and urban planning and anecdotes and all of that kind of thing. When my enthusiasm is shared by others, it’s spectacular. I’m into it, they’re into it, and it makes me feel like some kind of grandly talented imparter of truth, like I’m Carl Sagan or something. It’s a great feeling, and usually results in lots of tips.
Drunk people who are totally into it and are geeking out as much as you
Same as above, but more distractable.
College students are actually pretty easy to talk to, because lots of them want to be adults. They want to seem smart and interested in things, so they act smart and interested in things.
Same as above, for the most part.
People who know more about history than me
I’ve had a few actual, real historians on my tours. They terrify me. I worry that I’ll get something horribly wrong. But, they usually like to chat afterward, and then I steal material from the knowledge they impart.
Bored people who are only there because their spouse or friend or someone else dragged them along
These people are fine. They usually stare into the middle distance, thinking thoughts of things. They bother me not, but add nothing to the experience.
People who want to tell the entire group this one story about this one time when they were growing up in Portland and, wow, that had nothing to do with the matter at hand.
I like it when people have interesting things to say or add. I don’t really like it when someone starts talking about how back when they grew up, things sure were different. Yep. Totally not the same as today.
Small children are easily impressed by things such as magnets. Also, they are very short so addressing large groups of them is easy. One is gigantic by comparison, so they can all see and hear you easily. They do, however, have the tendency to tire easily. Sometimes they spontaneously cry, and must be whisked away by a parent.
Disinterested guys in NASCAR hats and sunglasses who always seem to be thinking “What the hell is this shit?”
I imagine these guys as being the kind of dudes who actually get excited when the History Channel does yet another thing about WWII, and gritting their teeth whenever I extol the virtues of public transportation.
People who come up with weird rationalizations for Japanese internment
Portland used to have a big Japanese neighborhood. We don’t anymore. It got enthusiastically erased. Now, the only thing we have is a memorial by the waterfront where a big immigrant district used to be. Most people find this terrifying and horrible and sad. Once, though, a rather terrible woman tried to tell everyone why it was a great idea. It only happened once, but still.
Drunk people who are not at all into it
These people are asked to leave. They ususally stumble into a bar or something. An drunk old lady who had too much makeup grabbed my ass once. That was weird.
I kind of think that between the ages of eleven and fifteen children should be hooked up to some kind of energy-gathering cybernetic thing that would allow us to use the collective hyperactivity of the nation’s middle schoolers as a source of clean, renewable power. Middle schoolers do not stop. They do not tire. They do not focus. They are made of superballs and pop rocks. They are energy incarnate. Nothing can hold their attention. Nothing. Talking to them is like screaming at a jet engine. After the heat death of the universe, they will still be yelling at something.