Friday, May 6, 2011

Maiden Voyage

Arrrgggg me laddies, come and hear the tale of me maiden voyage... and how I narrowly avoided death, and lived to tell of it.

OK, wasn't really harrowing, but it was every bit as nerve racking as I thought it might be.

I'm supposed to show up at 3:25. I showed up early, had my notes on cards on a clip board for easy reference in case I got stuck, had my mic and my tip jar, got my license on display in my neck lanyard. I walk over to the only driver and I introduce myself, and he says I MIGHT be on his next bus, or maybe the next one. I should go talk to the dispatcher. Dispatcher is a thug-life home boy working his cell phone, doesn't seem to want to pay any attention to me. Eventually I get his attention and told him I was told to show up at 3:25. He says, "OK, I'll put you on the 3:40 tour. Wait over there." That gives me a good 15 minutes.

Stage fright is at it's max... I sort of want to just walk away and say "This was a stupid idea anyway." JUST THEN I got a text, from a girl I know who likes to send inspirational messages once in a while. I haven't heard from her in six months at least... she has no idea what I'm doing. It read something like "Face your fears, do something new and exciting, be with new people today..."

Not two seconds later, the dispatcher says, "OK, I gotta use you RIGHT NOW... that's your bus."

It's already loaded w/ people. That's not supposed to happen. You're supposed to talk to them while they're standing on line, ask where they're from, how are they enjoying NYC, etc. Then you go up and test your mic, set up your tip jar, come back down and check tickets as you welcome each individual onto the bus.

Nope! I look at the preferred place to plug in the mic, at the seat near the top of the stairs... and there's nothing but a hole in the metal. So I run up to the front of the bus, as far away from the stairs as possible. Takes me almost a whole minute to get the mic chord plugged into the jack which is mounted at a weird angle. Meanwhile, the bus starts to move.

So as soon as I get a sound out of the mic, I just go for it. I channel every WWE wrestler, every Rock Star, everybody who has ever successfully worked a mic... and I just start... "Hello, and WELCOME TO NEW YORK CITY... we start today's tour in the Theater District as we head uptown... There are 40 theaters in New York City that qualify as 'Broadway Theaters'..." The notes never made it out of my backpack.

At each stop I announce, "So does anybody want to HOP OFF at the next stop..." Nobody got off the whole time. So either they liked what they were hearing, and wanted to hear more... or I wasn't selling the sites convincingly. I'm just gonna assume they liked what they were hearing.

Two hours later, after a lot of stuttering and stammering, flubbing a few facts here and there, searching for words that just didn't come... we pulled back into Time's Square. These folks got to see the Theater District, Columbus Circle, Lincoln Center, Central Park West, The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Columbia University, Riverside Church, Grant's Tomb, The George Washington Bridge, HARLEM, Museum Mile (5th Avenue along Central Park), Grand Army Plaza (lower corner of Central Park), Central Park South, Carnegie Hall, and back to Times Square.

After splitting the tips with the driver, 50/50, I had enough to buy my fruit for the week with a couple of dollars left over. I get on the schedule in a day or two and should get 3 or 4 tours in a day. Not gonna get rich, but I said all along, this is the entry level. I'll do this through the summer while I begin networking and start building a repertoire of my own walking tours. Apparently with the right marketing, and the right product, a good guide can make a very comfortable living in this city.