Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Somebody else's job always seems more interesting

Deep in the paralysis of angst, I just did some googling for a career coach and came upon a site called Vocation Vacations. Run by a career coach, this business is a great racket: sell opportunities for people to do short internships with people who already have their dream careers. So, for example, if you want to be a stand-up comedian, you pay a thousand bucks or so to spend time with a comic and get a taste of what he/she does on the job. You get to see the inner workings of the career, just like an internship, and presumably the mentor also gets a cut of the fee.

Interesting, right? Then I looked through the list and saw some jobs I know about, either from having done them, or having known people who had them. Lemme tell you -- they ain't what they appear to be:
  • "Chocolate maker/pastry chef." I knew someone who had this job. Lots of time on your feet, sick of the smell of chocolate, and do you really want to make 5000 little chocolate boxes containing the ideal profiterole? Sheer hell for a perfectionist. Especially in the summer.
  • "Event planner." I've planned events. Everyone sees the party at the end, but what they don't see is the stress the planner goes through to make sure none of the guests is troubled by the slightest glitch.
  • "Author." As Anne Lamott noted in Bird by Bird, being published doesn't make you the richest, or even happiest person in the world. And if your work isn't marketable, it doesn't make you famous, either. You do it because you're compelled. And don't mind the prospect of holding a couple of other jobs so you don't end up poor.
  • “Entertainment publicist.” Again, the world sees parties, palling around with celebrities. But who wants to be awakened at 4 a.m. when said celebrity client is arrested for DWI or worse? Pick your clients well, yes, but probably most of the people who dream of this job aren’t thinking “Yo Yo Ma” when they’re considering their dream client.
And yup, Park Ranger was on the list of dream jobs. Luckily I haven't had to pay a fee to find out the inside skinny on that one over the past few months. Hey, the Park Service is happy to take you in and give you a shirt, hat and nametag, to boot.

I'm glad I chose to put in time at two very different parks, especially now that the summer season is upon us.. I’m getting two different experiences, partially because of the nature of the parks, and because the relationship is different.

Ellis Island is really heating up, so to speak. We’re reaching the end of the school trip rush (hundreds of kids wearing identical t-shirts with statements like “Podunk HS ’10: NYC here we come!”) but seem to be flowing into the foreign traveler season. Everybody visits the Statue of Liberty on a New York trip, and Ellis Island is the next stop on the ferry. Lots of people wanting to take our tours, lots of people asking where the bathroom is. Even lots of people wanting to know where the subway is (uh, not anywhere on the island). Very busy rangers, very busy volunteers, some tempers flaring.

Edison is seeing somewhat of an upswing in visitation, too. Though we're probably past the school group season, there are still adult groups that want to check the place out, so I've been at the house, helping to shepherd tours through. In fact, last Friday I did my very first entire house tour, constantly getting stumped by some of the retired school teachers in the group. However, the previous time I was there, I wasn't exactly in the best of moods to interact with the public (see previous post).

All of this experience is leading me to think I might be just a little too moody, or something, to have this much contact with so much of the public on a regular basis. Either I have to find a way to put on a good game face (cue acting skills!) or choose not to be a guide. Maybe it's just that I've gotten a bit bored with the situation. God knows I crave variety, but then it's also my responsibility to find a way through that. Change up the tour, get chatty with people to customize things to their interests, up my game.

In different ways, both locations offer that opportunity if I choose to take it. The rangers and leadership at the Edison site, in particular, are very appreciative of volunteers and are encouraging us to work on programs we can present. Seems the sky is the limit there.

Ellis Island is a different story. Because we volunteer through a separate organization, we don't have as much ranger oversight, though the staff there is helpful and friendly for the most part. We're pretty much on our own to develop and modify our Ferry Building tours as we see fit. The volunteer base is committed, smart and tight-knit, which is acknowledged by NPS staff. It's a good thing, too, as the separate organization ran into financial problems and doesn't have dedicated staff to oversee the volunteer program. Thus, we're pretty much on our own.

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