Thursday, November 15, 2012

This is His Job

Just before noon Donald changes into the uncomfortable suit (it's too tight) and black dress shoes. Checks his reflection in the cabin bathroom and makes his way to the boarding area, where there's a long line already formed, throngs of tourists backed up in sunglasses and hats, families and couples and big groups of schoolchildren of all ages. He fixes his smile and maintains it as they board, all ninety-six of them. The fog is mostly gone by now, lucky for them, the customers. Once they get their sodas, their popcorn, their memorabilia, their seats, and with the boat departed, he begins:

“Good afternoon, everyone, how are we doing today? (pause for response) Welcome aboard the Sea Otter, one of the many ships owned by the Silver and Gold Fleet based here in the beautiful Bay Area. My name is Donald, though Don is fine too, and I'll be your audio guide today for the duration of the trip. I was born right here in the Golden Gate City thirty-five years ago, and nothing nor no one can convince me to leave, so don't waste your time (pause for laughs). By the end of this trip, I'm sure you'll see why that is. We've got a lovely trip ahead of us today, and that Bay Area fog you've heard so much about seems to be finally giving us a break. We're going to be here on the Sea Otter for just over two hours this afternoon, so please take advantage of the restrooms located on the lower deck, and feel free to stand and stretch your legs if needed. If you'd like to remain standing during the trip, we ask that you please make your way to the boat's rear on the lower deck, where there is ample standing room for those interested.

“As of noon it's exactly seventy degrees in the Bay Area, with only a ten percent chance of rain, lucky for you (pause for laughs). If you have any additional questions or concerns not covered by myself, feel free to flag down any Sea Otter employee at any time. You can identify us by our Silver and Gold hats. In the event of an emergency we ask that you please remain calm and orderly. Below each seat you will find flotation devices that can be applied by placing your head through the center hole here, and after adjusting to fit your chest, buckled with the clasps on each side. There are emergency rafts to the Sea Otter's rear on both sides. But I wouldn't worry folks, in twenty years of business the Silver and Gold Fleet hasn't had a single accident, and we're not gonna start now.

“One more reminder: drinks, including soda, sparkling and mineral water, and even beer can be purchased in the lower deck's concession area, along with snacks like salted pretzels, hot dogs while they last, candy and candy bars, popcorn, and much more. With that being said, allow the Silver and Gold Fleet to thank you once again for choosing us, as well as the staff of the Sea Otter. Now, let's get started, folks.”

He tells the history of San Francisco, of Alcatraz, the bridges, the earthquakes, the sports teams. He mentioned the hippies of the city and the Berkeley sixties and Oakland with it's long-gone Black Panthers. He speaks of the weather, the fog and winter rain and summer droughts. The cable cars and BART and the Pyramid building and Treasure Island. He mentions the big players, the companies, the famous celebrities and, briefly, a couple tragedies. Every emotion, carefully written, carefully delivered in radio personality eloquence and timing, are covered. Thousands of photos are taken, including—as usual—a few of Donald with his big silly nice guy grin. Still, some children keep their distance. After dropping them off, they pick up more and he does it again. And then again.

Then he goes home and watches TV and falls asleep. This is his job and these are his days.