Friday, July 17, 2015

Tales of a Tour Guide, Part 11

Tuesday was an adventurous day for me as a tour guide. Okay, that’s probably exaggerating a bit. But there are a couple of things worth mentioning. There was some mild hubbub when LDS apostle Jeffrey R. Holland showed up for a tour, largely unexpectedly. I say “largely” because I guess the director here knew it would be happening sometime that day or the next, but it wasn’t a firmly scheduled thing. I myself never saw Elder Holland, though I greeted whatever assistant of Elder Holland’s came rushing into the visitor’s center acting somewhat flustered. He asked for the director of the site and said he had been trying to reach the director all day. The director was at that moment out on a tour, so I grabbed one of the other office personnel. This fellow had a hard time not chasing me around the building as I went to get someone who could help. He seemed really anxious and in a state of urgency. I still didn’t know what was going on. I have to laugh about what happened next. When he spoke to the woman in our office—a woman I’ll call Sheradon, just for the heck of it—she hadn’t a clue who this Elder Holland fellow was that the man kept rambling about. As Sheradon related the conversation to me afterward, it went something like this:

LDS Assistant: “Elder Holland is here, and he wants a tour right now!”
Sheradon: “Yes, lots of people come here wanting a tour.”
LDS Assistant: “But he wants a tour now. It’s Elder Holland!”
Sheradon: “That’s wonderful. Lots of people want a tour right away, but we’re very busy.”
LDS Assistant: “It’s Elder Holland! He’s here! Right now! He wants a tour right now!”
Sheradon: “Uh huh. And is he family to you?”

And around and around they went. Sheradon said the guy seemed like a rabbit who couldn’t stop hopping. Maybe it’s not funny to read it, and I probably didn’t do it justice. But it had me in stitches to imagine this LDS Assistant guy not getting anywhere with her. There’s so much hero worship when it comes to the LDS Church and its leaders, which is so incredibly unlike Community of Christ. I can just imagine how appalling and insane it was for this man to get no reaction out of dropping Elder Holland’s name time and time again. I told Sheradon she needn’t worry, that it’s probably good for them to get a taste of humility now and again. She said she didn’t think the word “humility” was in their vocabulary. Apparently, it’s not a wholly unusual thing for Mormon VIPs (by which I mean GAs) to show up unannounced and expect impromptu private tours. I asked if they ever pay for their tours, and they don’t. They’re just treated like royalty because that’s what they expect. Kind of crazy.

Tuesday was also an important day because I started being trained to be the lead guide. Being lead guide doesn’t change one’s routine all that much. If you’re assigned as the lead guide on a given day, you are responsible for determining the order in which the guides will rotate giving tours, and you are responsible for an extra couple of opening and closing duties (such as closing out the cash register at the end of the day). It’s not that big of a deal, but I think it says something that they have chosen to train me on it. There are a couple of guides who have been here longer than I have that haven’t been trained or asked to do this. I can’t help but wonder if they’re irritated that I’ll be doing it, but it wasn’t my decision. My first official day of being the lead guide will be tomorrow. I’ll also be the lead guide on Sunday and next Thursday.

On Wednesday, my family went to Springfield, Illinois to visit the Abraham Lincoln Museum. We’d heard from several people that it is an awesome museum, so despite it not being among my original plans for our time here in Nauvoo, I started wanting to go quite badly. I’m really glad we did. You can imagine how especially glad I’d be if someone I know in Nauvoo had an annual membership to the museum that allowed my entire family to get in for free by borrowing his membership card. I’m not saying that’s what happened, but … we’re very, very, very glad we went. The exhibits they have are all rather high-tech. Or, that is, they incorporate a lot of special effects. For example, there is a show called Ghosts of the Library, which features a live actor who talks about researching history. He is behind a pane of glass, in what appears to be a library. But as he discusses things, ghostly figures appear, or the library fades and a battlefield appears in its place, etc. It all looks real, like things are really appearing and disappearing before your eyes—3D locations, not just images on a movie screen or something. It’s very cool. Another show, called Lincoln’s Eyes, also utilizes special effects in a very cool way. Many of the exhibits remind me of something like Disneyland, with wax figures on display in darkened halls with audio recordings of what they might be saying, etc. Tears came to my eyes with some of the displays depicting slavery. The Lincoln Museum proved a more emotional experience for me than Nauvoo has been. It was really terrific. On our way out, we stopped in the gift shop and bought some very modest gifts. We then spent quite a while driving around, trying to find someplace to eat and feeling quite surprised that restaurants seemed difficult to come by. There must be restaurants in the city somewhere, right?!?! Seriously, it seemed very difficult to find anything. After aimlessly driving around for a decent chunk of time, we ended up eating at some Mexican joint not far from the museum. I was worried it would be mediocre. It wasn’t anything special, but it was better than I had expected. While the boys and I were temporarily in the restroom just before leaving, some homeless couple approached Melanie and humbly asked if they could eat our leftovers. Melanie let them. Melanie said they seemed thrilled by how much there was for them to eat. She wept as she told me about it. It’s so easy to forget how blessed we are.

The last couple of days, I have been back to my full-time tour-giving duties. It has been hot as Hell. Absolutely awful. We’re in the upper 90s, but the humidity is way intense and the heat index is regularly above 100 degrees. We hit 108 one day. It’s unbelievable. Fortunately, that deters the tourists a bit and sometimes we end up skipping our scheduled tour times because nobody is showing up to go on a guided walking tour in the 100+ degree heat. I only gave one tour on my own today. That’s never happened before. I went on one split tour, too, but even still, I’ve never done so little. I’m totally grateful, though, because it’s awful out there. Awful. Did I say it’s awful? It is.

And now for today’s “Fun Fact from Mormon History.” At the time the Word of Wisdom revelation was given to the Saints in Kirtland, Ohio, there was already in existence an organization called the Kirtland Temperance Society, which was opposed to alcohol consumption and the use of tobacco, and also encouraged that meat be eaten only rarely. When Emma Smith lodged her complaint against cleaning up after the men who chewed tobacco, she apparently expressed hope that a revelation might be received which forbade tobacco. One of the men joked that such a revelation should also forbid the drinking of coffee and tea, a kind of retaliatory jab at the preferred habits of women. Both parties received their wish.

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