If I knew the way/ I would take you home
–from “Ripple” by Robert Hunter
I’ve been working in the parking lot since Memorial Day Weekend, and again and again tourists have asked me How do I get to…?
Usually they want to go to Babylon, or MegaBabylon, but sometimes it’s Northern Babylon and yesterday it was Babylon Springs. Sometimes a tourist just throws a number at me: How do I get to the 342? (or whatever).
When my co-worker is around, I let him field those questions. He’s lived in the area for years; he knows how to get places. But after he leaves for the day, the tourists are left with me and sketchy knowledge of geography.
The other day, a tourist (I think he was European) driving a big, rented RV asked me how to get to MegaBabylon. I said I was sorry, but I didn’t know. I told him I was new to the area, and didn’t know how to get from where we were to where he wanted to be. He looked at me as if looking at me long enough would cause the answer to pop into my brain. I suggested he look at his map. He told me he didn’t have a map.
Come on! Who comes from Europe (or Maine or Alabama or wherever) and rents an RV, but fails to pick up a map? Who takes a trip to the mountains without first getting directions home from Google Maps or Yahoo Maps or MapQuest or one of the other internet sources of maps and driving directions? Obviously many tourists do.
People probably think they can get directions on the go, like they do in the city. Probably many of them don’t realize how far into the wilderness they are going, don’t realize they’ll be lacking constant internet and cell phone services. And since GPS devices are often wrong, even in the city, they can’t really count on those things either.
(Side note: The parking area is a one-way loop. Drivers pull in and are determined to go the wrong way because their GPS is telling them to go left, even though real live human people are gesturing–and sometimes shouting–that the car needs to stay to the right.)
Since I’ve been working at the parking lot, I’ve heard my co-worker give directions to Babylon and MegaBabylon enough that now I can more or less do it too. I also found a map in a free info guide for tourists which shows the area we are in and how to get out. I’m learning, but the company I work for gave me zero training in helping people get where they’re going. I wasn’t provided with a map to use to help people either. (My co-worker has a good map of the area. He got it from the Forest Service and paid $10 for it. No way am I forking out $10 for a map.)
The company seems to think my job entails nothing more than collecting $5 from each car that parks and then handing that money over to my supervisor.
The tourists, however, want more than that from me. They want me to get them home.