U.S. Pavilion Guide Positions
金曜日, 9月 02, 2005
Let me explain how our pavilion works. There are set positions that we work every day. These are the following, from the front of the pavilion to the end following the flow of guests (and this is the order we use for radio checks):
- Queue — One or two guides stand in front of the pavilion, control the line, tell people how long the wait is, entertain them by chatting in English or Japanese, guide wheelchairs in through the special access entrance, and radio in to Ops or the duty officer about VIPs who come up to the pavilion wanting attention of any sort. They also sweat a lot, because it's so hot. Queue is therefore my least favorite position, but a lot of other guides really like it so it all works out. (Though when the Expo began back in March, it was cool enough that we had to wear gloves. That wasn't so bad, in my opinion. Now the Queue guides usually wear the big doofy straw hats that are an optional part of our uniform.)
- X-Ray — This position is at the front of the line, where kyaku-sama (guests) enter the pavilion and pass through the metal detector. I like this position a lot, but I can't do it for more than an hour and a half or I get totally drained of energy. (It's technically outside, but it's in the shade, and there's A/C located nearby.) X-Ray gets to make announcements about the content of the pavilion and about the entrance security primarily with a microphone. Some people stick to the basics (especially if they're not confident in their Japanese), but most of us try to make it interesting. (Imagine any theme park attendant you've ever heard hamming it up.)
- Wheatfield — This guide stands in the entry room (which has a big Great Plains wheatfield scene on a wall, along with clouds and such) and counts people with a clicker. When we reach the set number—which is 300 now that the Expo is winding down and getting crowded, though it's really packed at this number; it was nicer when we ran 270 shows—the Wheatfield guide says over the radio "X-Ray, please cut the flow" and X-Ray says "Copy, cutting flow" or something like that. Wheatfield is rather boring and it's hard to count accurately sometimes, but I sign up for it from time to time.
- Pre-Show — Actually, there are two positions here, Pre-Show 1 and 2. Pre-Show 2 stands at the entrance to the Pre-Show room and hands out English language headsets to anyone who doesn't look Japanese. These headsets are a huge pain and getting them to work isn't always a simple task. Otherwise, Pre-Show 2 just stands there and zones out. (Er, I mean, she smiles and greets all the tourists. *cough*) Pre-Show 1 stands at the head of the room where the doors to the Main Show open (into the crowd, so you have to make sure people are out of the way) and makes announcements at a certain time regarding not using flash photography and eating and smoking and such. (フラッシュ撮影は禁止されておりますので、ご遠慮下さい。など。) They also then open the doors with a switch on Main Show's cue and help seat people in the Main Show. I don't like either Pre-Show position much at all. It's boring in there.
- Main Show — You get to push the button to start the show. Then you get to watch the 10:15 show over and over and over and over and over. We all know it well enough to recite it. You give a 5 minute warning over the headset at the part where the American Indians show up on the screen, and you give a 1 minute warning when Ben Franklin is about to electrocute the crowd. (Don't worry, he doesn't succeed.) You then give Post-Show a warning before you open the doors and the herd of 300 people leave into the Post-Show. At this point you try to collect English headsets if there are any. Then you tell Pre-Show you're clear, and the cycle starts again. You do about 3 minutes of real work, seating people and telling them to squish together please. (Sometimes you get to shout at them. We have a squishy Nerf bat which some guides have brandished at stubborn guests who refuse to squish to the far end.) Seating wheelchairs is part of the job too as there are about 3 or 4 per show on average, and their groups don't usually see where they're supposed to go.
- Post-Show — Ah, Post-Show, my home. Non-USP Staff would describe it as the Exhibit Gallery. I sign up for this position most days; the other teams have noticed my name in that slot on the board so often when they come in to replace us that they've asked why my name isn't just written in with permanent marker. You get to tell people about the Mars Rover, the Wright Glider, and the Cassini-Huygens stuff. (It's up to you to decide which you want to focus on. Most people don't care anyway as they're too busy hurrying through to their next pavilion, which I think is a shame since the Post-Show is the best part of the pavilion!) You also have to ride the blasted Segway, which I used to like a lot, but which I am sick of now because everyone loves that and wants to know all about it, to the extent that they don't care at all about my Mars shpiel. But if you can dump the Segway and hide it in a corner, then you can get some pretty intersting conversations going with people, telling them stuff about space exploration and answering their questions. I do love it there!
- Almanac — At the end of the Post-Show, just before the exit, there is a big closet where we keep the extra souvenir pamphlets, of which we have way too many. Almanac's job is to pass these out to as many people as possible, and keep the stacks of them stocked. Kind of dull, but at least it's in the Post-Show area so Almanac can chat with Post-Show between shows. The Almanac guide also gives out official boxes of White House M 'n' M's to kids. (They're red, white, and blue and have the seal of the President on them. We suspect the White House interns eat as many of them as we do.)
- Ops — This is the person who oversees the guide team. Anyone on the guide team can sign up for this position, just like any other, but some people gravitate to it more than others. I myself love doing Ops and sign up for it when I want a break from Post-Show. Ops shuffles people between the positions (we only usually stay in one position for an hour or two tops, though they know they can put me in Post Show for 4 of a 6 hour shift) and keeps track of where everyone is. Ops makes sure people get their breaks, fills water bottles, holds positions for bathroom breaks, and does other random chores. There used to be a VIP guide position too, but we don't usually have one because a member of our team had to go home to the States for surgery, so our team is down a person. So usually Ops takes care of VIPs if there are any. Here's a clip from my journal toward the end of the Expo talking about doing Ops: (9/2/05)
I love doing Ops on most days, but yesterday had to be the worst Ops day ever. At one point I was talking on the VIP phone on one ear, had the regular guide radio headset with calls for Ops ringing in my other ear, and had Japanese guests up in my face demanding to know where the moon rock was. I didn't have a chance to go buy food for myself let alone time to eat anything after buying it.
Turn down the craziness described here, though, and I think you can imagine how it's can be a lot of fun!
So those are all our positions. Now you have a little insight into the operations of the US Pavilion and the daily lives of its guides.