|Acadia National Park|
Most guides know what they’re talking about but a few are either ignorant or big fans of fiction.
When we arrived at Acadia National Park in Maine, the tour guide seemed great but the weather was lousy. It was so foggy that we missed the beauty of the foliage and the Atlantic and decided to repeat the tour in the afternoon.
By then everything had changed—the height of the mountains, the facts of the sea, the trees, even the establishment of the park itself. The afternoon guide wove a tale that didn’t pretend to match the morning’s presentation. We looked at each other. Someone was lying. Should we tell him? But we didn’t stick around to discover the truth. The fog had remained, curtaining the park, and we ditched the fun and games.
In Fredericksburg, Virginia we visited the James Monroe Museum, one of our founding fathers and fifth president of the United States. We asked if Monroe had a home in the state, like Jefferson and Madison. “No, it’s a shame," the guide said, "but since Monroe spent so many years in France, he never had time to settle down."
Too bad, we thought when a couple days later we headed to Charlottesville to see Jefferson’s magnificent home, Monticello. As we approached the city, we saw signs for Monroe’s home, Ash Lawn-Highland.
“Monroe had a house?” I asked the guide at the visitors’ center.
He smiled condescendingly and informed me, as if I were an imbecile, that Monroe was a president too.
I told him about the woman in the Fredericksburg museum.
“Thanks for telling me,” he said, rolling his eyes.
Yeah, dumb, I wanted to say, but that was nothing until we got to Alaska. Our Princess cruise highly recommended a nature walk in Juneau, and we signed up with a guide I’ll call Madeline.
“What’s this small yellow flower?” a woman asked. Madeline shrugged. She never noticed it before.
“How about those red stems over there?” a man pointed out. She checked her book and couldn’t find them.
After an endless morning of staring at unidentifiable foliage, we finally came to a lake with a picnic table in front. “Wonder what this spot’s called?” a man asked me.
“If it’s got a name, Madeline doesn’t know it.” We both giggled as we saw her coming through the trees and heading into the clearing.
“What’s this place called?” the guy asked her.
“If it’s got a name, I don’t know it,” she said, and I rapidly marched forward, trying to control myself, trying to keep my mouth from screaming out loud.
Most tourists don’t remember the information, so guides can get away with almost anything that springs from their heads, like oil gushing from a line of leaking wells. So laugh along with the leaders. They're laughing anyway—and betting you think they got it right.