Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Ticketing Counter in January

            Today was my crash course in running the aquarium’s ticketing program. It will be a minor miracle if I can make it through the weekend without running into major problems doing basic ticketing operations – things like making change and taking down telephone reservations. I won’t even say how long I had been working at the aquarium before I could consistently remember what the admission price was. I mean, I never paid to get in, and neither did anyone I knew. A lot of folks who actually live here in Seward either work here, or are a member - or are related to someone who works here or is a member. That helps to explain why we have very few guests in the winter who actually pay admission.   

            This time of year, you can easily divide the people who come here into a few basic categories. The military people have the best hair, and the commercial fishermen have the most hair. The lost tourists walk around wearing enough clothing that you wonder if they had to pay an excess-baggage fee to get it all up here. And the native and resident Alaskans are strolling around town in Carharts and a flannel shirt, because right now Seward is 20 to 30 degrees warmer than most of the interior of the state. (Though that’s not saying a lot. It’s five above zero at the moment.)

            And yes, we do get the odd tourist here in the winter. Most of these poor souls seem to have been duped by a close relative into visiting during the off-season. (‘Here’s that great hiking trail I was telling you about. We could probably manage the first mile in snowshoes, at least until it crosses the avalanche chute… And there’s the bay where I saw those breaching humpback whales.   Of course, the whales will all be in Hawaii until May… But whatever we do, we’ll need to bring the headlamps because it’ll be dark by 3pm. Or maybe we could visit the aquarium. They have heat, and indoor plumbing!)

            We also get people who have come to Alaska (usually Anchorage), for business, and are visiting Seward as part of an earnest attempt to see something of ‘real’ Alaska other than ice fog and the stuffed polar bears in the airport lobby. To come up here in January, you have to think that these folks did something to piss off whoever is in charge of making the office travel arrangements.

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