Last week, for my brand new professional writer’s job, I was sent to Charlottesville for a work press trip. I’m doing a story on things to do in the city, restaurants to check out, and places to stay.
An employee from the Charlottesville Visitors Bureau set up the daily itinerary for the duration of my stay. She did a great job of creating a balanced mix of activities. Theater, wineries, apple picking, outdoorsy stuff, etc. But…it’s Charlottesville. Where three of the founding fathers resided at one point in their lives. So it’s hard to go there without attending a few historical tours.
Which, was fine, I like history as much as the next guy. I got tours of James Monroe’s plantation, James Madison’s retirement home, and of course Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.
I learned a lot about their family lives, their presidencies, their achievements…blah, blah, blah. But in between learning about the University of Virginia and the Declaration of Independence, I learned another valuable lesson.
There are a lot of different types of tour-goers.
The Question-Asker generally asks questions that really aren’t at all important. Sometimes the questions aren’t even relevant to the topic at hand. Often the Question-Askers just like to talk as much as possible to hear the sound of their own voice. They usually have a lot of deep-rooted unfulfilled attention-related needs, which are easily met on guided tours.
Pro: Sometimes they ask something that you’re too afraid to ask in fear of sounding stupid.
Con: They extend the tour by a minimum of 30 minutes.
The Know-It-All knows more about history than the average person, and sees no reason to keep this fact to themselves. This person is most commonly a retiree who spends much of their extensive free time reading nonfiction books and watching the History Channel. During a tour, the Know-It-All will frequently interject with an interesting fact about the current topic. Sometimes they’ll even finish the tour guide’s sentences.
Pro: You might actually learn something that you wouldn’t have learned otherwise.
Con: Your tour guide will probably be in a bad mood when they finish the tour.
The Wannabe-Know-It-All wishes they knew more about history than the average person, and sees no reason to keep this desire to themselves. In reality, they know a little bit more than most, but want to sound knowledgeable by stating facts or adding to the tour guide’s spiel.
Pro: You’re definitely not the most annoying one on the tour.
Con: This person is almost always wrong and your tour guide definitely be in a bad mood when they finish the tour.
The Side-Commenter has a lot of opinions, but doesn’t actually want to interrupt the tour. So they just keep their comments to themselves. Loudly. Tour Guide: “Dolly Madison had a son named Payne from a previous marriage. And he was a real, well, pain.” Side-Commenter: Hey-o! That’s a convenient coincidence! “Payne gambled away all of James Madison’s money” You gotta be kidding me! “Sold his library of books” Holy crap almighty, really!? “And then moved to Scotchtown, Virginia.” Scotch! Ha! Yum.
Pro: The tour guide usually is either far enough away to not hear the Side-Commenter, or is really good at ignoring them.
Con: JUST SHUT UP ALREADY.
The Bad Listener
The Bad Listener is…well, a bad listener. Often distracted by their own thoughts or something shiny, the Bad Listener tunes out a lot of the tour. However, they hear just enough of it to want to learn more. They reveal their bad listening skills by constantly asking the tour guide about something that was already covered. Example: “So, where did that huge buffalo skin covering the wall come from?” Entire rest of the tour: “Lewis and Clark.”
Pro: You might learn something you yourself tuned out or somehow missed.
Con: If the group also contains a Question-Asker, the tour will take at minimum an extra hour to finish.
The Really Bad Listener
The Really Bad Listener…Does. Not. Want. To. Be. On. This. Tour. You can identify the Really Bad Listener by the person with a consistently glazed-over look on their face. Or, more commonly, the person who hasn’t stopped using their phone since the tour started.
Pro: Unlike the Bad Listener, the Really Bad Listener usually doesn’t care enough to ask any questions during the tour.
Con: You’re probably going to be distracted by their selfies.
The Thorough Tourist
The Thorough Tourist wants to see every bit of the tour. Like the Know-It-All, the Thorough Tourist is usually a retiree with a whole bunch of empty time on their hands. This person generally doesn’t have anywhere else to be, and wants to make sure they see every piece of every bit of every room during the tour. That means furniture corners, picture frames, rug fringes, and wallpaper. Oh, the Thorough Tourist loves wallpaper.
Pro: Um, maybe we all need to slow down and enjoy the details in life once in awhile?
Con: No, actually we just need to get through this tour in a reasonable amount of time.
The Family…well, is pretty self-explanatory. Yes, yes, we all want to raise smart children exposed to culture and history and knowledge. The problem is, there’s a period in every child’s life when they’re too young to appreciate historical tours but too old to leave in the car. So the rest of the tour-goers have to deal with the bored, uninterested, is-this-over-yet children.
Pro: At least they’re not your kids.
Con: Yeah, but you can’t discipline them.
Solution: Just leave them in the car anyway.
But hey, friends! Don’t let that deter you! Charlottesville is great. It’s got mountains and restaurants and hiking and shopping and breweries and camping and orchards and theater and wine and bagels and music and history…