Oh my goodness. I have had 2 tours in the past week who are the reason I can continue to do my job without wanting to cry. That's 2 out of many, but it's enough to keep me going. The first was a group of National Junior Honor Society girls from a creative arts school in Tennessee. They kept calling me "ma'am," and one girl told me she could hear my (non-existent) "Canadian accent, ma'am." We geeked out about musical theatre and they asked me oh so many questions. The kind of goofy questions middle schoolers ask that no one would know, but they were just curious.
This evening, I had a group of 16. Among them was the most adorable elderly couple from Chicago in my group. After the husband came back from the Vietnam Memorial (I was standing watch over the bikes, as I always do), he said to me, "You know, you're such a wonderful tour guide." They tipped me very well at the end, but the real joy was hearing them tell me that. They also asked me to come to the Chicago location of Bike and Roll and give tours.
Also in the group were two families from Montreal. I was trying to suppress my joy at having Canadians on the tour because I wasn't sure how sensitive they were about that whole Quebec-not-Canada thing, but I did speak some French with them. The kids were ADORABLE. The little girl was 4 and kept coming up and telling me things in French, only some of which I could understand (her telling me she needed to go to the bathroom needed no translation). Later, she looked up at me and told me she wanted to be next to me as I was talking to the whole group.
My favorite part was when she saluted me and told me she was "comme un soldat!" ("like a soldier," which made sense, give that we had just seen the Korean War Memorial). At the end of the tour (at the Jefferson Memorial), she was telling me about her "petit velo rouge" (little red bike) at home and how she wanted to go sit in her "chateau" (the Burley trailer attached to her dad's bike). And I had a conversation with a 4-year-old in French. Given that young'uns are just expecting that you, too, speak their language, I felt positively fluent. I told her mom this very excitedly, and she laughed really hard (in the nice way).
I've had a couple of real zingers of tour groups in the past couple of weeks--like the group from St. Louis who looked positively bored the entire time, no matter how goofy I was (the chaperone later told the girl who does all our administrative work that "The kids didn't enjoy the tour, anyway")--and have been having a couple of really terrible days for no particular reason at all. So to be able to connect with these groups like that reminded me that I'm in the right place, doing the right thing--at least for now.