Guiding: A Rabid Dog

Eric Lamar
4 min readJun 15, 2024

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So goes the spring season.

The end of the school year marks the end of “tour-mania”, at least for a few months.

Summer guiding tends to be with adults, often from abroad — I had a small group of Australians and Brits yesterday. Having been known to crack a joke or two, and usually with modest success, I fell flat with this crew. Though I keep my mouth shut about demon trump, they made it clear they despise the toxic buffoon so we had a few laughs after we found our common ground.

The other summer guiding option is taking around a wealthy family of four or so in sweltering heat as the sweat runs down one’s back while trying to be interesting for four hours. (I can be interesting for about four minutes.) The youngsters, named Ashley and Caden no doubt, are probably pouting as their five star accommodation lacks a pool. (But ah the spa.) Whisked around the sites in a black and shiny SUV, I narrate between stops while leaning around in the front seat, a sore neck being inevitable.

So, I’ll take students any day and leave the hoity-toity to the high-brow guides because the kids never disappoint.

Speaking of trump and students, on the day he was found guilty I was out with two other guides (and our three buses of students) when the verdict came in. I began to receive texts and calls: was it safe on the Mall? What was our plan? Parents from afar had begun to contact school officials fearing another J6 incident, forgetting that it was the very defendant trump who was responsible for that riot. Despite telling adults that it was perfectly safe we had to walk up the Mall as a group — 150 neon-shirted people defying the logic of avoiding presenting a large and visible target. There was, of course, no danger and the evening was splendid.

While school tours are mostly walking, we get from place to place on a bus and that can be quite interesting as bus drivers span the spectrum when it comes to knowledge of D.C. and their temperament. The subject of buses and their drivers takes up an out-sized portion of a guide’s life. Many drivers are professional, kind and flexible while others would give the most high-strung opera divas a run for their aria.

Drivers refuse to go to certain places, show up at the wrong spot, drop the group off and disappear, fail to answer calls or texts, go to Walmart in the middle of the tour, demand to keep multiple buses traveling together when each one has a guide — the list is endless.

I have adopted the “whatever” attitude, sometimes verbalized, because I no longer take extraordinary measures in such situations. A simple shrug of the shoulders achieves the same (eventual) result. They’ll find us or we will find them and it’s all in a day’s work.

The students have been superb — eighth-graders mostly with a smattering of seniors and the much beloved fifth-graders. One fifth-grader came here and rode an escalator for the first time. (His town has a population of 768.)

Another group of fifth-graders, this time from Brooklyn, were whip-smart and accompanied by superb teachers. What fifth-grader can recite FDR’s most famous words from memory? He was on the trip and I kicked him a fiver for his smarts.

And one teacher had an exhortation which I will surely steal. “It’s not a beauty pageant,” she would exclaim, urging them to hurry up.

During one of the heat spells and on an all day “let’s do everything” eight-mile slog, a student with a decided edge sidled up to me in front of the White House and said, “Just put me down like a rabid dog.”

He was speaking for us both.

Cheers.

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