Article from the 5/20/2016 Catalina Islander

Since I became "Catalina's Official Greeter", March 10, 2014, when the Chamber Of Commerce assigned me to greet the cruise ships and cross channel carriers, I have answered 46,548 questions.  These are some of the more interesting/unusual questions/comments:
"Does the wind blow here?"
"Do you have girls on the Island?"
"How much for just 12 hours in a hotel?  (NO, these last two questions WERE NOT from the same person!).
"When the cruise ship gets to Catalina, does it stop to let you off?"
"Does the boat fare include tours and meals?"
 
Before I start my column, I want to share with you something that occurred a few days ago.  I am sure we have ALL had those days when it seemed as if life was dumping all that it can on you.  WELL, I HAD ONE OF THESE DAYS!!!  I won't explain why, but I experienced MORE than I thought I could handle.  I went to one of my favorite restaurants, "Mr. Ning's", just before closing, to find out that my dinner was paid for my an anonymous lady!  The next day I went back and found out that a man had prepaid my next 7 meals!!!  Whoever these special "friends" are, I don't think they knew how PERFECT their timing was nor how much it helped me to get over my depression.  I know the fact that we are a small town and pretty much know everyone has a lot to do with these "random acts of kindness" and I will be forever grateful to these two.  In my favorite movie, "IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE", George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) realizes how much he was loved and how having so many friends made him the wealthiest man in the world!  THAT IS HOW I FEEL RIGHT NOW!!!
 
"WELCOME TO CATALINA..."
 
As of today, I can closely "guesstimate" that I have said, "Welcome to Catalina!  I'm with the Chamber Of Commerce.  If you have any questions or needs, I will be happy to help you!" approximately 60,000 times!  Many often suggest that I make a recording and simply play it, BUT THAT WOULD KILL THE SINCERITY OF THE MESSAGE. 
 
I do this "Greeting" for specific reasons.  1) To make the visitors feel welcomed, 2) To answer their questions so that they will feel more comfortable in this unique environment, 3) To direct them to where they will get what they need as quickly and easily as possible, and 4) To save the stores and businesses from having to stop what they are doing to answer these questions.
 
A case in point occurred the first week I started "greeting" the cruise ships.  I think it was a "Celebrity" cruise ship that was supposed to be going to Santa Barbara, but at the last minute realized that they were dredging the harbor and so they had to chose another port.  Luckily for us, they chose Catalina!  I was told this move the night before they were going to be arriving around 7AM and I was also told that as they had never been here so the officers and cruise knew little, if anything, about this port and certainly had no maps on board.  When the Security Officers got off first, they told me that I was going to have my "work cut out for me" as the lateness of their decision to bypass Santa Barbara and the early disembarkation, caused them to give minimal warning about this alternate port.  I was, for the most part, the one that was going to have to break the news to them.  SO, with my biggest smile, a beautiful sign, and a hand full of maps, I made the most of this unusual situation and most of he passengers seemed even delighted to be on Catalina, instead of Santa Barbara (sorry, no negative inference in intended! I LOVE SANTA BARBARA!)
 
A young lady, probably in her 40's came up to me a bit flustered.  Her mother was ill on the ship and she had been sent ashore to pick up 6 assundry and completely unrelated items.  She asked me what the fastest way to find them, so I numbered them on her written list and then put the same numbers on store locations on the map.  She hurried away and I didn't think much more about it.  I subsequently had moved to the "Wrigley Stage", opposite "Leo's Drug Store", on Crescent Ave, in the middle of the main part of town, and had set up my sign there.  About three hours later, this lady, who I failed to recognize, came up to me with a BIG smile and a $20 bill.  She handed it to me and I asked her "Why"!  She reminded me who she was and the mission she had been on earlier that day.  She couldn't believe how EASY and convenient EVERYTHING was in town, once she knew EXACTLY where to go.  She said that she was able to get these items to her mother so quickly that she was able to do something that she described as the "high point of the cruise".  She was from Utah and had NEVER been to any ocean.  With my assistance, she had enough time left over, before the ship was to sail, to be able to pull her pant legs up and feel the ocean and sea bottom.  She started crying!  BOY, WHAT A GREAT JOB I HAVE!
 
Please, don't get me wrong. I am not so arrogant as to pretend that I have answered the most questions from visitors to Catalina Island.  Many of you readers would be shocked at how many you have answered over MANY years of living on the Island!   Nor am I the first to get paid for being a "Greeter".  "Duke" Fishman was called "Mr. Catalina" and I would NEVER even consider taking anything away from him.  I have been dubbed, "Catalina's Personal Google", and THAT I love!
 
We ALL need to be "Greeters" and "Ambassadors" to those coming to Catalina.  Don't kid yourself!  If it wasn't for these people choosing us over all of the other destinations around he world, we would NEVER be able to live on our "special"  Island.  Some of you wonder the value to your business when the cruise ships ONLY let their passengers off for the day.  The Chamber has determined that between 3-5% of those who visit Catalina on a cruise end up coming back to spend a weekend or longer!  Do the math!  Approximately 150 cruise ships a year, 3000 passengers per ship, with approximately 4% coming back.  WE ALL BENEFIT!!!
 
Here are a list of things that we ALL can do to make these visitors feel that they made the right choice in choosing Catalina:
 
1) Whenever you see someone wearing the "birthday ribbon" that they get on this "special day" from Catalina Express, acknowledge it and ask if they need any help in locating some of the businesses that participate in the program.  We REALLY want to become "Birthday Island"!
2) Looking at a map is pretty "universal", "I am LOST!"  Volunteer to help them.
3) If you find visitors in a golf cart stopped in the middle of the street, DON'T HONK at them, pull over, get out, and try to help them.  Let's be real; we are ALL guilty of stopping in the middle of the street at times to talk to our friends, even though WE KNOW BETTER!
4) The shirts we wear daily can either help or hinder our ability to promote Catalina!  Why, in "Heaven's Name", do we wear Hawaiian, Mexican, and/or Caribbean shirts!?!  They don't wear Catalina shirts in Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean!  WHY, maybe they know something we sometimes forget.  We are in competition for the vacation $ with the other destinations AROUND THE WORLD!  Our livelihood is at stake, so WHY help them out!?!  When you travel to the mainland, TRY to wear clothes showing off Catalina/Avalon.  You will be surprised how many times I have gotten into conversations with people in stores, medical facilities, etc. WHAT AN EASY WAY TO PROMOTE!!!
If you have some clothes you aren't too crazy about, but enjoy wearing them, go to "Island Threadz" and, with Catalina "touches", they will look like new!
5) When sitting at the boat terminals or even on the boats, if you see couples/families staring at brochures or rack cards, go up, introduce yourself, and tell them that you live on Catalina and would happy to answer any questions they might have.  THEY WILL LOVE YOU!
6) If you deal directly with the public, know the high points of Catalina's history, main locations around the Island, where the nearest restrooms are (second nearest in case they are cleaning them), what is playing at the movie every night (Jon Tusak gives a FREE organ concert, as part of admission to the movie, from 6:30-7:30, Friday-Monday!  Bet you DIDN'T know that!!!), when the free concerts are on the Wrigley Stage, where the "VISITOR INFORMATION CENTER"/"CHAMBER OF COMMERCE" (foot  of the Green Pier), etc.  I would be happy to work with your employees, if you want me to. 
LEAVE THE VISITORS FEELING THAT THEY HAVE MADE THE RIGHT DECISION IN PICKING CATALINA!
 
For those registered voters in Avalon who aren't working on June 7, you might want to consider being a California Primary pollworker. It pays $105.80 and is a very patriotic act. Call 562-462-2509.
If you have missed any of my other articles in this column, new and old ones are being added every wee.  You can read them on my blog, www.catalinaislandman.com
If you want to ask me questions or share with me Catalina related information, on FB, check out the "public group","Chuck Liddell".
If you want to contact me directly, you can email me,  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.