Article from the 7/15/2016 Catalina Islander

Since I became "Catalina's Official Greeter", March 10, 2014, when the Chamber Of Commerce assigned me to greet the cruise ships/cross channel boats, I have answered 50,539 questions.  These are some of the resent interesting questions/comments:
"Does the 'Queen Mary' also go to Catalina?"
"Are there any yodeling classes on Catalina?"
When told that the price of a certain hotel was $175/night, a young lady said that her boyfriend wasn't worth more than $135/night.
"Is the Island on a beach?"
"Is the 'Tuna Club' only for people who eat tuna?"
 
MY APOLOGIES
Recently I found myself exhibiting a major melt down!  I usually get up at 5:30am, greet the boats from 7:15-11:15, do afternoon tours and then an evening tour.  I found that I was particularly "short" one particular week and I took it out on the wonderful people at the Post Office, "Mr. Ning's", and the shore excursion/tour people at the Mole. When I realize what a moron I was to act as I did, I went back and apologized personally, and when I told them that I was having one of "those days", I was reminded that they have them ALSO!  EVERYONE, PLEASE FORGIVE MY TEMPER!  We have a wonderful summer and year ahead of us and we have to WORK TOGETHER!
 
THIRSTY PLANTS
Like so many of us, I find myself spending a lot of time picking up trash that tourists and locals carelessly leave EVERYWHERE!  I used to simply toss all bottles and cups until I started realizing that many of them still contained precious liquid!  Now, before I toss them, I pour the contents of water, coffee, soft drinks, etc. on our thirty plants.  You would be surprised how much our greenery could benefit from this simple act.  EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS!
 
50,000 QUESTIONS AND ONWARD
"Are there lockers on the beach?" became the historic 50,000 question on Friday, July 8, 2016, 10:37am, at the Mole.  Strangely enough, this was the first time I had ever heard the question and was fully expecting to here where the golf carts could be rented, which is generally asked every other question (I am in the wrong business!).  The question came from Laguna Hills, California, attorney, Kris Rossfeld, 37, and was witnessed by his "central casting" type family, wife and stay at home mother, Jaime, also 37, and their adorable two daughters, Jordan, 8, and Julia, 4 (no wonder Mom wants to stay at home with them as much as she can!).  This eventful moment was shared with me by our supportive Mayor, Ann Marshall, and 9 other "well wishers" who practiced acting "nonchalant" (we wanted to seem as "normal" as possible when this monumental questions was asked).  When the moment occurred, Mayor Ann presented them with the city pins and two candy bars were also given to the girls, with their Mother's permission.  Understandable, lawyer Kris was more than skeptical, but soon realized that all of this hoopla was on the up and up.  Officials from the Chamber took pictures and gathered information on this winning family.  I am hopeful that when they return, and they promised they would (they were last here between 9-10 years ago), I am hoping that local businesses will provide them free boat fare, lodging, meals, tours, gifts, etc. and, with the permission of the Rossfeld family, we might document their activities as a way of chronically the stay of a typical family enjoying Catalina Island!
 
Now seems to be an appropriate time to share the history of this "greeting" position that I have the honor of sharing with many notable characters from the establishment of Avalon in 1887.  Carl Bailey, DJ from our local radio station KBIG, was very well respected greeter in the 50's-60's, but NO ONE who ever experienced "Duke" Fishman, the "greeter" of the steamships from the 1930's-60's, will ever think of ANYONE else.  I have often been told that I am "no 'Duke'" which can be taken anyway you might chose.  He was called "Mr. Catalina" and I have never been so presumptuous as to accept that title,  Last year a young Catalina marketing intern, Chris Puma (grandson of one of our more colorful councilmen from years ago, Paul Puma), honored me with the title of "Catalina's Personal 'Google'"!  THANKS, CHRIS, I LOVE IT!!!  There have been attempts to find ways to welcome the passengers coming in once the "Steamer Pier" (location of  "Bluewater Avalon") was removed in the late 1960's.  It was ackward, to say the least, to try to "greet" with the boats coming in at different locations at the Mole, often at the same time.  Only recently had an attempt to greet and answers questions at the same time, but was only done on a voluntary basis.  When I realized that we were going to start having two "Carnival Cruise Ships" coming in on different days, starting January, 2014, I KNEW that we had to show the ships that we took their arrivals seriously!  Questions have always arisen as to the attention paid to "Carnival" when many merchants were hoping to attract "higher end" shipping companies.  Guess who owns Cunard, Holland American, Princess, and at least another half dozen upscale cruise lines?  CARNIVAL!!!   I realized then that unless we were going to be able to assure these other ships coming, we had better "make Momma happy" and "Momma" is "Carnival"!  I made a proposal to the Chamber which, although accepted for March 10, 2014, the position could not be paid until the end of June/first of July, as that is the beginning of the Chamber's fiscal year and that is when they get their funding from the City of Avalon.  I was prepared to work for gratis for the next couple of months and hopefully convince the Chamber Board of the importance of this position.  MUCH TO MY SURPRISE, and although he will be very angry at me for sharing this, Bill Paige, owner of "Leo's Drug Store", stepped forward and paid my salary, through the Chamber, so that I wouldn't have to go without payment until funding was made available!!!  REMARKABLE MAN IN SO MANY WAYS!!!  His only advice to me was to "KEEP YOUR ANSWERS SHORT"!  I started on the Green Pier and then, about a year ago, the "tendering" of the ships' passengers was moved to the Mole. 
I am OFTEN asked "How do you know you have answered 50,000 questions?"  Easy, I keep track of them on daily work sheets broken up into 15 minute increments.  "WHY?"   Originally, I did this so that I could make a presentation to the Chamber and City Council to prove that this position was justified.  I broke it up into segments in case a decision was ever needed as to "when" the most active times for me to work.  Even though I had the job, I have still dutifully kept these records.  No, I don't use a clicker, but simply make a mark.  I certainly had NO INTENTION of EVER being able to answer 50,000 questions nor was I prepared for the type of questions that I was going to receive, "Is Catalina Island surrounded by water?"  "Where do I get my "Passport" stamped and my money exchanged into your money?"  "Is this a penal colony and do you go back to the mainland every night and come over early everyday to work here?", ETC.!  I found myself TAKEN BACK by these questions and comments and completely unprepared as to how to answer them in a less than sarcastic manner.  Believe me, early in the process, I was "taken to task" by the Chamber for how I was responding to some of these questions.  I think I have been able to adjust properly and honorably to this most important position -- the first contact with most visitors to the Island. My record is 266 in a four hour period!  More than one question a minute!  I have had two other occasions with 244 questions. Luckily, out of amusement on my part, I wrote all of these more unusual questions/comments down and have almost 600 of them. 
In addition to the 50.000 questions answered, here are a few more staging statistics (rough guesstimates).  I have greeted approximately 500,000/half million guests, repeated, "Welcome To Catalina, I am with the Chamber of Commerce, if you have any questions or needs, I will be more than happy to help you!" more than 75,000 times (Randy Brannock of DBOS, Descanso Beach Ocean Sports, is the one who suggested that I mention "Chamber Of Commerce" so people didn't think that I was trying to sell them something.  THANKS RANDY FOR HELPING ME GET MY NUMBERS UP SO HIGH!), and handed out nearly 25,000 maps (I NEVER counted giving out maps as a "question"),  I have given directions to visitors from almost every state and nation and have done my best, often having to converse in "sign language".  By the way, WHEN did "pointing" go out of style?  I do a lot of it and rarely do people look in the direction of my finger.  I have often had younger people look on their cell phones while I am pointing to a location and they confirmed that I was "right"!  REALLY!?!
When all is said and done, the 50,000 mark is only symbolic.  Most Islanders have been answering more questions than this long before I was born and still do, but don't get paid for it nor keep track of them.  I TAKE MY HAT OFF TO ALL OF YOU!  I simply want to make note of how important our visitors are to our economy and our very ability to live here as we sometimes forget. Why do I do this?  1) to make people feel welcomed, 2)  answer their questions so they feel more comfortable here, 3) help them with their needs so they can spend more time enjoying their time with us, and 4) keep local businesses from taking away from their obligations by having to stop and answer these questions.  I have had so many tell me that they KNEW when I was greeting as so many fewer visitors asked them questions.
So where do I go from here?  Hopefully in August I will no longer be writing this column, (you can always look back on my past articles on www.catalinaislandman.com), but will go back to my "Catalina Time Capsule", 100, 75, 50, 25, 10 years ago each month.  I need to as I want to learn and share more about the Island's remarkable history. I will continue to print some of the more interesting questions/comments as I receive them. I am then going to take 25 of these 'ONLY ON CATALINA" stories and use them as a basis for a book.  THIS IS A HORRIBLE TIME TO WRITE A BOOK, in the middle of the Summer season, but I will do the best I can.  I have been reminded by my wonderful friend, and part-time islander, Carolyn Renton, that I have been talking about this for the last three years!  I am going to end each of my 25 chapters with "remarkable trivia" about Catalina.  If you want to contact me directly,This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
HOPEFULLY I WILL DIE ANSWERING MY 1,000,000 question.  My dream, but the nightmare of whoever it is who asked the question!!!