I am lucky enough to have a high fun factor included in my current job. It’s actually part of my job description. The young people I work with may not always have many opportunities for fun so my remit is to ensure they get a break from their responsibilities and enjoy some time out. This is why my car is permanently rammed full of board games, tennis racquets, balls, arts and crafts supplies, cookery equipment and other sundry items. Glitter and glue sticks collect in every crevice while felt tip pens cascade from the glove box should you be foolish enough to open it.
The provision of fun times is also why I could be found, on one of the hottest, stickiest days of the year, driving a fully-loaded sixteen-seater minibus (with no air conditioning that I could discern) to a visitor attraction that had very kindly offered us free admission.
The morning had started early for me, collecting the bus from our local community transport office and familiarising myself with its controls. This entailed stalling it at every junction until I got used to the handbrake being so low down on the right hand side, inconveniently wedged between the driver’s seat and the door, and the gear stick being so high up on the dashboard. I’m unsure who, other than an orangutan, could drive that bus comfortably.
Nevertheless I reached the pick-up point bang on time to collect my young passengers. I offered up a quick thank you to the gods of technology for the gift of texts, meaning I’d been able to remind everyone the night before to turn up on the right day, at the right time, with the right footwear and yes, they would need a packed lunch. For once I only had one family in the wrong car park on the wrong side of town, which is pretty good going for us, and fortunately we were headed in that direction anyway.
The journey itself went smoothly enough (apart from junctions, where there was still a chance of the occasional stall) and soon we were parked up and disembarking at our destination. This was not quite as straightforward as it sounds as despite assurances from the group that they had everything they needed with them we still had to turn back several times as individuals suddenly remembered they’d left their bag/drink/money on the bus.
“Hello,” I greeted the young girl in the ticket office once we made it that far, “we’re the group you’re expecting,” and I went on to give my name and our booking details.
“Ah yes,” she replied “and how are you paying today?”
“We’re not paying, we’ve got free admission.”
The girl looked at the booking form. “It says 2 adults free,” she said, “but you’ll have to pay for the children.”
“No,” I said, “it’s all been arranged. Look, your form says 13 kids, 2 adults, free, that means all of us.”
“No, it just says the 2 adults are free.”
A short debate then ensued, while the queue of other visitors waiting to get in lengthened steadily behind us and my group entertained themselves with the leaflet display.
“It’s all in the email,” I explained for the tenth time, “which I haven’t printed out and brought with me but I can show you now if you give me the wifi password.”
“I’ll have to phone the manager.”
“OK, but in the meantime couldn’t you just let us in and we’ll be out of the way? You’ve got all our contact details on the form, you can invoice us if we do have to pay and just waive it if it turns out we don’t.”
“Well I’m phoning the manager now so if you could all just wait here…”
This was particularly exasperating for me, given my background in visitor services and customer care. In addition I was very hot, had driven miles in an uncooperative bus, and the group were beginning to exhaust the entertainment value of the leaflet display. It was only a matter of time before the serious whingeing began and I really didn’t think the kids should have to hear me.
Thankfully we didn’t have to wait much longer.
“I’m so sorry, yes you are all free. Would you like a leaflet?”
The most uncannily apt illustration I could find – thanks, South Park!