Hello again Maple People,
Here at the waning of our fall foliage season I've had a chance to come up for air and think back on a few of the more interesting folks who recently visited our place. Since we specialize in bus tours, I've drawn out a couple of notable bus experiences:
Our run of warm, pleasant days had finally ended and I faced the first of a long list of buses on that one bitter cold morning. The massive vehicle crept into our upper drive, continued to our sign that says "coaches unload here", and stopped with the hiss of air brakes. I stood waiting for its door to open, a bit worried about folks' reaction to our unheated tour. Pulling the zipper of my winter jacket tighter, I entered the coach, climbed the short stairway, and approached the escort, the person who always holds the front passenger seat…"Burr", I said offering the middle-aged woman my hand. "Oh darlin', ah know it's cold…what's yer nayme sweetie pah?".
"Burr" I repeated with a shivering motion.
The lady, probably thinking by now that I was a little "slow", maintained her southern graciousness. This time, slower and a bit louder, she said "ah'm…chilled…rawht…t'the bone…too…but…what's…yer…nayme?".
"Burr…Burr Morse" I said, this time a bit more businesslike.
"Oh awh git it…theyah's two Burrs in the ayah this mornin', Burr and brrrrrrrrr.". She cackled hysterically at her own joke and when she repeated it over the PA system, everyone aboard erupted in laughter. I proceeded to take her group into our sugarhouse to tell them about the maple process. I use some "local color" in my tour which usually livens my audiences but these southern folks "took the cake"…one particular woman's laugh, reminiscent of an old brooder hen (plukCACK!), repeatedly triggered both an embarrassed looking husband and roaring sugarhouse laughter…there was no shortage of "warmth" with that group on that cold day!
The next day, I watched a bus carrying Celebration Tours enter from the north. I could see silhouettes of bonneted women and bearded men in the bus windows and primed myself for a challenging experience with our Amish visitors. The Amish, although polite to a tee, are always tough nuts to crack when it comes to humor. With that group, I feared my "local color" would fall flat. Much to my surprise, however, they responded with a hair trigger. There's nothing more unique than a sugarhouse full of Amish folks "splitin' their guts" with laughter and, "jah", a "gut" time was had by all that day!
Over the years, I've learned the most tricky tour of all is one that needs to be translated. One day a group came in and, although they were from England, they spoke in a language foreign to me. Their escort approached saying "Th'whole lot are 'diff', gov'nah…cahn't hear or say a bloody thing" . He introduced me to two "signers" who would stand on either side of me to sign my words. I began the tour, rather apprehensively, but quickly realized these deaf folks were full of enthusiasm and questions. And, yes, I tried a bit of humor which brought universal applause and bursting grins! In spirit, I've never had a louder group!
And there you have it folks, a "snapshot" of three audiences in our old maple sugarhouse. For me, the psychology of groups is an ongoing lesson but there's one thing I can always count on…where there's humanity there's a chance for laughter and laughter is the universal language.