Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I Want That Job - Or Do I?

On a trip to Nashville, TN, I went with my sister, Kari, to her workplace. She works as a tour guide at The Hermitage, homestead of Andrew Jackson, the 7th U.S. President. During the busiest season, 400 to 1,200 people per day visit this historical landmark. I was intrigued by her job and wished I had one like it.

How fun it must be to bring stories of history to life, I thought.

School kids come to get an experience of U.S. history they can’t get from reading a textbook. Families create vacation memories while gaining a new understanding of early America. And people from all over the world visit on the recommendation of friends and family who have shared their ventures.

I thought to myself, this is the job I want. 

Unlike the confines of a grey cubicle, a day’s work wouldn’t get boring. Meeting new people each day, from so many different places, must be an interesting and even exciting way to make a living. Where meetings, office politics and meaningless projects sucked the life out of my soul, I saw this occupation as freedom from all that.

“I had 110 guests take the wagon ride yesterday,” said Mitzi, Kari’s colleague, while waiting to start the first tour of the day. One by one, patrons surrendered their tickets and climbed into the wagon.

“There’s 8 of us, we’re part of ‘The Vacation Club’. We came down here from Michigan,” said one man from the group of retired folks with matching maroon shirts. A mom and her two young kids sat near the front, the best spot to hear the narration and a man carrying a camera around his neck with a lens to rival the paparazzi took the last seat.

As Mitzi began the tour, “The Vacation Club” kept talking. Mitzi spoke louder and tried to engage them in the story she was telling but the group kept chatting with little consideration for the other guests trying to pay attention.

It was then that I saw how working as a tour guide might not be the job for me. If I had to give the same spiel 8 times a day, everyday, I’m pretty sure it would get boring.  Although meeting a variety of people would be fascinating, for an introvert like me, expending that much energy interacting with the public everyday would leave me drained and just as exhausted as my days in a corporate cube. It looked glamorous from a distance but up close, it was still work.

So, at the end of my own visit to The Hermitage, it’s clear, I’m a better tourist than I would as a tour guide.

Is there a job you thought you wanted until you took a closer look?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

In Search of Coffee: Nashville

I’m afraid I’ve become an addict but I don’t think I’m the only one.

Without coffee I crash by 1pm and only a nap will get me through the day. Not to mention the raging headache that reminds me when I haven’t tended to my caffeine fix.

When it comes to coffee, I wouldn’t say I’m a snob but I do have certain tastes that I prefer. Although I like Starbucks’ sugar-laden drinks, the price keeps me away and when it comes to their straight up coffee, I find it too strong. If we’re talking about franchise coffee, I will choose Dunkin’ Donuts over Starbucks any day.

That said, it’s more satisfying when I can forgo the corporate chain altogether and, in Goldilocks fashion,  find a cup of java that’s not too weak, not too bitter, but just right. 

I found the following local java huts on a recent trip to Nashville, TN. I might add that my favorite was Bongo Java East.

CREMA – Hermitage Ave. (downtown Nash)
·         Price: Average – med. hot coffee $1.80 w/ tax.
·         Taste: Strong flavor but not bitter. I needed an extra Splenda.
·         Service: As you would expect – got the job done, nothing spectacular.
·         Atmosphere: Cozy, warm décor – no free tables on a Sat. am. – free wifi. 
·         Parking: There is a small parking lot on the side however, on a Saturday morning, it’s not enough.

Overall: Thumbs Up


PORTLAND BREW – Eastland Ave. (East Nash)
·         Price: More than Average – med. iced coffee $2.00+
·         Taste: Strong and bitter – couldn’t doctor it up enough to finish it
·         Service: Not helpful – bad customer service
·         Atmosphere: Open space including a loft but has a cold feel to it – free wifi
·         Parking: On the street

Overall: Thumbs Down


FROTHY MONKEY – 12th Ave. South
·         Price: More than Average – med iced coffee $2.59
·         Taste: Great full flavor – but not bitter
·         Service: Friendly and fast
·         Atmosphere: Lots of space including booths, tables and couches – free wifi
·         Parking: Street parking in front and a small lot behind the building

Overall: Thumbs Up


UGLY MUGS – Eastland Ave. (East Nash)
·         Price: Average – 16 oz. hot coffee $1.64 w/ tax
·         Taste: Strong and bitter
·         Service: Very friendly and helpful
·         Atmosphere: Large open space – kids play area – free wifi
·         Parking: Plenty of parking in lot

Overall: Thumbs to the side


BONGO JAVA EAST – South 11th St. (East Nash)
·         Price: Less than Average – 20 oz iced coffee $1.86 w/ tax
·         Taste: Great flavor – the perfect blend
·         Service: Friendly, fast and engaging
·         Atmosphere: Café setting – good amount of seating - free wifi
·         Parking: Street and small parking lot

Overall: Thumbs Up  

Where have you found good coffee while traveling?