Rain or Shine
I retired on January first, 2010 after 40 years with E.F. Hutton and Morgan Stanley. My company even had a Michael Gordon Day with over a hundred employees wearing buttons with my name and the number 40. After my retirement breakfast, I went home with my daughter and opened up the colorfully wrapped gift I was given. It was a paperweight with the skyline of San Francisco etched into it.
“What’s with the paperweights?” she asked. “They gave you one for 20, 25, 35 and now another one after 40 years?”
“We think someone high up in the firm owns a company that makes paperweights.”
* * *
In planning my retirement, I had stumbled upon OLLI which was exactly something I wanted to do. Being with interesting people my own age and taking stimulating classes in history, art, writing and politics with terrific professors was a perfect fit for me. And fun too. But I needed more than that. During my working years, I had made presentations to groups and I loved doing that. Sharing information that I believed in and receiving positive feedback were important to me.
Then I discovered San Francisco City Guides, a non-profit organization and a program of the San Francisco Public Library that had been leading historical walking tours since 1978. I inquired and was accepted into their next training class. I loved the training. It continued over several months and was very comprehensive and demanding. Upon graduation, I was assigned the Fort Mason to Aquatic Park tour. I put in many hours preparing and did practice tours alone and with friends until my Tour Coordinator said I was ready to face the public.
The night before my first walk I stayed up late reviewing my binder which was bursting with maps, photos and loads of historical information. The weather report for the next day was light rain. City Guides leads tours rain or shine. The tour started at Fort Mason’s northwest gate on the corner of Bay and Van Ness at 1 p.m.
Wearing a raincoat, a waterproof hat and carrying an umbrella, my three-ring binder and an over-the-shoulder bag, I waited for my walkers. And waited. The rain came down harder and then the wind came up. Where were my walkers? Guides always stay for at least fifteen minutes beyond the starting time for late arrivals. The wind and the rain were now coming in at a 45-degree angle. I noticed that my hands were staining from the blue ink that was running out of my binder. I hadn’t put plastic protectors over all the pages. And I was getting soaked. At 1:15 it was time to go home and dry out. As I was leaving, a short person approached me and asked if this was the tour.
“What tour did you have in mind?”
“The City Guides tour,” she said. I paused for a moment and told her this was the tour. I could only see part of her face because she was all bundled up with clothing that had logos from Patagonia, Any Mountain, REI, The North Face and Eddie Bauer. She looked prepared to make the final assault of Mount Everest. Then my cell phone rang and it was my friend Chuck who had just finished leading his City Guides Ferry Building Tour.
“Hey, how’s it going out there?”
“How’s it going? We’re drowning. That’s how it’s going.”
“Hang in there. I’ll drive over.”
My walker and I huddled under a small tree and waited for Chuck. He arrived in his blue Prius and both of us climbed in. I knew we could drive through most of Fort Mason’s streets. And that was the plan. However, every time I pointed out an interesting historical site, the windows would fog up and we couldn’t see a thing.
Plan number two. We drove over to Starbuck’s on Chestnut Street and had hot chocolate and scones as I paged through my dripping binder explaining as much as I could to her about Fort Mason’s fascinating history. She was from one of the Scandinavian countries and while her husband attended his conference, she was taking tours. She said the weather reminded her of home.
Chuck and I thought that we had pulled off the coolest tour. However, when I reported the results to our office, I was chided. Probably not a good idea to get into a car with a complete stranger. Maybe so, but we had a great time together.
About Michael Gordon
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