The countdown continues till the end of the season. We have 48 days left till Denali shuts down for the winter and all that is left is a cold, dark and quiet land. Denali will embrace winter’s brutal clutch as today’s clear skies and greenery turn to snow and ice. But for now, the sun shines in all its glory after a summer rain through parted clouds, warming the earth.

My job as a shuttle driver is coming along just fine. Not without its moments of interest of course. My eye is always keen to pick up new things. Check out this White-Spotted Sawyer Beetle that landed on my windshield.

 

As with any job, you begin to settle into a routine. Once the novelty and excitement of arriving in a new place wears off, the day-to-day grind of “work” finally sets in. Some days I work 6 hours. Other days, I work 16. I pick up folks from all across the country, all with different accents and stories of their own. Aside from driving all day, my job is to answer questions. Question, after question, after question… Some people though, love to ask questions I don’t know the answers to. But trying to seem all knowing, (as if I didn’t arrive just yesterday), I answer anyway. It starts out slow and I don’t even notice myself “bending the truth” a little to answer them. But over a few weeks, being caught up in the momentum of the day, I find myself blatantly lying to these people!

You will know what I mean if you’ve ever worked in customer service!

“Oh, that hotel has been there for 50 years.”I have no damn clue how long its been there…

“They have an excellent breakfast with oatmeal, cereal and fruit at that hotel.” How the hell should I know! I don’t work over there. Freaking google it!

“Yes your hotel DOES have a shuttle service, ma’am. It will be here shortly.” I’ve never heard of that hotel and I have no idea if  the shuttle comes here…

I catch myself answering questions, talking out loud, but in my head I’m saying “yeah, none of this is true. You should probably say you just don’t know but then you’ll look incompetent. No? Gonna keep on talking aren’t ya? That’s it Aaron, sell it with confidence! They’ll…never…know.”

The real tour guide motto is “Fake it till you make it.”

About the job itself, I work around 50 hours per week. I am paid time-and-a-half for overtime and I make tips too! I hadn’t expected that! To my surprise I am making good money and for 10 dollars per day, I get a room to myself and three meals per day. This is a pretty sweet deal for seasonal employment.

Here is one for you! I’m driving my shuttle bus around the other day, picking up passengers here and there. I start to notice the brakes were acting up. My curiosity peaked as I prepared for a turn and I had to put my foot to the floor with the pedal to get the bus to stop. “Ok. Something is definitely different here.” I drove for another 20 minutes and upon my return to our cabins, I put my foot to the brake and nothing happened. We just kept rolling at 60mph, coming up to the turn fast. Sh*t! I pumped the brakes as hard as I could, my leg muscles cramping from applying pressure to my fading brakes. I’m gonna miss the turn! I’m gonna miss the turn!! I put all my weight on the brake pedal, practically standing up in my seat when at the last second… we slowed and I made the turn in time. I let out a sigh of relief and I started breathing again.

I told our mechanic he might want to check it out. He jumped into the driver’s seat, put the shuttle in drive and it rolled forward, inching its way toward his personal vehicle. I watched as he franticly pumped the brakes to ill affect. Crap, not his truck!!! I took a deep breath as I prepared for the two to collide when He threw it in reverse and rolled backward. He shut engine off, looked at me and said, “you can’t f**kin’ drive this thing!”

After some investigation, it was decided the master cylinder went kaput. Well there’s your problem!

One of the big questions everyone (employees) has here is, “what are you doing in the off season?” So many have plane tickets to far off places in exotic lands. Peru, Indonesia, Australia… they all seem to have a plan. Me? I have nothing figured out. I didn’t even plan on coming to Alaska, it just sort of happened. That seems to be the recurring theme in my life though. Just pack up and go! I have no career aspirations or goals set in mind. My aim is to try new things and go new places, wherever that may lead. I have 6 weeks to come up with a plan for when this job comes to an end. Do I continue to travel? Do I go home to Missouri and look for work? Maybe I just fly to England to visit my mother! Who knows? Wherever I am going, I will get there the same way I always do… guided by intuition and following my heart.