The last two days, I’ve been working the two visitors centers; yesterday at Gateway, and today at Pea Island. Gateway hasn’t been open long enough for me to figure out what the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) are yet, but at Pea Island it’s a cinch to figure out what they are.
1. Where is the rest room?
2. How far is it to the Cape Hatteras Light House?
3. Where is the nearest gas station?
4. Am I lost??
The first two top the list each and every day that I work there. There are signs directing people to the rest room, but apparently nobody reads them. The last time I heard that question today, it turned out to be quite an interesting experience, but I’ll get to that later.
The chore I like least about opening the Pea Island VC is filling the bird feeders. That may seem surprising, but it is like running a gauntlet. The geese readily move out of the way, and the cowbirds and grackles take flight, but the minute you step on those boards a huge horde of mosquitoes is somehow alerted to your presence. It’s awful! Even though the temps were in the upper 80’s this morning, I wore heavy jeans to work just so my legs wouldn’t be ravaged. It’s like playing “minute to win it”, and losing every time.
This is the goose-stepping Canadian general that decides who gets to eat and who doesn’t.
Many of the refuges that I’ve worked at sell the National Wildlife Refuge Passport Book, and have stamps for you to commemorate your visit. Remember the stamp Diana and I designed for Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR? Well today I had a man (I won’t call him a gentleman) purchase one of the passport books. I watched as he went over to put the stamp on the Pea Island page. We have stamps for both Pea Island and Alligator River. You can see that he tried both of them out on the visitors registration book, and then stamped his book and groaned. That’s when about a dozen other people in the VC required my attention with questions and purchases, and I had to turn away.
While I was busy, he took the wrapper off of a second book, stamped it, and quickly went out the door. What he left behind was the book he purchased with the Alligator River stamp on the Pea Island page. So now we have an unwrapped book with one incorrect stamp in it which means we can’t sell it. Would it have been so awful to just put the correct stamp next to it? What a cad! I hope he was swarmed by a gazillion mosquitoes as he left the scene of the crime.
Shortly before closing time, a little boy came in to ask our most popular question. I told him the bathrooms were on the other side of the parking lot. About ten minutes later, he returned to ask if I had a telephone. He then shakily told me that when he came out of the bathroom his parents were gone, and had left him. Turns out he was eight years old. I asked him to tell me his parents’ phone number, and he recited it for me. Problem was, he didn’t know the area code. When I asked him what it was, he told me his zip code.
Eventually, I was able to find out that there were three cars in his party traveling together, and he had been riding with his uncle. All the cars had left, and I assume they each thought he was in a different car. I ended up calling the NC Highway Patrol, and they said they would send out an officer. In the meantime, I told him he should stay in the VC, and that he would be all right. He was really scared, but did the right thing by coming inside for help.
As I waited on some customers, a father of three young children began talking to the boy, and was able to get the full phone number from him. He used his cell to call the mother since he noticed that I had great difficulty talking to the police dispatcher since the land line in the VC has the worst reception of any phone I’ve ever used in my life. Longer story a little shorter is that the parents did arrive to pick up the boy. The father was furious, and the mother was just glad to see him. This was the beginning of their vacation, and they had not yet realized that the boy was missing. I called the police to let them know, and finally began to close up a half hour late. I was just happy that everything turned out all right.
I’ll leave you tonight with a glimpse of last night’s sunset. Not spectacular, but not too shabby either.
Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later, Judy