We got to know Thomas, our tour guide, quite well during the trip. A slightly chubby 61 year old Chinese man with a warm and welcoming smile, he was really nice and well informed about almost any question you could ask him, including things that had absolutely nothing to do with the tour at all. Any time there was anything of interest, he would use the bus PA to explain in detail, often in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English.
This was amazing to me, although he wasn’t completely perfect at it. He once answered our bohemian group’s question (we were the only ones who would ask them) about rocks by telling us that we were looking at “sentimental rocks.” We were pretty sure that was supposed to be sedimentary, but as he talked about this for 10 minutes, no one in our group had the heart to correct him. Plus, the idea of rocks pining for the excitement of the last ice age was a thought that I enjoyed.
On occasion he would say things that didn’t quite make sense, or just couldn’t be true, but his information almost always proved to be spot on. I suspect that he learned most of what he knew by reading the little placards they place throughout sightseeing areas. I read a few of them and realized that he had told us all the same thing a few minutes before.
Occasionally, I would go to the front and talk with him for a few minutes. When he wasn’t doing something else, he would often nap in the front row. As he napped, he’d hold the little PA microphone just under his chin and against his chest. He might have done that to keep people from trying to talk to him, as if he were just about to speak. But I suspect that it was more likely that the mic was like holding a security blanket or teddy bear, and that gave him comfort. At least that’s what his restful smile seemed to indicate.
He often talked about the Chinese people in Vancouver and their effects on the city and its real estate prices. He actually didn’t seem to like Chinese people all that much. He told me proudly early on that he was from Hong Kong. When I asked him if people from Hong Kong didn’t like to say they were Chinese, he scrunched his nose, frowned, and said, “No, we are from Hong Kong.”
He would also tell the Bohemians little pieces of inside information, like what gift shops were a massive waste of money, from time to time. And, he was less rigid about giving us mean looks if we were late to the bus. We were usually late to the bus. We were kind of the teacher’s pets.