Initially, she wanted us to do a team building exercise. We are a small staff of five, confined to even smaller spaces and a few of us weren’t getting along very well - actually my boss’s concerns about my “moodiness” and complaints of having to do actual work, may have something to do with that. Our boss, let’s call her Megan for the sake of job security, felt it best that we work together on some sort of project to improve relations. I wanted to go to the movies but she had other ideas.
Her original plan was for us to do a white water boat excursion where we would work together to paddle a raft up the river. And then afterwards we would hold hands and sing an acapella version of Kumbaya by the camp fire. Ok, that part I made up but she did think paddle boating would be fun. We vetoed that instantly. Actually, I was the lead opposition to this idea and quickly devised a plan to get my other coworkers to co-sign. I filled their minds with horrible thoughts and images of the boat hitting a rock, flipping over and us drowning to our deaths. Better yet, the boat hitting a rock, flipping over and us ladies getting our hair wet. It was the hair trick that worked.
All the clans of Gbahama gathers in the center of the village, anticipating the wisdom of the great Jaiama-Bongor Chiefdom
Chief: Soooo, I’ve notice a lot of moodiness and complaining in Gbahama [pause to point to my great-ancestors] – mainly from Charing-ma and Charing-pa about why they have to work all day. To restore order to this great village, I am requiring a mandatory clan building exercise.
A collective groan could be heard from the clans. Many of the clans whisper plans of retaliation against Charing-ma and Charing-pa after the meeting.
Chief: Oh, come on clans. This is will be fun. [Reaches into his back pocket, pulls out a small booklet and holds it up to the villagers] I’ve even got this great excursion brochure from those sickly-looking albino men that hang out by the beach about a free boat trip to this new land called America…
Besides, we were planning our outing for the dead of summer, why would I want to be out on a stupid boat, in the blazing sun, doing extreme exercise? I mean, am I getting paid for this? Ok, technically I would have been getting paid for the day regardless, but funk that river boat trip.
After two months of negotiating, delays and weaning Megan away from various boat trips ideas, including the now-infamous Duck Boat , we finally dropped the team building plan and opted for a Staff Fun Day – Yeah? Again, I proposed that we to go to the movies – at least if I was being forced to socialize with my coworkers, I might as well do it in the dark (wait, that didn’t come out right) but Megan said no. Instead she wanted us to do a Mural Art Tour – Yeah?
Ok, for those, who have no idea what I’m talking about: a Mural is a piece of artwork painted directly onto the wall. A Mural Art Tour is a ride around South Philly on a corny, festive colored street trolley with the most uncomfortable seats you have ever had the displeasure to sit your ass on. For two hours, you get the joy of having to hunch your legs up to your chest, in an effort to avoid hitting knees against the oddly place bar on the seat in front of you, while listening to Jean, our cute little old lady tour guide, tell riveting tales of the mural arts planning meetings and the cool shopping bag with a picture of a mural, she received after attending one of these meetings. Oh the excitement.
If that doesn’t sound unbearable enough, try having the screeching babbler mural snob, sitting in the seat behind you. She’s one of those types of tourists that likes to research every single fact, just to show the rest of us stupid tourists, who may be here just to look at some cool wall art, just how intellectual superior she/he is by challenging the poor little old tour guide on every single point. Maybe I could have paid her no mind, but her high-pitched voiced clawed at my eardrums like fingernails on a chalkboard. At one point, I thought my ears would start bleeding.
Screeching babbler mural snob: EEEEVA, EEEEVA, EEEEVA…oh, why won’t she answer MEEEEE?
Well genius, maybe it has something to do with her name being Jean - not Eva.
Screeching babbler mural snob proceeds to tell us about the difference between the murals in Paris and the murals in Philadelphia. Then she complains about the lack of depth in the free Mural booklets that were given out before the tour. But the finally straw happen when she blathers on and one in my ear about of all things; cheesesteaks.
“I know because I am originally from Philly and I tell EVERYBODY to go to Geno’s for a cheesesteak. They are hands down the best.”
Well, if you are a flaming bigot, who likes cheeseteaks but hates immigrants than this might be the spot for you. Besides, really authentic Philadelphians knows that the best steaks are NOWHERE near that intersection of Tourist Ave and Tourist Road. Good cheesesteaks are mostly made inside the corner steakhouse deep inside the 'hoods. Moreover, who has “the best” is probably one of the longest running debates happening in the city. Scholars have tried to write dissertation on the best cheesesteaks only to drop out of grad school from the sheer complexity of the issue. Politicians have lost elections by aligning themselves with the wrong steakhouse. I have even seen people lose an eye over their preferences for cheesesteaks.
Man 1 breaks bottle on barstool and waves the chards of jagged glass in front of him.
Man 1: “I told you Pagano’s has the best cheesesteak. They melt the cheese in BETWEEN the meat, that’s what makes it tastes good.”
He jabs the broken bottle at the Man 2.
Man 2 picks up a chair and uses it as a shield against the jabs with the broken bottle from Man 1.
Man 2: “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Everybody knows that it’s the meat/hoagie roll ratio at Max’s which makes it far superior than any other steakhouse in the city. Besides who puts Cheez Wiz on a steak anywa…Owww, my EEEYYYEEEE”
At that point, I was ready to turn around and shake the hell out of the woman. Pagano’s you fool, Pagano’s has the best steaks. However Megan eyed me suspiciously as if she knew what I was planning on doing. She already thinks I have an attitude problem, hence why we were on this stupid Team Building/Staff Fun Day outing in the first place. But I kept my eyes straight and counted daggers to the heart of screeching babbling mural snob woman in my head. I was not going to give Megan the satisfaction of killing this woman, just so that she can say, "I told me so." Oh no, I let that woman live. Shoot. I sure showed her.
Overall, once you get over the feeling of being a tourist in your own city, you will come to find that the tour itself isn’t all that bad. In fact, it’s pretty cool as I was able to view Philly in a new whole light. I actually got to see some beautiful pieces that normally I would have passed by without even a second thought. And yes, I did take pictures. Plus, after our outing, Megan treated us to a five –course lunch at Maggiano’s Little Italy – with plenty of take homes - so I was pleased. Plus it was a day off, couldn’t get any better than that.