Why is it when I really want some more business, there are no tourists to be found and when I really, really wish everyone would go away and leave me alone, tourists from near and far suddenly start burning up my cell phone minutes? Convenient timing is never an option when you're self-employed, is it? Let me back up. It all began, I'm pretty sure, on May 29th. I had a couple of people for a ghost tour and began to notice partway through I was having a little trouble speaking. As in, I had slight difficulty getting air to make noise as it exited my mouth. Whatever. I shrugged it off. The next day, I had one tour in the morning, then two tours in a row later on. The later tours were both with the same ladies- a history tour first, then a ghost tour. They had Living Social vouchers to redeem. Now, by the time I got around to meeting those two ladies late in the afternoon, I knew I was not entirely well. I felt perfectly fine, but my throat had become increasingly sore and my voice distressingly insubstantial. By the time I got home that night, I was swallowing razor blades and could barely even drink anything. I forswore speech in the hope all would be well the next morning. No small talk with the cats, no blathering to myself like a lunatic. Complete nun-like silence.
The pain had dissipated by morning, but I still kept my mouth shut because I had a large tour scheduled for that evening and was doing my best to save my voice. This was no ordinary tour: my friend Christa and I had been planning it for a while. Christa is the webmistress for the local branch of this group I hang with called No Kidding. It's a social group for people who don't have kids. Anyway, she had asked me months beforehand if I would like to conduct a ghost tour for No Kidding and I thought it would be fun. I did a history tour with much of the local gang last year. Since I have a policy of not making repeat customers pay when they bring new people, I knew that would complicate things this time around. How could I remember who had done it before and who hadn't? And most of the group was bound to be repeats anyway. So, I had the brilliant idea to do the tour for free, but in exchange for tips and, most importantly, online reviews. Christa sent the word out via Evite, but that got only a tepid response, so I expanded the circle and created an invitation on Facebook as well. I think I sent it to around 80 people. I knew, of course, only perhaps 30 would respond at all, maybe 18 would plan to come, and at least a few of those would flake out. So, I was not worried at all about having too large a crowd. There you have my plan for Friday, May 31st: meet group of friends and acquaintances at 8pm in Johnson Square, deliver 90-minute ghost tour, rake in tips, beg for internet reviews. I knew a bunch of people were coming, I knew some of them were bringing friends and had kind of planned their night around it; it was important to me not to pull the plug on the whole thing since rescheduling and getting everyone to commit again would be impossible.
My mom called late Friday morning and I answered my phone. Imagine my horror, my utter dismay, when I found I could not speak! I could barely make any noise at all! Poor Mom on the other end of the line said, "Are you there? I can't hear you" a couple of times before I was able to make her understand me. It doesn't help that my cell phone typically gets poor reception inside my apartment, so she probably thought it was a technical malfunction at first. It wasn't until she actually said, "Oh, you have laryngitis" that I thought, "Oh God, I do have laryngitis!" Noooooooooooo! I earn my living talking to people! How could this have happened? I've had my voice get a little tired and my throat a get little sore after putting in a long day, but never anything this catastrophic! And just when I had tours on my book through the weekend!
I put a notice on Facebook about my predicament, but let everyone know we would go ahead as planned. 8pm rolled around and I was all set in Johnson Square. I ended up with a nicely sized group of 17 people. By the time we began, I was able to make an unattractive squawking noise and form it into word sounds. I told everyone they had to stand real close and listen real hard. If it had to be that way, I'm glad it was with people I knew and who would be sympathetic.We had a good time, but I was glad when it was over. At least my ploy worked. I did well on tips and racked up a few new reviews on TripAdvisor and on my Google listing. Kyle at the Small Business Development Center tells me Google likes to show you off in the search results more if you've got reviews with them. Sure thing, Google. Whatever it takes. Some generous souls even added reviews to my listing on Yelp.
I was supposed to do another ghost tour at 10, but had broken down and asked those people if we could move it to the same time the following night. They kindly agreed, which was such a relief to me. (As it turned out, I still wasn't in very good shape the next night, but oh well.) I almost never ask people to reschedule or cancel a tour. I think the only time I ever cancelled on people was a few years ago when I became very sick for no apparent reason and rolled around in pain all night. So, rest assured, if I ever call you up and cancel or ask to move your appointment, it's only because I have been rendered physically incapable of providing the tour you want.
After that Friday, I began to feel the cold (I guess it was a cold) the laryngitis had heralded. And of course it knocked me flat right when I had some steady business. There was so much phlegm in so many wrong places! It made me cough hard enough to hurt myself and the cough kept me up at night and made me so tired. I was able to work, but wasn't good for much else once I got home. The cold wasn't debilitating enough to justify staying in bed, but just severe enough to afflict me with low-grade misery whenever I was conscious. It went on for weeks. I'm not sure I've ever had an illness that lingered so badly. I'm still coping with the last remnants of that hellacious post-nasal drip even as I write this. I'm not sure that was an ordinary cold at all. I don't know what that was. I'm glad I'm (mostly) over it. Naturally, now that I'm not hacking like a 19th century consumptive, there are almost no appointments on my book.