Sunday, August 20, 2017

Too Darn Hot

In tour guide school, they cautioned us to be careful giving walking tours in the heat of summer. Sunscreen. Plenty of water. A hat or a parasol to shield from the sun. Keep the guests in shade as much as you can.

We were told to watch our guests for signs of heat exhaustion. To place a cool wet-nap on the back of their neck to cool someone down. To duck inside air-conditioned places if possible.

During breakfast, Friday morning, WWNO announced the heat index would be 109 that day. I had a tour on Friday morning, and I kept all this in mind. I gave my opening speech inside the cool courtyard instead of out in Jackson Square. I cut short my stop at the Washington Artillery because there was no shade. I kept my six guests beneath the galleries and balconies on the street. I had a big bottle of water and carried a parasol.

Nevertheless, at about 12:15, standing on the corner of Royal and St. Louis streets, as I began to tell my guests about the old St. Louis Hotel and its infamous history as an antebellum market for enslaved people, I suddenly felt a strong urge to sit down.

"Whooo," I said. "I think I'm a little light-headed." My vision began to grey out around the edges.

My guests leaped to my side. "Let's go inside," they said, and supporting me, they guided me across the street and into the vestibule of the Omni Royal Hotel - the hotel built on the site of the old St. Louis Hotel.

I felt immediate relief in the air conditioning, but I was still dizzy and lightheaded. "Hey," I said. "This is embarrassing. I'm supposed to take care of you guys, not the other way around."

I ended up lying down on the cool marble floor with my feet elevated on someone's backpack. The hotel's concierge arrived with two cold bottles of water - I drank one and someone laid the other on the back of my neck.

"I guess this is the end of the tour," I told them. "Sorry about that." I urged my guests to go have a pleasant lunch.

Fifteen minutes later, I felt okay enough to sit up and call an Uber.  The concierge went outside to flag the driver down for me.

There are two morals to this story. 1) Be careful in the heat. It can happen even when you're prepared. and 2) People are kind. I am so grateful for the kindness of my guests, and that of the Omni Royal Hotel staff.

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