Boy Howdy, dont things change?! Time was when
outfitters needed their guides. Back then, in the Neoprene Age, guides just about defined
what was happening on the river. They did the dirty work and got the job done, pretty much
Nowdays its different. Outfitter advertising, lobbying efforts and political
clout say much to define the industry. River running has grown into a bigtime
businessand Grand Canyon has become the destination river. Guides are standing ten
deep to work the Colorado.
With demand like that, who needs the old boys? And if theyre not
needed, like if a company is tired of them, how to dump em?
A commonly popular method uses violations in company policy. Some examples:
One drink and you are outta here; one wild night and pack your bags, dude; one ghetto
blaster and...gone. The caveat: You May Be Fired For ANY Reason. Doesnt that just
rankle real bad?
You bet it does. Not that a firing is, or, isnt needed once in a while.
Fair is fair, and works both ways. But when somebodyanybodygets fired on a
pretense, especially if theyve been around for a while, like 15 or 20 years, it says
something about the industry and how guides get treated in the long haul.
Theres more to life than money. I know a fella who was asked to sign a
contract stating he wouldnt be eligible for a bonus; he was further required to
swear company loyalty in the same document. Am I given to understand this behavior is
becoming a common practice in an industry defined by the unique and individual nature of
its very guides? Specific contracts for everyone?? Horseshit. He didnt get the
dough anyway. Is that such a huge surprise?
Some river companies just about demand admiration from their workers. Its not
an entirely unreasonable request. Its been a long, tough haul for many of them. But
river companies should admire their guides just as much, and for the same reason. Guides
work for companies and, generally, do their damnedest to please customers and employers
alike. Call it respect: Everybodys out there with the same goals and interests and
trying to get along while working toward a common end. Thats what a job is all
Until somebody gets canned on a misdemeanoror has a piece of paper
shoved in their face that will get em canned on a misdemeanor. If they sign it. At
that point its guide versus company. By then its obvious theres funny stuff in
the air. Not necessarily the mesmeric sort; this more the sleight-of-hand variety. At that
point Company Policy has grown legs and can walk around all by its ghostly self. You never
know where itll pop up next.
That is some place we dont want to be. What counts is that were
in it together. Grand Canyon isnt such a huge place after all. Its easy to get
wrapped up in a company perspective or a guide mentality thing or
some other oddball deal and forget whats really important to everybody.
As a community, we dont want to grow apart. What we wantneedis to grow
together. Are we in it for Grand Canyon, or The Company? Is that what guiding has come to?
If so, Im gonna go out back and throw up.
Boy Howdy! I hope not. The quality river experience is all the
rage these days. To working guides, this is not a discussion devoted entirely to improving
camp chow. Company ethics play heavily in the experience equation for visitors
and guides alike. When guides get dupedfor whatever lousy reasonits the same
as feeding a good customer tripe: hard to chew, impossible to choke down. Like any
customer, the guide wants to know why he, or she, must eat the stuff. A responsible trip
leader would, in the very least, offer a rational, sincere explanation.