My first few days here at Valley Forge have been full of excitement, fun, and most importantly, first impressions. My impressions of the park and those who work in it, and their first impressions of me. Well, sort of.
Imagine your first day as an intern. You're being escorted around by your supervisor and you've already met so many people and have been putting so many names to faces that you might as well be a yearbook. You're trying to remember if it was Jenn or Jane that was in maintenance, if Hannah was admin or interp, and what was the name of the archaeologist you met two hours ago? Now you're being introduced to a new Ranger, and as you say "Hi, I'm Stephanie! Nice to meet you!" they say "Oh, we've met."
Now your mind is racing on a whole new track. We've met before? You scan their face looking for something, anything that will help you remember. Nada. Did we meet today? Did we meet on an earlier visit? Have you been to a ProRanger event? Before you can stammer out a possible meeting place the Ranger goes "Yeah, she yelled at me not to touch the bell," and cracks a smile.
In an instant it all comes rushing back. You were working the Philadelphia Flower Show and you were manning Temple Ambler's exhibit on Hopewell Furnace. It was the third day you'd been on the flower show and you're 9 hours into your shift. The bell that is meant to be rung is kind of starting to look dangerous so you stop encouraging people to ring the bell, and sort of start to discourage it until you can figure out what to do. A group comes in, and you can see them thinking about ringing the bell, and in fact thinking about ringing the bell in a way that might make the whole thing come crashing down so you run in and go "No! Don't ring the bell like that!"
The visitors look alarmed but you explain that the bell isn't really meant to be rung that particular way, and instead this other way, and eventually they go on their merry way. You think all is well, and this was a crisis averted, and you'll never see them again anyway so it can't be too bad that you ruined their fun... but here you are, facing one of that group, a Ranger at Valley Forge that you will now be working with throughout the summer.
This was one of the many first impressions I've given of myself to Rangers, Chief Rangers, Supervisors, and Superintendents since I joined the ProRanger Program. While it wasn't exactly what I would hope for in a first impression, it was memorable and the story elicits a laugh, so all in all it's not terrible as far as first impressions go. That sinking feeling in my stomach, however, served as a potent reminder that you never know when you're making a first impression, and in a community as small as the National Park Service, your reputation matters.
As far as the park goes, it's made a fantastic first(ish) impression on me. I've been to Valley Forge before several times, but meeting all the people whose work go into making this park fantastic and getting a deeper, behind the scenes look at the park itself has left a last impression on me. I can't wait to spend more time in the park and with those who care so deeply about it this summer!