Back “On The Job” -> Lighthouse Hosting At Coquille River Lighthouse, OR
As hard as it is to believe we’ve been “working” for 10 days already. Kinda amazing how time flies by when you’re having fun. And yeah…I did say “fun”. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you already know that we volunteer as lighthouse hosts for the love of the job and *not* for the money. In fact, I would care to venture that very few people do. We work 3-hour shifts 5 days a week (a total of around 17.5 hours/week with the “extras” of opening & closing) and in return we get a free full hookup site at the state park just a few miles away. If you really wanted to price that out in terms of $$ you’d be looking at way less than minimum wage.
So, why in the world do it??
Well, quite simply because it’s a blast!! I LOVE lighthouse history and through the telling & sharing of lighthouse stories we get a bunch of cool interactions in return. I’ve met folks who’ve lived for generations in the area and can recount history no-one else knows, lighthouse keepers (real ones!) from Alaska who’ve spent years on “remote” assignment, coast guard folks who remember the day light boats still stood guard on the Columbia River, and lighthouse nuts from as far away as Siberia (I’m not kidding). AND we get to spend several months parked for free at a gorgeous state park, right on the ocean next to a fabulous beach town. It’s pretty darn awesome!
Now granted, as with every job, it’s not all roses and rainbow-farting unicorns (yeah, I totally stole that one from Cherie at Technomadia). Telling the same story over and over can get somewhat monotonous (although we both keep a rotation of quite a few different ones to keep things interesting) and then of course….there’s the notorious ICR.
Now, not every lighthouse has an ICR. In fact, I believe Coquille River Lighthouse may be unique in this aspect. If you’ve never have the pleasure of meeting said instrument, let me just assure you that no matter what kind of accounting wizard you may think you are, the ICR will eventually get the better of you. It’s inevitable…along the lines of death & taxes if you see what I mean.
I’ve dubbed it the Idiotic Cash Register and since Paul stays mostly in the tower, it’s moi that has the main pleasure of operating it. On the surface it’s a simple battery-operated register. Underneath it’s a cash-gobbling demon with the most counterintuitive programming ever invented to man…and just to keep you on your toes it will habitually spit out incoherent error messages, incorrect numbers and ear-bursting wails. I had my first run-in with the ICR the first day on the job last year and it left indelible marks on my psyche . This year we came back to our volunteer positions with the news that things might have changed…
“We’ve streamlined our process” announced Carl, the friendly new park volunteer coordinator
All 8 lighthouse hosts looked at each other and simultaneously blurted out “You’ve gotten rid of the cash register???”
Well allright we didn’t actually all say it out loud, but I know for certain the thought spontaneously entered every one of our shocked noodles at the very same instant. I mean, how couldn’t it?
“We’ve gotten rid of the old register” continued Carl, somehow echoing our exact question.
We all stood gob-smacked, ready to erupt into a joyous ruckus.
“And…we’ve replaced it with this one” he followed.
We all peered over the counter in excited anticipation. In greeting, a shiny new ICR looked back at us.
“It’s the same bloody cash register?!”
I think that might have been me, never being much of a verbal diplomat in such circumstances.
“Errm, yes” faltered Carl, obviously not getting the positive response he expected, “but it’s brand new!”
So, there you go. From one ICR to another exactly identical one, the only difference being this one inputs exactly the opposite way to the other one…just enough to thoroughly confuse the already confused. I think I might have burst out laughing at this point although I can’t quite recall. The hilarity of it all quite overwhelmed me. Despite my ribbing, I can’t fault the park system too much. Budget restraints and the requirement that they have a battery-operated register in the shop somewhat limits their options, but it’s a funny story nonetheless. Plus, the ICR does keep the job interesting. I believe our co-hosts managed a $3,000 sale the other day and Paul accidently input some secret codes that sent the ICR into a non-stop wail. No day is ever the same at the lighthouse.
Even with the ICR we’re loving our jobs. I’m constantly amazed at the variety of people we meet, we have a lovely and ever-changing view from our “office” window and every single day I learn something new. We’re docents for a wonderful piece of history and have the honor of passing that along to others. In many ways I feel like the story-tellers of a tribe, retelling tales that will be handed down through generations (I just love it when a kid runs back to their parents with “did you hear what the lady just told me?” and then rattles it off again. Isn’t that how history is really preserved?). We’ve done this job for two years now and I can totally see us coming back to do it again.
NOTE/ We originally got this job by applying to Oregon State Park Volunteer Program. There are many, many volunteer positions open for both couples and singles, and in Oregon you can choose to take jobs for just a month at a time. It’s an excellent program! For those interested here are some related posts:
- Volunteering As Lighthosue Hosts -> What Do You Actually Do?
- Volunteering On The Road Part I – Why Do It?
- Volunteering On The Road Part II – Where To Look For Openings
- Volunteering On The Road Part III – 4 Steps To Securing Your Dream Job