Written for Research and Writing I, taught by Adam Harrison Levy at SVA.
Marlon agrees to speak with me, even though his shift hasn’t ended. “Go ahead. Ask your questions,” he says. “I can work and talk.”
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Marlon supervises a group of ticket agents for Liberty Cruises, a Statue of Liberty tour company. I met him on a chilly Sunday evening by the South Ferry subway station at Battery Park, calling out to the few tourists who had braved the cold. “Sir, do you want to see the Statue of Liberty? We got boat tours, bus tours, helicopter tours. No? Have a nice day, sir.”
He was wearing a red company t-shirt, but maintained his managerial status by not donning a foam replica of Lady Liberty’s crown like the rest of his colleagues. I ask him about the tours—he rattles off details in one breath. I’m interested despite this. Perhaps it is because he never breaks eye contact, looking at me intently from behind diamanté-studded glasses.
“I talk to 300 people every day. It is best to know how to talk in different languages, you know what I mean? I can say hello in almost every language,” he says proudly. “You from India, right? Namaste.”
On a good day, Marlon sells fifty tickets. Every conversation he has, every greeting called out to a seemingly poachable tourist, is a carefully crafted performance. It is a relic from a time when you couldn’t get information from a website or buy tickets online. But when there are almost 200 agents from competing companies working in the area, it pays to be good at the art of persuasion. “You can’t be a shy person and work at this job,” he says proudly. “You’re not going to sell no tickets.”