Doing your duty
Published: Jan 4, 2018Me and Octavia the octopus keep an eye on Living Coasts...
There is a Duty Manager at Living Coasts every day we are open. That means, every day but Christmas Day. As well as the staff needed to run the place – in the café and the shop, on the ticket desks, with specialist knowledge of the water system, and so on - we have someone with overall responsibility for guests.
By the way, we say guest instead of visitor, not because we’re trying to be trendy or pretentious, but because a guest is someone you invite in, and that’s what we do – we invite you in to spend time with us, to see the animals, to understand the issues, to have a good time in a great location. Guests not visitors - it’s a state of mind.
Usually, someone doubles-up – they do their own job and they cover the duty manager role on top. The duty manager checks the place is ready to open in the morning: that staff are on site, the café and shop are ready, the ticket desks prepared and the site is clean and tidy.
He or she oversees the floats for the tills and ticket kiosks, is first in line if anything happens (if a guest needs to see someone, if a child grazes their knee, if a pair of sunglasses fall in the seal pool) and most important of all, carries an unwieldy (and seemingly unnecessary) bunch of extra keys.
During the week there can be any number of contractors popping in, popping out or not turning up at all: engineers to fix an automatic door, technicians to fit a new pump, welders over from Paignton Zoo to repair some metalwork. At the weekend it’s quieter, unless something goes wrong…
At the end of the day, the duty manager is – usually – the last person to leave. Certainly the last to leave the non-keeper areas. Ultimately, the duty manager is there for emergencies, too – but they are rare and staff are well-prepared.
Living Coasts has its quirks. Most places do. There are back-of-house short-cuts that come out in surprising places and doors with coded keypad locks, each demanding a different number that may or may not correspond to the birthday of someone in the office. There’s a point at which you have to reach out over deep water with a very important key to undo a padlock (the solution – a lanyard to stop the key dropping into the depths…). And there’s a corridor called DG13. OK, that’s fine – but what does the DG stand for, and where are the other twelve?
In truth, Living Coasts largely runs itself. Which is to say, the staff and the volunteers know their roles and run the place without the need for constant oversight. Even so, as duty manager, you can find yourself feeling a little proprietorial: you walk around the site with your keys and your walkie-talkie and your responsibility and you begin to think you might just be in charge. You pick up litter, adjust wonky signs and talk to the octopus like she’s on the team. But she just looks at you…
Phil Knowling, Communications Manager
PS: The answer is… When a building is under construction, every space on a plan is given a code. The first Living Coasts staff moved in while the builders were still working, and took to using the name DG13 as nothing quite described the space – it wasn’t really a room, it wasn’t exactly a corridor. The code stuck and now we all know it as DG13!