They are able to maintain a cool, calm demeanor, even when dealing with adversity — such as a frazzled traveler who has lost a wallet or purse.
Even questions about the restroom Sen. Larry Craig made famous don't faze these folks.
When the crowd for the Republican National Convention comes to town later this month, travelers assistance volunteers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport said they'll have their "A" game ready and waiting.
"It's going to be an exciting week," said Jack MacBean, one of the volunteers who went through special pre-convention training Thursday at the airport. "We're all proud of our city and we want to show it off."
Some 45,000 delegates, media and other visitors are expected for the RNC, which starts Sept. 1 at the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul. The airport is gearing up for heavier-than-usual passenger traffic starting Aug. 29 and extending through that weekend.
To help the masses maneuver through the airport, the Airport Foundation MSP held its first training session for volunteers Thursday, with 44 in attendance. A total of 150 are scheduled to get the training.
Just like a day of air travel, Thursday's training included a lot of sitting and a lot of walking around an airport. There were classroom-style presentations by the Metropolitan Airports Commission, Northwest Airlines and the airport police. Then, the volunteers broke into smaller groups, rotating through frequently visited spots around the airport and popular airport services.
The volunteers include retirees, MAC staff members, Northwest workers, employees of Wings Financial Federal Credit Union and others. Many have volunteered for years.
They don't speak for the airlines or the security officials at the airport, though they end up fielding questions about them. When they send travelers to the light-rail transit station to catch a flight at the Humphrey Terminal, they make sure to tell them to get on the train headed to the Humphrey facility, not downtown Minneapolis.
During the RNC, volunteers won't let their own politics, the long hours or Larry Craig jokes throw them off their mission.
Experienced volunteers said the location of the men's restroom where Craig, a Republican senator from Idaho, found himself in legal trouble is already one of the most frequently asked questions. They don't expect the RNC crowd to be any different.
"I'm sure it's going to be asked a lot," said Mary Anderson, who has been a travelers assistance volunteer for nine years.
Northwest Airlines said it expects heavy traffic the Friday before the RNC begins. The Democratic National Convention in Denver ends Aug. 28, and with some 15,000 journalists expected at the RNC, many are likely to come straight to the Twin Cities from Denver on Aug. 29.
Northwest is also anticipating crowds after the RNC wraps up Sept. 4. Airport planners agree, noting that on Sept. 5, everyone will likely be trying to leave at the same time.
The airport is doing its best to make the experience harmonious. Hanging flower baskets and photo displays highlighting Minnesota are in the works.
A harpist and pianist already play in high-traffic areas in the Lindbergh Terminal. For the RNC crowd, a guitarist and some vocal groups will be added.
"We tried to get some school groups, too," said Jana Vaughn, executive director of the Airport Foundation. Although the convention is too close to the start of the school year for many likely performers, they're still trying to line up a school group, she added.
While traffic could be heavy at times, experienced airport volunteers said that, for the most part, they expect the RNC crowd will be seasoned travelers.
At the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York, a survey of delegates showed that 58 percent had annual incomes of $75,000 or more, and 7 percent had a net worth of $1 million or more.
But even savvy travelers may be experiencing their first trip to Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Karen Altpeter, who led a group of volunteers on a tour of the airport Thursday, reminded them about the availability of handout-sized maps of the Lindbergh Terminal, which includes a merchant directory.
"Use these things liberally," she said.
John Welbes is a political writer for The St. Paul Pioneer Press. Politico and the Pioneer Press are sharing content for the 2008 election cycle and during the Republican National Convention.