Don’t Kick A Trojan Gift-Horse In The Mouth

, , , , , | Learning | January 12, 2018

(I’m a librarian. A woman comes in about 15 minutes before closing and asks for photos of the Trojan War for her fifth-grader to use in a school project. I do some searches and find quite a few, from carvings on urns to paintings to drawings of the Trojan horse, and portraits of Helen of Troy.)

Customer: “But those aren’t real. I need photographs, not pictures of drawings and paintings.”

Me: “I’m sorry; there aren’t any photographs of the Trojan War. It’s a myth, like stories of the Greek gods.”

Customer: “But I need photographs! That’s what the teacher told them they had to have! I don’t want my child to fail this project because you can’t find them.”

Me: “I’m sorry. I’m not explaining this right. The Trojan War was about 4,000 years ago. That’s 2,000 years before Jesus was born. Photographs weren’t invented until the early 1800s, about 200 years ago. So, the Trojan War happened thousands of years before cameras and photographs were invented. That’s why there are no photographs.”

Customer: “The teacher specifically said photographs. Can’t you look again?”

Me: “You know what? I think there was a miscommunication with the teacher. I’m sure if you tell her what I just told you, everything will be fine.”

Customer: *near tears* “But the project is due tomorrow. What if you’re wrong?”

Me: “Tell you what. Why don’t you choose some of these pictures, anyway? I’ll write a note to the teacher explaining why you have them instead of photographs, with my name and phone number in case she has any questions. Teachers usually make exceptions when we explain why we aren’t able to get exactly what they require.”

Customer: “Then, it’ll be your fault instead of mine.”

Me: “Right.”

Customer: “Well, it’s not what I want, but I guess I don’t have a choice.”

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