Liquid Science

, , , | Right | April 11, 2018

(I am in upper management at a small science center in rural Washington. A few years ago, we launched a series of monthly “Pub Science” events, a format that had seen popular success in science centers and museums across the world. Basically, you bring a local scientist to a bar to give a short talk followed by a long Q&A while people are drinking. Our location is a bar whose logo has been, since 1974, a cartoon baby holding a bottle of whiskey with a nipple on top. About six months into the program, I get a call from the front desk that there’s a woman on the line who is very angry about Pub Science. I sigh and tell them to send the call back to me.)

Me: “Hi, I heard there was a problem? What can I do to help?”

Woman: “Why are you trying to get children to drink alcohol?”

(I am completely mystified by this statement.)

Me: “I’m sorry, what?”

Woman: “I saw a picture on Facebook for this thing called ‘Pub Science’! You’re a children’s museum! Why are you trying to get kids to come to bars and get drunk?”

Me: “I’m sorry, ma’am. The Pub Science program is actually intended for adults only.”

Woman: “But you’re a children’s museum!”

Me: “Well, we do like to offer programming that is interesting and informative to people across their lifetimes. We like to say that our age range is from 8 to 108.”

Woman: “Then, why was there a picture of a baby drinking alcohol?”

(It dawns on me what she’s talking about. Being that the bar has had that logo for 40 years, nobody in our organization or theirs has thought anything of it.)

Me: “I absolutely understand your concern, ma’am, and to be honest, that hadn’t even occurred to us. The bar’s had that logo since the 70s, so I guess we just took it for granted.”

Woman: “You’re going to encourage children to drink! Drinking is a sin, and I won’t have a children’s museum pushing it on my grandkids!”

Me: “I’m really sorry that’s the impression you’re getting, ma’am. Again, Pub Science is for people 21 and over only. I will talk to the bar, though, and see if they mind us removing their logo from future advertisements.”

(She grumbles under her breath. I think we’re done, but then she gets her second wind.)

Woman: “Why are you bribing people with booze to learn science?”

Me: “Come again?”

Woman: “It’s sinful what you’re doing! You’re trying to get people to like science by bribing them with alcohol!”

Me: “Well, ma’am, we see it more as doing outreach to the types of places people already are. Instead of asking them to come to us, we’ll come to them with a free event. Many adults enjoy spending time in pubs and bars, and this model has been successful across the country, so we just thought we’d adapt it.”

(The woman splutters and grumbles for a minute before apparently finding another reason to remain angry.)

Woman: “That thing you said about teaching science to people over 21?”

Me: “Yes, it’s a core tenet of our educational mission.”

Woman: “Well, I just don’t agree with that, mister! I might just cancel the membership I have for my grandkids!”

(It was clear that she just wanted to be angry about something. We went around in a few more circles, I mentioned again removing the logo from our ads, and she seemed to be more or less placated and eventually hung up. I made the decision not to actually change anything, because we couldn’t decide programming or policy based on angry grandmas. Just as I suspected, I never heard from her again.)

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