Still Too Soon…

, , , , | | Related | May 19, 2018

(I’m picking my sister up from the train. She just finished her final exams at university. She’s a history major.)

Me: “Hey! How are you doing? You look exhausted.”

Sister: “Hello, hey. I’m glad to be finished, truth be told! I started crying when I was looking over some dates yesterday because Abraham Lincoln died.”

Me: “You know what, I’m just not going to ask. I’ll get your bag.”

(Some time later, en route home, I look across and she’s got tears in her eyes.)

Me: “Hey, what’s wrong? Aren’t you happy you’re done?”

Sister: “I was thinking about Abraham Lincoln again.”

Reenact: Take Two

, , , , | Hopeless | April 3, 2018

When I was in high school, I was a serious history geek. My Civil Air Patrol unit volunteered to help out at an airshow every year, and when we weren’t doing volunteer shifts, our time was our own. The first year I went, I was struck by how cool the reenactors were, and I decided that I wanted to do some reenacting, too. I did my research, and decided on a persona that I thought I could accurately portray. I tried to find a unit local to me but had no luck. I saved my money to rent a uniform and equipment, and I had to talk my parents into letting me do all of this.

The second year at the air show, after my volunteer shift, I changed into my persona’s clothes and went out to wander around the reenacting units, hoping to meet up in person with some groups I’d read about online. I was (and am) a bit socially awkward and shy, so it took a serious amount of investment to make myself get out there and try to talk to people.

To my dismay, one of the units I’d read about on the Internet was a lot more standoffish than I’d hoped, and one member even pointed out some discrepancies with my uniform. I was able to explain that I knew that what I was wearing was different from what most of the unit was wearing, and what that signified (artillery vs infantry, if anyone cares!), but it really didn’t seem to help, and I left the encampment feeling like a total failure at both reenacting and talking to people.

Still in uniform, thinking about how I’d never reenact again, I went to get food and sat down at a long table by myself. A total stranger took a seat across from me, correctly identified that I was supposed to be in the artillery, and complimented me on my unusual but totally valid choice of persona. We started talking, and he said it was so nice to see a younger person take an interest in history like this. We talked for a good twenty minutes, and I’ll never forget how he totally changed my mind on reenacting. He re-convinced me! While I didn’t go back to that event (or that time period), I still do reenacting, and I’ve come to realize that if you do your research, people will appreciate it.

It’s “Really New” Zealand

, , , , , , | Learning | February 3, 2018

(We are writing about the histories of English-speaking countries for a project on colonialism. This happens when I read out a history of New Zealand in front of the class.)

Me: “People have only lived in New Zealand for approximately 700 years. It may be as long ago as 800 AD, but—”

Teacher: “No, [My Name], I need a history of the natives, not the settlers.”

Me: “But the Māori only arrived in New Zealand from the Pacific in what would have been the medieval times in Europe.”

Teacher: “When I said a history of New Zealand, I didn’t mean just the white people. The white people may have arrived then, but tell me what year they came from Australia, shall we?”

Me: “No, really, it was less than a thousand years ago. They didn’t come from Australia; they came from the Pacific Ocean. And Europeans weren’t interested in places outside of what they already knew until after Columbus came back from America. Well, roughly. So, everything you’re saying is wrong.”

Teacher: *passive-aggressively* “Hmm, I think I’ll be the judge of that.”

(I got a C.)

This Schooling Is Going Down, I’m Yelling Timber

, , , , , , | Learning | February 2, 2018

(It’s the first day back at university after winter break. I’m in a class of fourth-year students doing a history course on the American Civil War.)

Lecturer: “Welcome back, everyone. I hope you had a good break. Now, everyone knows what day it was yesterday, right?”

Classmate: *immediately and enthusiastically* “Pitbull’s birthday!”

(It was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.)

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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