Dropping A Conversational Bomb

, , , , , , | Right | July 6, 2020

This story happens in the early 2000s. I am backpacking through Germany, and I have a few days in Berlin before I move on. I decide to take a bus tour of the city, having never been there before.

On the bus tour, the tour guide is a man who appears to be in his twenties or early thirties. Most of the bus is filled with a group of elderly British men and women. The bus pulls away from the curb, the tour guide introduces himself, and then he asks if anyone has been to Berlin before. 

All of the British men raise their hands.

Guide: “Wow, this is more than usual. When were you all here?”

The British men mumble among themselves for a few seconds.

British Man #1: “Well, if it’s all right with you… we would rather not go into detail.”

Guide: “Oh, come on. Please, share your experiences.”

British Man #2: “If you insist. We were all in the Royal Air Force Bomber Command during the Second World War. We flew bombing raids over Berlin, and other cities, of course.”

British Man #3: “We’ve all seen documentaries about old soldiers who travel to their battlefields one last time, so… here we are.”

The tour guide is at first caught off guard by this response, but he recovers brilliantly.

Guide: “Then I believe we have you, gentlemen, to thank for Berlin being such a unique mix of the ancient and the modern! I do hope you enjoy seeing the city from the ground this time!”

Best bus tour ever. Every time the tour guide pointed out a historic building or landmark, the British gentlemen would share stories about the times they used those buildings as guides and targets for their bombing runs. The tour guide genuinely enjoyed having someone who could share so much insight into what was already a key piece of his lectures, and hearing so many different perspectives and stories made the tour well worth it for the rest of us, as well. I’m pretty sure the tour guide earned at least ten times his normal tips for that tour.

This story is part of our July 2020 Roundup – the best stories of the month!

Read the next July 2020 Roundup story!

Read the July 2020 Roundup!

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The Last 500 Years Just Flew By!

, , , , | Right | June 26, 2020

I work at a museum hosting an exhibit about Leonardo Da Vinci.

Guest: *To my coworker* “Leo Da Vinci, huh? That guy still around?”

Coworker: “I don’t think so.”

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Not Quite A Light-Bulb Moment

, , , , , | Right | May 27, 2020

I work in a historic home that was built in the 1770s. I was giving a family a tour of the home and we started in the passage (entry hall). I was describing to them what furnishings would have been in the room. I then pointed to the hanging lamp above their heads that has lights that look like candles; we are not allowed to use real candles for obvious reasons.

The father, a teacher, looked at me and said, “So, they had electricity.” I was waiting for him to laugh or say he was joking, but no, he was quite serious. So, I had to reply to him politely and without making him feel stupid. I simply replied, “No, electricity came a bit later.”

I then pointed out the lamp and told visitors that it would have been candles and not electric lights.

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An Ironclad Explanation

, , , | Right | April 19, 2020

I work in a living history museum, where we dress up and work using the tools and methods appropriate for the time period the museum focuses on. While some of the tools we use or have on display look odd compared to their modern counterparts; others are often recognizable.

Visitor: “What are those iron things up there on the mantle?”

Me: “Those are irons.”

Visitor: “Oh, what are they used for?”

Me: *Pause* “Ironing.”

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A Towering Sense Of Entitlement

, , , , , | Right | April 7, 2020

(When the Towers went down in New York, they took with them a television antenna that broadcast all the way into our little slice of heaven in Connecticut. As a result, if you didn’t have cable, you were only able to watch a few local channels and those not very clearly. All the channels that came in out of New York were gone or so snowy as to be useless.

This happened on September 12, 2001, when I was working in a library, to a coworker who was absolutely flummoxed by the patron’s reaction. She’s generally a very sweet person who always tries to find a good reason why a patron is cranky and so is able to continue being kind to some of the meanest patrons by assuming they are just having a bad day. This caller, however, made history by pressing a few buttons too many.

The caller is an elderly woman and my coworker is trying to maintain patience by imagining that it is very hard to be elderly, a shut-in, and not able to access your television.)

Patron: *already in a bad mood* “Why can’t I see [Program only accessed through NY antenna on the towers]? I have been trying all day and there is nothing but snow! What’s wrong? Why can’t I see my shows?”

Coworker: *ever so gently and patiently* “Ma’am, yesterday the World Trade Towers were destroyed in a terrorist attack. The television broadcasting equipment on the towers was destroyed as well. No one is able to get that channel unless they have cable.”

Patron: “Cable is too expensive! When are they going to get this fixed? I need to see my shows!”

Coworker: “Ma’am, I’m the librarian at [Branch]; I have no access to decisions that will have to be made later on. Right now, all I can tell you is that the firemen and police are trying to save people and hope they can find people alive. Then, the Towers would have to be rebuilt—”

Patron: “And when will they rebuild? I need to see my shows!

Coworker: “Ma’am, I understand it is frustrating, but they cannot rebuild the Towers overnight.” *trying to paint a picture and put it in perspective* “There’s nothing there but rubble and dead bodies and—”

Patron: “Well, who can I call to complain?! This is unacceptable! I have a right to watch my shows and I want to see them now.”

Coworker: “Ma’am, do you understand that something like 3,500 people were killed yesterday, vaporized, when those planes hit the building? The buildings are gone, the people who worked in them are gone, the broadcast channels are the least of the authorities’ concerns right now, and—”

Patron: “I don’t care about piddling stuff! My television is not working and no one cares or wants to help me.”

(And that is when my sweet, gentle, and sometimes annoyingly goodhearted coworker gives up and says:)

Coworker: “Well, ma’am, I don’t know their names, but I can think of thousands of people today who would love to have the great big problem you think you have and would gladly trade places with you.”

(And then she hung up.)

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