When Numbers Lie

, , , | Right | April 26, 2018

(I’m the employee who screws up here. This museum gets a fair number of international visitors. Whenever we have guests from France and Canada, I do my best to switch to French so I can sell them tickets and give them a brief orientation to the museum, telling them where things are and what exhibits are currently open. It draws a fair amount of admiration from my coworkers, and the guests are very appreciative. Note that full-price tickets to this museum are good for two days, but if people come in at the last hour, tickets are half-price and just good for that afternoon. Here’s a transaction from my VERY LAST DAY. This whole exchange is in French.)

Me: *noticing that the two gentlemen approaching my ticket gate were speaking French* “Hello, can I help you?”

Guest #1: “Yes, thank you. We would like two tickets.”

Me: “All right, it’s the last hour of the day, so if you wish to return tomorrow, you can purchase full-price tickets, at $25, or if you just have about an hour, tickets are $12.50.”

Guest #2: “Ah, yes, we leave tomorrow, so we would like two half-price tickets. By the way, your French is perfect!”

Me: “Oh, thank you, but it’s definitely not perfect. Okay, so, two half-price, that will be—”

(I mean to say $25, but I definitely don’t! [Guest #1] hands me $80.)

Me: “Oh, no, that’s too much!”

Guest #2: “But you said it was $80!”

Me: “Oh, my gosh. I am so sorry! I switched the numbers in my head! I meant to say vingt-cinq (25), and I said quatre-vingt (80)!”

Guest #1: *laughing* “We thought it had to be a pretty amazing museum to be that much!”

(Just after he had told me my French was perfect…)

Your Days Off Are In The Book And Counted

, , , , , | Working | April 25, 2018

(I work at the museum of a well-known university in their gift shop. We get a new shipment of books in and, like I do with all the stock, I count each individual book and organize it in our stockroom, note on the packing slip that we have received the correct number of books, and file it where we always file them once we process a shipment. The next day, my day off, my family is in town and I want to show them around the museum. I run into the store manager in one of the galleries.)

Store Manager: “Oh, there you are. You need to recount that shipment of books. There’s no packing slip.”

Me: “There was a packing slip. I put it in the file for received shipments.”

Store Manager: “Well, it’s not there now, and I need to know how many books we received.”

Me: “Uh, it’s actually my day off, and I’m here with my family.”

(I gesture to my parents, who wave.)

Store Manager: “It won’t take very long.”

(I counted the books. It took less than ten minutes, but I vowed never to visit the museum on a day off again.)

Wishing For Her Hands To Be Bitten

, , , , , , | Right | April 19, 2018

When I was 16 years old, I worked in a children’s museum where I was in charge of the aquarium section. We had a “touch tank” where people could feel sea life. Because the animals are delicate, we had a strict policy that people could only touch animals I had put on trays at the edge of the tanks. Despite this policy, (and numerous prominent signs stating the policy) people would routinely stick their hands in the parts of the tank that were off limits.

One day, a woman came in and proceeded to repeatedly stick her hands into the tank, despite my requests. Finally, I forcefully said, “Ma’am, please don’t stick your hands into that part of the tank, as it distresses the animals.” She pulled her hands out, flicked water in my face, said, “You just need to chill,” and stomped off, cursing about “little s***s who think they know everything.”

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The Wheels Of Change

, , , , , | Right | April 12, 2018

(I am a museum curator at a transport museum. I’m teaching a class of six-year-olds and have asked them to take a close look at the wheels on one of our buses. As I move around checking they can all reach one, a little girl stops me with a worried expression.)

Girl: “[Boy] says girls can’t touch wheels; he says we aren’t allowed.”

Me: “Oh, really? Where’s [Boy]?”

(The other children all turn and look at one boy.)

Me: “If girls can’t touch the buses, why do you think there is a woman running the whole place? I even drive the tractors! Don’t forget: girls can do anything. Now, everyone, have a good look at those wheels.”

Girl: “Wow!”

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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