We try to be helpful
by Rosanne Freed
every day I stand at my cash register
watching tourists crowd into the museum store:
school groups name tags on their chests,
the ladies in purple and their obligatory red hats,
Ozzie’s Brits and Euros who don’t know our money
and offer me palms full of coins,
folks who want separate bags for each postcard
celebrities whom I can’t acknowledge –
if Angela Merkel, Isabella Rosselini, or Ben Kingsley stand before me
I must not recognize them
Worked the busiest register today.
The visitors had the usual questions:
where’s the restroom
do you sell headache tablets
candy, gum, stamps, shot glasses, spoons, suntan-lotion?
and a middle-aged man asked, “Do you sell motor oil?”
“There’s a gas station at the bottom of the hill,”
Elizabeth told him.
We try to be helpful.
After my morning coffee break I said
“Where’s everyone? Why’s it so empty?”
as a French tourist at my register asked,
“Is it always so busy here…?”
Around noon, three groups arrived at the same time:
a busload of YMCA kids in yellow tee-shirts
each with a dollar to spend,
200 people doing a computer course at the museum
(something on scanning I think they said)
and a class of 11-year-olds uniformed in their private school gray,
Alexandra, Taylor, Cayman, and Kyle paid with $20 bills,
Race, a blond boy with big ears told me, “Keep the change.”
there were line-ups at all four registers
and still more people poured in
pushing strollers, wheelchairs, walkers, and dragging oxygen tanks
the store was so crowded it was impossible to move.
“Are they still doing tours at Hearst Castle?”
a 20-something American guy in a baseball cap asked.
“I’m sorry Sir, I don’t know what they do there.
We’re in Los Angeles.
Hearst Castle is several hundred miles up the coast.”
“Its all in California,” he said impatiently.
Twin girls Takeisha and Danisha
bought “mood” pencils
stared when I gave their change
“Where did you get your voice?” they asked
“Have you heard someone talk like me before?” I said
“Yes. In Harry Potter.”
at the Register next to me, H- asked a young couple
“Do you say ‘Tak’ or ‘Dank’?”
“Excuse me?” the man said
“How do you say ‘thank you’ in your language?”
“We bloody say thank you. We’re Irish!”
“Do you work here?” an old lady asked me.
“Can I ask you a question?
Last time I was in Jerusalem I went on a walking tour
and we saw two cemeteries.
Could you explain the difference to me?”
We try to be helpful.