Museum Musings: “Do you have a sitting room?”

Thanks to everyone who helped me choose a photo for the Museum staff bi-annual art exhibition called “The Underground”  (in the post Excuse me, have you said thank you?)

The top three were:

Early One Morning which received nine votes

Old Man and the Horse received six votes

and four votes each for You never walk alone and Edge of the known World

This is what’s hanging on the wall in the museum.

Early one morning… (with reflection of yours truly)

I’m not sure whether I explained that concurrent with the Underground Show are a couple of “Sub-Text” evenings where staff can read from their poetry/fiction/non-fiction in the Museum Lecture theater. I read two weeks ago.

I started with an Etheree, called Rain

Rain

today

yesterday

tomorrow too

wind whips my brolly

water pours down my back

my shoes sing squish-squish as I

step into deep pools, I wonder

how to slow water’s rush to the sea

a biblical deluge in our desert

An Etheree is a little-known poetry format ten lines long, uncomplicated, unpretentious, and non-rhyming. It starts with a line of one syllable, then adds one syllable per line, until the last line of ten syllables, for an overall syllable count of 55.

*

 I followed the etheree with a poem about my mother and went straight to the Museum stories which I introduced thus:

*

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to work in the Bookstore where we serve people from all over the world, many of whom can’t speak English, here are a few snippets of conversations

You never walk alone

“Do you have a sitting room?” a Filipino tourist asked me
“Are you looking for somewhere to eat lunch?” I asked.
“No, I want a sitting room,” he said
“A sitting room?” I said.
“No,” he said, but then he repeated, “Sitting room.”
“If you want to sit down, there are tables and chairs outside, with umbrellas…”
“No,” his friend said, and pointed to the ground. Emphatically.
“Ah, I understand,” I said, “You want a map of Los Angeles!” and I showed him a selection of maps.
“No! No!” he said still pointing to the ground
“I’m sorry,” I said, “I don’t understand what you’re looking for.”
“I think they’re asking for a CD-ROM of this museum,” said the man standing behind him in the line.
“Yes yes that’s what I‘m wanting,” he said, “A sitting room”.
After all that I had to tell the poor man we don’t sell CD-ROMs

*

Man: “Is there a Museum here?”
Me: “Excuse me?”
Man: “You know, pictures and so on…”

 *

Man at the Pacific Standard Time store: “Where’s the Museum?”
Me: “You’re in the Museum,”
Man: “Oh!”

 *

“Do you have the scarf I saw here last week?
” a woman asked me.
“What did it look like?” I asked
”I don’t know. But I saw it here last week,” she said

 *

“So the photography is upstairs?”  said a woman pointing up ↑
“It’s downstairs,” I said, pointing ↓
“Upstairs?” she said pointing up ↑ again
“Good afternoon Madame. The photography is downstairs.” I said pointing    down ↓
“The Chinese photos…?” she said
“You will find all the photos, including the Chinese photos, downstairs,” I said pointing down again ↓
“Are you sure?” said the woman

  *

And I ended with a few stories from the Children’s shop:

“Hello,” I said to Harry aged four.
“What do you say?” said his Mum
“Thank you!” said Harry.

“Good afternoon,” I said to Nathan aged six
“What do you say?” said his Dad
“I’m having a good time,” said Nathan

  *

It’s unfortunate, but true that a large percentage of American kids visiting the Museum on a school trip don’t know how to be polite. They’ll either shout “How much is this?” across the store, or come up to me when I’m busy serving someone else, and wave the item in my face while saying, “How much is this?” repeatedly until they get my attention. It’s infuriating and unnecessary because the price is marked either on the item, or on the side of the container.

“Two dollars please,” I told a nine-year-old girl visiting with a large school group.

“How much is this?” a boy interrupted by waving a smencil  (a pencil chemically enhanced with scents like bubblegum, watermelon or coconut) in my face.

The girl took such a long time to count out her change that I turned to answer the boy, “One dollar-sixty-five,” I said giving him the price with tax.

The girl looked up at me with a hopeful smile, and said, “One dollar-sixty-five?”

“No, I already told you that you owe me two dollars.” I said looking at the girl.

To which the boy said, “Two dollars?”

I’m not making this up.

”Stop interrupting, and listen when I speak.  You,” I pointed to the girl, “You must pay me $2 for the crayons and the clay. You,” I pointed to the boy, “the price of one smencil is one dollar-sixty-five.”

*

old man and the horse

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About dearrosie

We think we need so much, when all we really need is time to breathe. Come walk with me, put one foot in front of the other, and get to know yourself. Please click the link to my blog - below - and leave me a comment. I love visitors.
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50 Responses to Museum Musings: “Do you have a sitting room?”

  1. Val says:

    Your reported dialogues crack me up, Rosie! Though the way my brain is these days I could imagine standing in a museum and asking where the museum is! 😉

    • dearrosie says:

      Hello Val,
      Glad to give you a good laugh. I think if you asked a question like “where is the museum?” you’d say it, realize what you’d said, and end up laughing in amazement that you’d also asked such a silly question… leaving the person behind the cash register thinking “here’s someone who’s really batty.”

  2. I really enjoy the sharing of your museum conversations! Both hilarious and frustrating! And your example of Etheree is just wonderful. I wasn’t familiar with the style, but it reads so nicely. You are a good match for where you work, Rosie! Debra

  3. Reggie says:

    Wow, you have quite a job, Rosie. Well done on dealing with the kids and keeping your cool. Such vivid and brilliantly reported dialogue!

    • dearrosie says:

      Howzit Reggie,
      So happy to know you liked my writing. After all the writing courses you’ve been doing I’m honored to receive such a complement from you. Thank you.

  4. “A sitting room?” I’m still chuckling. I would love to visit your museum that has visitors from all over the world. You have to be ready for everything.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Georgette,
      If everyone at the museum came from the same country and spoke with the same accent it would be a lot easier. I have to be able to understand English spoken by folks from Russia, South America, Asia, the Philippines, Europe… etc

      • Reggie says:

        If everyone spoke English with the same accent, it would be much less entertaining – besides, you’re gathering so many amusing anecdotes with your job, that you could easily write a book after a couple of years of writing down what people say and do in your museum, Rosie.

      • dearrosie says:

        Hi Reggie,
        If everyone spoke English with the same accent I would be working in a place that only attracts Americans which wouldn’t be a very interesting workplace. So now I feel a lot better!

        I could write a book, although I think it’s more interesting to read the stories now and again in a post than in a single book with different chapters.
        Anyway, stay tuned… Thanks for writing.

  5. sonali says:

    I appreciate that you are able to be patient & polite. It was absolutely fun reading the kind of communication gap that you have to face each day, but I understand it must be quite annoying at some point of time. After all, how much can a person tolerate. But yes, I see that you are just enjoying what you are doing and that’s a great thing. Keep it up, Dear Rosie 🙂 may God bless you.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Sonali
      I’m happy to know you enjoyed reading the stories I shared here.
      When you work with the public the #1 rule is the customer is always correct, so you can’t tell an annoying person what you’d really like to say which – as you can imagine – is not always easy.

  6. Nandini says:

    I loved reading your post, Rosie. 🙂

    Nice photos, too.

  7. shoreacres says:

    You know, this post makes me think of a common situation in a different way. We complain so much about not being able to understand the tech advisors or service reps who are taking our calls in India, Pakistan or elsewhere – but how frustrating it must be for them, too. Not only are WE hard to understand, we’re already impatient because of our troubles, and then even more frustrated by the difficulties in communication.

    I do love those snippets of conversation. Actually, some of them remind me all too well of what it was like carrying on a conversation with Mom when she was in the last years of her life. She was coherent enough, but sometimes she’d think part of her conversation and speak only part of what she was thinking. It truly was funny, sometimes.

    I might take a crack at an etheree this week. It’s the sort of thing I could work on while I’m at work, since I don’t have anyone to talk to, even if I wanted to! I certainly like yours.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Linda,
      Love your comment. I’ve never thought what it must be like for those folks who answer our calls in India or Pakistan. I can’t imagine someone in one of those phone banks trying to understand an impatient American from the deep south. I have trouble understanding them when they’re enjoying a day out at the Museum.

      When my Mom was near the end of her life and having trouble finding words to carry on a conversation, she very cleverly filled in the blanks by singing songs from her youth and the second World War most of which I’d never heard her sing before.

      Look forward to seeing your Etheree. Glad you liked mine.

  8. sybil says:

    Where’s the comments section of your blog ?

  9. munchow says:

    Those were quite some conversations, I must say. Made me laugh all the way to the end of the post. My favourite is the up ↑ and/or down ↓. Communications isn’t always easy, is it?

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Otto,
      I’m really happy to know you enjoyed reading the conversations and especially happy to know that you laughed right through.
      When I read this at the Underground “Sub-Text” evening I was so nervous it wouldn’t translate into a spoken style, but the audience laughed after the first line and carried on laughing right through the reading, so when I thought of sharing some of it here, of course I worried it wouldn’t translate into something to be read….

  10. jane tims says:

    Hi. I love the kids’ responses to their moms. Jane

  11. What a lovely, lovely post (and complimented so beautifully by such wonderful pictures!) Joy!

  12. Arindam says:

    Rosie Auntie, among these top three photographs, two were my gifts. I hope the other people are not jealous of me. 🙂 Thank you! I am really happy that, my gift is hanging on the walls of your museum. If someday, I will visit your museum, I can proudly say to other, “Hey, see this is what I got as gift.”

    As always, I loved your conversation, with your visitors. The next time If I am going to buy a CD-Rom; I hope you can guess what I am going to ask for to the shop owner. And not forget the poem was beautiful. One more time I going to repeat the same thing; I loved this post.

    • dearrosie says:

      My dear Arindam,
      It’s true, and I’m glad you noticed that your photos were among the most popular!

      The Underground exhibition isn’t a permanent exhibition – we’ll be taking down the pictures some time next month – but you can still say that one of your gifts hung in a world famous museum in California for about eight weeks.

      Not to worry if you ask me for a CD-Rom. I don’t usually have trouble understanding Indian accents, perhaps because my mother and her family were from India.

      Thank you for your kind comment. It sure makes me happy to know you enjoyed reading my little poem and all the snippets. 😀

      • Arindam says:

        You will be taking down the pictures next month! Then there is no chance of seeing my gift hanging on the wall of a world famous museum. But who knows, my mother may see his son’s gift there, as she is visiting USA next month. 🙂

      • Arindam says:

        sorry for typo!
        * in the last line, read it as her son’s gift instead of his son’s. 🙂

      • dearrosie says:

        I send your Mother my greetings and hope she has a lovely vacation, but unfortunately she won’t be able to see her son’s gift “hanging on the walls of a world famous museum” because it’s part of the “Underground Show” which is just for staff, and visitors to the Museum aren’t able to see it.

  13. bronxboy55 says:

    I love reading these conversations, Rosie, even the ones I’ve read before. I would have never picked up on CD-ROM either.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Charles,
      You’re very kind to say that you enjoyed the snippets of conversations even on a second reading. Thank you.

      I think one’s “ear” gets used to certain accents. I’m not very familiar with the Filipino accent, because I only have one friend who comes from the Philippines, and too, this poor man couldn’t speak English.

  14. aFrankAngle says:

    Hi Rose …. just wanted to stop by and say hello!

  15. souldipper says:

    I LOVE the sitting room, Rosie. AND the children…okay the whole works. And I LOVE the long shadows and the old man. I’m not kidding. The whole post is a supreme spirit lifter. Yours is a window into the world of international beings and cultures.

    ( I received a very welcome and chatty email from our friend, Priya. I was over the moon with relief that we are not disconnected!)

  16. Kathy says:

    Rosie, I laughed out loud at some of the comments you hear from people. How funny! They must just brighten your day so much. You always make me want to work in a museum. I remember when my daughter and I were in the Rome airport and wanting to find a bathroom. We asked, “Do you have a rest room?” The puzzled man replied, “No rest rooms in the airport, we’re sorry.” Kiah and I looked at each other in dismay. Only later did we realize…

    • dearrosie says:

      How nice that I can make you laugh out loud. That pleases me a lot.
      I love your Rome airport story. Can you imagine the silly questions that poor guy must hear all day!

      I can usually tell what country a person comes from just from the euphemism they use when they need the potty. You live right on the Canadian border do you know they call it a “washroom”?

  17. Oops, looks like the Filipino guy pronounced it all wrong. Some of us do have this heavy accent and our letter sounds either comes out too soft or too hard…like “CD room”….ha, ha, ha. I have more real life jokes of how the P and F are interchanged like Fink for Pink and Pusha for fusha color.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hello IT,
      I’m glad you can laugh at the accent of one of your fellow countrymen…:-)

      Reading your “Fink for Pink and Pusha for fusha” reminds of the time I met the parents of one of my Filipino friends. His Mom introduced herself as “Rose” and his Dad as “Pronk”. After calling the father “Pronk” all night I heard someone at the end of the evening call out “Goodbye Frank”. I was so embarrassed!

  18. These conversations are hilarious. I guess because I was not in them wondering how to answer without losing my cool. Was it fun for other staff members to listen too? Btw, where’s the fourth picture ‘ Edge of the known world’?

    Hi Rosie, I have come here after what feels like ages! Coming out of self-imposed hibernation and catching up with all the wonderful content that keeps appearing in the blogosphere is so tough. You have been busy, meanwhile! Travelling, exhibitions, evenings of public readings…. what fun! 🙂 Reading your good old museum posts has always been a mood-changer for me. I hope to remember that and keep coming back for more.

  19. shamasheikh says:

    What a fascinating cache of stories and conversations you must have Rosie…the CD ROM one is a classic and the children’ responses very endearing…many thanks for the chuckles and laughs!
    God bless…

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Shamaji
      I’m delighted to hear that you had a good laugh from reading this post. You mentioned that you have many museums in Karachi. What kind do you go to? Art or Science?

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