There were a lot of very excited and horny pigeons right in the middle of the eating area, right outside the main entrance to the Museum of Childhood.
Panicky woman on phone:
"My son is visiting you today, could you please pass him a message?"
Me, expecting an emergency:
"Of course, who do we need to ask for, and what is the message?"
Panicky woman on phone:
"He's XXX and the message is - Call your dad and tell him to pick your mum up at 2.30pm, same place he dropped her off, because I'm almost done shopping and I left my mobile phone in dad's car. I can't remember their mobile phone numbers you see, but found your number and knew you'd be able to help."
".... we'll bing bong for your son, and let him know..."
A toddler who has grasped the idea that Christmas means ripping wrapping paper off of boxes, came into his own private heaven when faced with a Christmas tree piled high with gifts. The presents were all empty boxes wrapped for display, but when your priority is just ripping paper, that's no matter!
Phone calls I, and a public facing team member in a heritage venue, have both had this past four days:
"I can't find the option I want on the website drop down menu, so phoned to arrange it in person"
"The option isn't on the website because we don't offer it any longer."
"You don't offer it online?"
"At all, it's not an option we provide at all. You can - "
"Who do I need to talk to to get that option?"
"My son was playing on the balance beams yesterday and fell off them, so I wanted to raise it as a concern."
"I'm very sorry to hear that, was he hurt?"
"Not so much, but his trousers have been washed twice and are still stained, I think you need different wood chips or something dryer in that area."
"Can you tell me what the soup of the day is in the cafe?"
"Of course I can find that out for you if-"
"Why do you need to find it out? Why don't you know?"
"I'm not based in the kitchen, but can ask them."
"Well, I suppose that'll do."
"It says on your website that some of your collection is in storage, I explained to my wife that it means it isn't on show, and that we won't be able to get in there, but she insisted I call to make sure. We did a tour of the stores at a museum in Birmingham a few years ago, and now she pretty much forces me to check 'can we see in the stores' every time we visit somewhere with an archive. So I'm sorry, but I have to ask or I won't hear the end of it."
A customer calls with a question about a visit and asks:
Mum: "Do you have any pictures of the venue on your website?"
Me: "Yes, are you on it now?"
Mum: "I'm looking at it, it's where I found your number."
In the background, for all of the next stage of the conversation, can be heard a plaintive and persistent "mum? mum?... mum?... Mum!" throughout which the mother stoically carries on.
Me: Gives instructions for what to look for and click on
Mum: Asks some questions to clarify, mutters to self.
Background: "mum?.. Mum!"
Repeat this about 3 times.
Background: "MUM! YOU'RE ON THE WRONG WEBSITE! THAT'S WHY YOU CAN'T FIND ANYTHING!"
Mum: ...Would you mind speaking with my son?...
Conversation with teenager fixes everything in a couple of seconds.
A young lad is chattering away to me as I carry out some tidying up of displays, and he eventually asks what I'm doing.
Me: "I have to look for anything broken, or out of place, so we can fix it."
Lad: "I can look as well!"
Me: "If you want to help, that would be very kind, just say if you see anything that looks wrong."
We continue moving cabinet to cabinet. He is silent and engrossed, looking closely at every item for any damage or detail out of place. After some time his dad joins us.
Dad: "Do you want a hot chocolate now?"
Lad: "Daaaa-aaad, I have a job to do. I can't just go drinking hot chocolate now, this is IMPORTANT."
I sense great potential in this one...
Where do your feelings lie?
We offer visitors a facility they can reserve in advance, and during some weekends and peak periods it is fully booked out.
"Fully booked!? Well surely you can fit our group in? There's only 8 of them and I did promise him he could visit for his birthday. He's been showing his friends your website and talking about what he'll do there, he's even asked his dad if he'll bring the camera so he can video their visit..."
"We have some space the following day?"
"Well that's not really good enough. That's not on his birthday."
Well perhaps you should have thought about checking with us first before you promised your son something you can't fulfill.
Oh, and checking more than about four days in advance helps as well.
One from The Tank Museum (thanks Rob) where after a lapse of concentration, a parent was showing perhaps over-reactionary care and attention regarding their child's attitude towards the exhibits. In terms of who would damage what, the tank would probably win.
Webcomic and occasional blog about the heritage sector.
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