Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The world is not out to get you, Sir.

Well, it happened. An army of gross germs invaded my immune system, weakening it significantly. I have been wearing a bowling ball for a head these past three days, wheezing through a tight chest and stuffy nose. Today was the first day I had a chance to rest in over a week and I am beginning to feel better. Oh, the wonders of a nap and a sea of hot tea!

I picked up a temporary gig, working at the Tennessee State Museum for the "Discovering the Civil War" exhibit this past week. The National Archives loaned the Emancipation Proclamation to the museum for the week and we expected to see between 22,000 and 25,000 people. Over 30,000 came through. I worked the ticket desk, handing out tickets. Some tickets were reserved in advanced (that guaranteed visitors a chance to see it at their selected time) and some tickets were available on a first-come-first-serve basis (some folks had to wait several hours before their ticket time). Folks may have had to wait, but everybody would get a chance to see it. The skill set I refined while working at Walt Disney World came in handy while working the ticket desk. I said the following (with slight variations) easily over 2,000 times over a seven-day period:

"Howdy! What time is your reservation? What's the last name? Four tickets? Please sign here that you have received your tickets. The whole exhibit is downstairs, so take these tickets, go around the corner, down the stairs, and to the left. You'll see the exhibit and where to line up; you'll be allowed to line up about ten minutes prior to your ticket time. May I help who is next in line?"

And yes, the bathrooms are on this floor, down the hall behind you.

I kept a smile on my face EVEN when the gentleman wearing overalls and a denim overshirt accused me of deliberately making it difficult for handicapped folks to access the building (newsflash: I didn't). That smile beamed as the same gentleman continued that he knew that he couldn't make a reservation because all the state employees hogged all the tickets, first (newsflash: they didn't). The smile stayed through his diatribe about how his great-great-great-grandaddy was a white slave and that he knew how the government worked because he had a masters degree and don't I know anything at all (newsflash: I do). That plastered smile never faded when he told me that the government was OBVIOUSLY blocking public access to a very important document. I responded curtly (with my smile), "that's funny, because you are holding public access in your hand with those two tickets. You may take them around the corner, down the stairs, and to the left with the rest of the public who also has access to the Emancipation Proclamation. May I help who is next in line?" He walked away and the the next couple in line stepped up. They said with a grin, "our name is Smith and we have nothing else to declare beyond that." Thank you, appreciative couple. You calmed my shaking nerves quite a bit.

I want to provide the best customer service to all customers, even those who are wrongly convinced the world is out to get them. But on the seventh day of working long hours (and driving 2.5 hours roundtrip most of those days), I can only be pushed so far before my snarky filter loses its defenses. It turns out I was not the only museum staff member the overall-clad gentleman harassed last night so I don't feel so bad.

Oh, and I was able to see the document three times, NOT because I worked for the state. Rather, I was allowed to slip through the line between rowdy school groups on my first day so I could see how the line/exhibit was presented. I had made reservations on Friday afternoon so I could see it with my mom. I also got to walk through one last time last night before the representative from the National Archives had to get to work preparing the document for travel (it gets its own airplane seat). I am still tired, but it was well worth the work.

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