On turtles and greetings and kindness


Kristen has already written about Sarah, who rescues turtles in Costa Rica. While she focused on the good, selfless animal-related work, I am going to be nitpicky about social behavior and the English language, as usual.

After dinner, I forget who left first, but as they were walking out, they told Sarah, "Good luck with the turtles." Hearing that, I realized that, had I been leaving just then, I probably would have also told Sarah, "Good luck with the turtles."

It turns out everybody says "Good luck with the turtles" when they leave Sarah. Sometimes it's "Say hi to the turtles," but usually it's "Good luck." Such is the nature of casual conversation when people know about your memorable job but very little else about you. At book signings, Neal Pollack is queried about his fictional weblog characters. I work at a children's science museum, so people often ask, "How are the dinosaurs?" when they see me. It's a clever thing to say, only it's actually not, since everyone has the same faux-clever reaction.

My job which requires me to have similar brief conversations with a constant stream of visitors throughout the day. I'm always conveying nearly the same bits of information every time: restrooms are at the bottom of the stairs; we close at 5 pm; yes you have to pay parking in advance; ha ha no only on weekends. Invariably, I say the same things over and over again, like a robot or a philosophical zombie, especially "Thanks" and "Have fun." I say thank you if I get a pen back from a visitor, if they tell me how many adult chaperones are coming in, if they purchase a membership, if they say "thank you" to me. The last usage tends to throw people off - they expect a "you're welcome" or at worst a "No problem."

In response, I have developed many faux-clever things to break up the monotony. I tell schoolchildren that they can't eat in the exhibits because a T. Rex once ate a kid's peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich. I tell parents that two-year-olds are free because toddlers are deadbeats who can't hold a job. And visitors smile at my "witticisms," not knowing that I've repeated that same joke ten times already that day.

What I'm recommending is, when interacting with charming British biologists, look past the knee-jerk "clever" response. Instead of wishing Sarah fortune with her turtles, tell her how, even though turtles are quite slow, you felt that the two of you became friends quite quickly. Or, compliment her on coming out of her shell. Or focus on her beauty: "Sarah, as loyal as you are to the turtles, in a competition of personal loveliness, your hare would be the winner."

What I'm recommending when interacting with parents of dinosaur-mad youths is just shut up and give them their damn change, OK Sean?


you think repeating "thank you" is hard, kid? try saying "hands" 10 times a day, in reference to the fact that you'd like the child you're working with to get his hands out of his pants because we're in the middle of a math lesson, for god's sake.

for all of you not sure she really is talking about masturbation, let me assure you--she is.

i really like it when i have conversations that go like "what's up?" - "fine." or "how's it going?" - "not much." or when the waiter says "enjoy your entree" and you say "thanks, you too."

the thing i find myself saying constantly is "hard, but fun," which has nothing to do, i'm afraid, with matt-surbation.

Is it wrong for me to be glad that I don't work with kids.

No, Gene, I don't think it is. I actually think the kids should be glad, as well.

I've noticed that every single year on my birthday I invariably exclaim "thanks, you too!" when someone wishes me a happy birthday. Then I feel dumb, but there's no going back.

kati- i don't know how many times i have pulled that same, stupid stunt. one time i said "thanks, you too!" to the guy at wendy's wishing me an enjoyable meal. i turned around and felt like i had "dumbfuck" spraypainted on my ass. although probably he was just checking out my ass.

I hate when I've got something spray painted on my ass, like "West Side is the best side" and somebody's like "Hey, way to keep it real." And I say "Thanks, you too!," when they're not keeping it real at all.

when people tell me 'happy birthday', i usually answer, 'ok.'

my entry wasn't about sarah at all, sadly.

oh fuck, that "good luck with the turtles" person was me. in my defense, though, I had just finished a conversation with sarah where she explained that she was coincidentally involved in a gambling ring which used turtles as currency.

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This page contains a single entry by Sean Keane published on May 2, 2003 6:42 PM.

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