After I wrote one blog about all of the special people I had encountered while working at Colonial Williamsburg, I was quite sure that that would be all I would have to write about the topic. But I’ll be damned if the universe didn’t keep providing me with material! Here are more special snowflakes that I have encountered throughout my time at Tarpley’s.
Blast from the Past
I was giving lunch breaks at the Golden Ball one day, when a woman entered. I greeted her and asked her if she needed any help from my safe place behind the jewelry counter. She had an old book that she was flipping through and she asked if she could talk to me about a few things. Being the expert at customer service that I am, I agreed.
She then informed me that the guidebook to Colonial Williamsburg that she was holding had been written in 1954 and she wanted to see if things in it were still accurate. I couldn’t help but give her a look of utter confusion. Why would someone use a guide book that was 60 years out of date? Why would it even matter if things were the same now as they had been that many years ago? And why ask me when I clearly wasn’t even alive back then? My mother was 5 years old in 1954.
But she asked me her questions. One was about a silver tobacco box that I had been told previously was currently on display at the apothecary shop and hadn’t been sold in CW for over 40 years. The other two questions she asked me, I had absolutely no clue what she was talking about. Granted, I’ve only worked at this job for a few months. But I grew up in Williamsburg and worked for CWF previously. Even that wasn’t enough for me to have any knowledge of these things.
When I told her that I couldn’t help her with either of the other two items, she was nice enough about it and left the store. But it made me wonder what exactly she was trying to accomplish by using such an out-dated book and going around asking questions about it. The woman was clearly not old enough to have been alive at that time either and it’s not like she was seeking something out from a previous visit. But like a lot of other people, it seems that some don’t realize that Colonial Williamsburg is a living organization that changes and evolves through time. We’re in the 1770s, but we’re still refining history as we go.
“Do you know what this is?”
We don’t get a lot of kids at Tarpley’s. Most of them go over to the William Pitt toy store across the street. Between the fact that we don’t have much that would interest children and so many of our items are breakable, some parents don’t even allow their children into the store. Which, let’s face it, I am perfectly okay with.
A mom and a daughter came into Tarpley’s one quiet October morning and started looking around. I greeted them and told them about a sale that we were running and they seemed happy to explore on their own. The mother started asking the daughter what certain colonial items were. The daughter answered rather well and seemed very articulate. The mother picked up a traveling candle and quizzed the child about it. Sandy, one of my co-workers, filled her in on some of the details that she didn’t know.
It was all going well, until the mother picked up a tavern pipe and asked the child what that was for. The little girl had no idea. So the mother informed her that it was a candle snuffer, used to extinguish the candles before you went to bed. I hesitated. I didn’t want to outright inform the woman that she was completely wrong and no one would make a candle snuffer out of clay or with a stem that long, but I just let it go. The little girl can walk around thinking that she encountered a really strange candle snuffer at Colonial Williamsburg.
When you work in customer service, you’re stuck. You can’t tell people what you really think. No matter how incredibly unintelligent, rude or total assholes they are. You’re stuck in this bind where you have to be polite no matter what horrible things come out of their mouths. Simply put, your job is at risk if you don’t. Case in point, a family came into Tarpley’s. It was a husband, wife and their son that has downs syndrome. I was dealing with a customer when they came in so my co-worker, Angela ended up talking with them.
Her suspicions that these were not nice people were first aroused when the wife asked her what they would have done with people like her son in the 18th century, in a sarcastic tone. The woman then complained that her son is 38 and still lives at home. Angela, who has extensive dealings with mentally disabled people, was more than happy to talk to the man and engage him in conversation.
Later, I was working with an employee that was making a purchase and the following exchange between Angela and the wife took place:
Wife: You work here, you know what the first hat shop was called.
Angela: I don’t, actually.
Wife: You don’t?! You should.
Angela: I know our store and our stock. We don’t have training outside of our location.
Wife: Well, you could read a book. Do you have a degree?
Angela: I’m currently working on one in green and sustainable management.
Wife: What does that even mean?
Angela: I want to be a soil scientist.
Things devolved from there. The couple then asked Angela if she believed in global climate change and when she said that she did, this launched the husband into a triad of Republican paranoia and insanity the likes of which I’ve only ever seen on Fox News. The man accused her of being “brainwashed” by a handful of people that believe in climate change with no real proof to back it up. He told her that our carbon footprint hasn’t changed significantly since the 1800s. And not only that, but the climate changes all the time! So this change is nothing new and definitely nothing that we have anything to do with.
As the man was in the middle of his rant, his back was to me while Angela was facing me, so I was able to make horrified faces at her and flail my arms in a T Rex fashion in sympathy. The couple eventually left with their son. Later that night, they stopped outside of the shop and since the door was open, we could hear the wife announce to her son that they had already been in our store and her husband had told Angela that she needs to be a republican.