Thursday, May 23, 2013

Oh, The Things You Hear and See!

When Past Rich suggested to Past Lisa "Hey! Let's put together a small book for the upcoming Geopark Symposium!", Past Lisa should have sprayed him with a plant mister with the stern rebuke of "No!" Instead, Past Lisa was all excited about the idea. Past Rich and Past Lisa are great at coming up with grand ideas, but they always leave it up to Future Rich and Future Lisa to implement them. Meanwhile, those Past slackers get all the credit. Past Rich and Past Lisa have no thought for the time commitments and workload of Present Rich and Present Lisa, and have been officially censured for their inconsiderate actions. Now Present Lisa is reading over what we hope is the final draft of the project. We will toss it at our layout and printer source this afternoon. I can't grouse too loudly - I think the final product will look great.

While Present Lisa waits for her tea to brew, a couple of amusing incidents came to mind: one fairly recent and one that happened a few years ago. The present incident reminded me of the some of the odd conversations one overhears when one offers services to the general public, or are out and about among the general public.

I'll set the scene for Incident 2013. We had a lot of visitors to the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery over the Victoria Day long weekend, even though (in this region) the tradition is to muck out the campers and trailers and head out to the nearest campground. May in the Peace Region is usually the time when the snowpack from the surrounding mountains starts to melt and add those waters to the lower elevation rivers and streams. This year is no exception: we had an uncharacteristically late snowfall in April of some accumulation (about 15cm in some areas), so the region is just starting to experience Spring. All the rivers and streams are full to the brim and quite vigorous. How does this tie into the Museum? Our popular Dinosaur Trackway Tours take visitors to two tracksites, the Cabin Pool-Flatbed Creek site and the Wolverine River site, which (as you can likely guess from the names) are exposed along the banks of Flatbed Creek and the Wolverine River, respectively. May and June are lousy times to see these sites because they are underwater. We don't offer tours to these sites until the end of June (water levels permitting).

Over the Victoria Day weekend, our Gallery Host had a visitor yell at her because they had gone to one of the tracksites on their own accord (the trails are open for public use any time) and was shocked - just completely flabbergasted - that the tracksites were underwater. Here's the punchline of this joke: this particular person lives in the region. They not only know that the rivers and creeks flood every spring, but they can step outside and see it happening. And, apparently, it was our fault that the sites were underwater, because we magically control when and where the annual spring flood occurs. [SAS NOTE: I'm interjecting my own interpretation of the reason for this behavior, because it seems the only logical reason a person would yell at another person over a natural event.] Needless to say, I have now written on our Gallery Host's "To-Do" list "Do something about that pesky spring flooding".

You hear (and see) all sorts of odd things when you have a public interpretive program. We've had people try to ride the ankylosaur mounts. We've had people try to break off pieces of the mounts as souvenirs (they are resin replica skeletons). We have proselytizers who visit for the sole purpose of trying to save our front end staff. Compared to the stories I've heard from other natural history museums, these incidents are mild. There is a quality about a public-accessible display that makes some visitors want to be the reason museums put up a sign that reads "No using the sauropod leg as a stripper pole."

As I was relating this story to my mom last night, my sister chimed in and demanded I tell Mom the "Jesus Hates Zombies" story. This one happened back in 2009, but it has everything: zombies, children, logic, pseudoreasoning, and graphic novels. Alas, there is no love story, unless you love irony.

Rich and I were killing time at a bookstore in one of the cities in the Peace Region. We were perusing books on gardening and homemade, environmentally safe cleaners. In walks a young boy (around 10 years old) and his father, who gravitate to the comics section. One graphic novel in particular catches the boy's eye: Jesus Hates Zombies, by Stephen Lindsay.

This graphic novel did not catch the boy's attention for the typical reasons (zombies = gory and awesome). This family was Christian, and it was the Jesus part that caught the attention.

This is the conversation that I overheard. (Let me be honest here: I lurked. As soon as I heard the boy's second question, I knew it would be worth listening to the conversation in its entirety.)

Boy: "Dad, what's this one about?"

Dad: "It's about Jesus coming back to earth to kill zombies."

Boy: "Dad, how come Jesus hates zombies?"

Dad: "I don't know, Son. It's part of the story."

Boy: "But Dad, doesn't Jesus love everyone?"

Dad: "Yes he does. He loves you very much."

Boy: "But Dad, if Jesus loves everyone, doesn't he love zombies too?"

Dad: "Zombies aren't people."

Boy: "But zombies were people. They're just dead people. Why doesn't Jesus love dead people?"

Dad (quite uncomfortable at this point): "Jesus loves good dead people that don't walk around."

Boy (clearly getting frustrated): "But DAD, Jesus loves everyone. And since zombies were people, Jesus should love them too. If I was a zombie would Jesus hate me, too?"

Dad (at his own frustration tipping point): "It's just make up. It's not real."

Dad then puts an end to the conversation. I had to leave the store so I could sit in my car and howl with laughter without anyone hearing me.

I loved the hypocrisy of this conversation. Zombies coming back from the dead are make-believe, yet a character in a religious text who dies and is brought back to life is treated as reality. Dad effectively put an end to the conversation before his son could make the next mental step of asking the question "Is Jesus a zombie because he came back to life too?" 

You can make up zombies, but you can't make up these conversations.

Share with me the weirdest, zaniest, most bizarre museum-related visitor incident (as long as there is nothing legal preventing you from doing so - no need to get in trouble) your local museum has witnessed!

SAS out.


  1. Past Rich and Past Lisa are sneaky buggers. They've coerced Present Sean into proof-reading said Geopark book. But I'm hip to these temporal hijincks: I've passed the buck to Future Sean, Mwah ha ha!

    1. Beware of Future Sean: he may not approve of Present Sean's decision. You may face a reprimand of your own! Fortunately, until time travel is made available at the consumer level, I think you are presently safe from Future Sean materializing and smacking you.

  2. Actually, there ARE zombies in the Bible, who rise as a result of the Crucifixion no less!
    Matthew 27: 51-53 "And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many." :-)

    1. Excellent! I wonder if that part of the Bible was skipped over in this particular family's religious training? I wonder how many interpretations there are for bodies laid to rest rising and appearing among the populace?

      I recently had a tour where a little girl was telling me all about how God was good, and never killed anyone, and loved everyone equally no matter what they did, and..and..and... It also made me think of "Jesus Hates Zombies", and the G-rated version of a text that, for the most part, would make a horrific and scarring read for a child's bed-time story.