I’m Obviously Just Not Cool Enough

There’s a pizzeria here that has been widely acclaimed as the best pizza in the US. (That’s not the start of a joke. It’s for real). It’s right next door to where I work, so every afternoon I get to watch people line up, starting around 2 p.m. for their 5 p.m. nightly opening. So after having to watch others eat there for a couple of months, I finally got to eat there myself.

Since they don’t take reservations, you get in line, at 5 p.m. make your way to the front of the line behind everyone else, give your name, and you & your party wait for three hours waiting for a table. They own a little bar next door, so you can go hang out in there. But after not having eaten since 11 a.m., and then drinking 3 beers, you could have fed me microwaved elementary-school cafeteria pizza and I would’ve thought it was the shit.

Phone Tree

If you call a major museum and ask for the curator, you probably get handed off to some assistant to the assistant curator, or the registrar, or an office manager. If you call my museum and ask for the curator, you get me.

99 percent of these calls shouldn’t even make it to me, but our front desk volunteers are ancient and can’t follow instructions, nevermind filter my calls. So they just send them straight through to me. I get dozens of the following questions weekly, if not daily. You get to choose the proper response from the choices provided under each question.

1.  I have an old newspaper / rock / dinosaur bone. I’m at the front desk. Can you come tell me what it is?

a) No. We are unable to provide identification and authentication services (not to mention we don’t collect newspapers or dinosaur bones or rocks).

b) Screw you. I’m not an on-call curator.

c) Oh Goody! A Newspaper / rock / dinosaur bone! I’ll be right up!

 

2. I have a Declaration of Independence, and I want to sell it to you. How much is it worth and how much will you give me?

a) At this time, our museum does not have any funds available for the purchase of artifacts. More importantly, it is against museum policy to provide any authentication, monetary valuation, or appraisals for any items. I am happy to provide you with a list of professional appraisers.

b) Ha-ha SUCKER! I hate to tell you this, but the chances of your document being authentic are slim to none. Can’t wait to see the look on your face when the documents dealer tells you as much! How much did you pay for it?

 

3. I have a very urgent research question and hope you can help me right away. [15 minute story about the person’s great grandmother] Can you help me with my geneaological research?

a) Our archives and library are open by appointment only, according to museum policy. You are welcome to make an appointment with me to come in and use our archives and library for your research. My earliest opening is…

b) Who cares?! Your stupid genealogy is neither my problem nor in my interests.

c) I know you’ve got no one to talk to besides your 17 cats, but I’ve got better things to do. Could you hurry the hell up here?!

Unfiltered Thoughts: Reality TV

Do people get paid to analyze tv? I mean, clearly, tv critics do, but there can’t be many openings in that field. I wonder because I devote a lot of thought and analysis to tv. The shows, the ads, the trends, they all fascinate me.

I find that as my days day off run few and far between, they descend into nothing more than sleep and lazing in front of the tv. I’ve been drained of the energy and ability to do much of anything besides watch tv and watch the clock turn to happy hour. It’s the escapism that tv offers — when I have so little time to relax and can’t get away, it helps transport me to somewhere else, even if just for a while. Maybe it’s the rum talking, but I don’t think tv is bad. I think bad tv is awesome.

Specifically bad reality tv. There is just something about watching the trainwreck of undeserving confidence propel tone deaf teens to trying out for American Idol or watching teams self-destruct and implode in front of millions on The Amazing Race. I like a lot about this sort of crap. It helps my too-tired-to-think self suppress my thinking, overanalytical, doubting self. I get wrapped up in looking at the background details — the marketing of a show, how the producers manipulate the contestants, or the various personalities that get cast as contestants, hosts, and judges. People say things like “It’s not real” with respect to reality tv. DUH! I never was under the impression that Laguna Beach was an unscripted snapshot of real teenage life or that the contestants on Project Runway don’t deliberately manufacture their personas to market themselves for viewer consumption. I watch it because it isn’t real, because I am fascinated by how these shows are cast, how the weekly contests are rigged to keep on talentless contestants simply because they provide high entertainment value.

Where’s My Maternity Leave?

Okay, last straw. I have been doing all of the work that falls under my job title PLUS that of the Education Director, along with all of the work that would be done by the phantom archivist, collections manager, registrar, exhibit developer, IT department, and on and on. But today the hammer came down.

My boss is about to embark on her maternity leave. There’s going to be no hiring or temp help during her leave. So during her leave I’m expected to take over her duties as well. In theory, should be easy since she doesn’t really do anything. But in reality, it means managing the upcoming annual fundraiser, even though I’ve never been here to even see it before. I’m supposed to coordinate all of the event’s components and make it happen. This is a huge event — it raises all of our operating funds for the entire upcoming fiscal year. And I’m supposed to just pile that on. On top of managing the move of all collections. On top of running all tours and educational programs. On top of staffing the front desk myself. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! There’s only two of us now — myself and my coworker (who works as an administrative assistant), and we’re both working ridiculously long hours, sleepwalking through our jobs, and exploited by our employer with nowhere to turn. I hate that I’ve already decided to bail and look elsewhere for work, because it would further screw over my remaining coworker, but realistically, it’s going to take me awhile to find other work anyway, and I’m sticking to my decision to leave.

A Tale of Two Departments

To say that my boss is a micromanager would be wrong. She is a micromanager who does not communicate. I am expected to know what she wants and how she wants it done, but I only find out when I’m doing the wrong thing and doing it wrong. When it comes to my department, she tells me what my priorities should be, in which order I should be doing things, and how to go about doing them.

I feel like she just does not get that people have different work styles, and that that’s okay. The Boss doesn’t seem to understand how much time I need for thinking, contemplation, and the actual steps it takes to put a project together from beginning to end. I’m not asking for weeks to mull things over. It’s just that I would like a little more lead time on things. If today is the first time you mention a grant application that’s due tomorrow at noon, don’t expect my finest work.

She is applying for a grant to create a paid internship position at the museum in my department, and she wanted to get “examples” of the kinds of projects that I would have my intern working on. This is easy. The collections are largely undocumented and almost wholly uncatalogued. Only about 0.012 percent of the collections are catalogued in the database. So I would definitely have my intern cataloguing. That is a real-world job skill. You have to find the documentation, learn the collections management database, digitize any photos or documents associated with the object, do data entry, and research, measure, photograph, and describe each object, then label it and return it to storage. You learn object handling, photography, research, database administration, and have a sense of real, measurable accomplishment.

Her response? “That is not a valuable project. The intern has to LEARN something. They have to be doing something that contributes to our needs but also improves their own skills and abilities, that gives them real-world museum experience, hands-on. Sitting in front of a computer all day is not appropriate.”

Funny, cause as a grad student, I did three internships in three different museums and archives. And all three of the internships were….cataloguing a collection. Sure, there were other projects along the way, but the bulk of my work at all the internships was cataloguing. I think as a curator and the direct supervisor of whomever this intern is, I know what they should be working on and I definitely know what my departmental needs are, other than a NEW BOSS.

For contrast, I present you with the Education Department intern. Before Twitwit was fired, she had arranged for a college student to work in the Education Department full-time (40 hours per week) for 4 weeks starting today. She had arranged no specific project or details. The intern arrived from Connecticut with no idea what she would be doing here or what would be expected of her. Since I’m the de facto Education Director, the Boss has instructed me to orient, train, and supervise this new intern. When I asked her what I should have the intern doing, she said: “That’s for you to determine.” Um, I’m not an Education Director and don’t really know what the fuck she should be doing. How about a hand here? She has no understanding of the amount of time and planning it takes to create a project for an intern and then hand hold them through every step of the way, especially one who is here full-time for the next four weeks, during which I’m supposed to be preparing for and then overseeing the move of all collections, on top of the usual working the front desk and developing the new exhibit.

It’s official. I’m looking for other work.

Employer of the Month

One of the problems with working as much as I have been is I’m getting run down and sick a lot more often. Today I called in sick with strep throat. I can barely talk and I feel like crap. But not nearly as bad as I felt when the Boss yelled at me for taking a sick day.

The crypt keepers volunteers meet once a month and have a speaker give a presentation before they hang out and bitch for the rest of the morning. Today I was scheduled to lead a brief talk. I was supposed to pull some things from the collection and do a show and tell for the volunteers. The collection is full of wickety wak and so when it came to picking items, I thought, I’ll just do some pottery. I know a lot about prehistoric southwestern pottery, we have a lot to choose from, and it’s easy to just pick a few and talk off-the-cuff about this stuff. I figured I’d do a 10 minute introduction to the types of pottery and describe what’s important about each type, and then just answer questions and let the volunteers examine the ceramics up close. The volunteer association is so casual. They always have a group activity or game to fall back on if the presentation isn’t long enough or, less likely, if they run out of stuff to bitch about.

So I didn’t think it was a big deal to call in sick. Even if I could have come in, I have strep throat and couldn’t talk, not to mention these elderly volunteers do not need any more opportunity to come down with something. So imagine my surprise when the Boss bitched me out about how inappropriate it was that I called in sick when I had obligations and how irresponsible it was of me not to save my presentation on the server so that someone else could give my presentation in my absence, and that I would be written up for this incident.

I’ve always taken pride in my work. My work is important to me. It matters that I do a good job, I see work as a reflection of myself, and I want to be good at my job. So it’s very upsetting to me that I’m not living up to my own standards these days. I feel overwhelmed and the work that I’ve been producing does not meet even my lowest level of acceptable quality. I don’t need your yelling at me to make me feel any worse than I already do.

It’s demoralizing to work for someone who doesn’t seem to value my input and to have my opinions dismissed so readily. It sucks to work for someone who seems not to understand what I have to offer. It’s frustrating beyond belief to be spread so thin that I can’t do high-quality work because I’m doing too many things. It’s made me question my abilities as a museum professional. Nay, as an employee, period.

I’ve become someone who does things half-assed just to get them done, rather than do them right, because there isn’t enough time to get things right.  I don’t feel appreciated. I don’t feel like my boss understands my work style, capabilities, strengths and weaknesses, and limitations. I get dinged just because the way I go about something isn’t the way she would. And it’s hard to communicate with someone who always has a look on her face and a body language that say “What the fuck do you want now?” Her feedback is closer to “this is all your fault and here’s why” than to “what we need to work on is…” I came here with such high hopes, the confidence that I had the abilities to make a meaningful difference. But I work for a bully who likes to make other people feel bad about themselves. Thanks, but I got that all under control on my own.