Today I had to spend two hours on the information desk. Everybody has to do it. There is a roster, and today it was my turn again.
I had only been sitting there for ten minutes and nobody had come up to ask me a question, like where were the toilets. But then Clarence came up to say hello. He is a Gallery Officer and his job is to walk around the museum making sure kids don't touch or climb on the objects, make sure people don't try to steal objects, or hit them with sledgehammers. Visitors also ask him questions and he is very good at answering them. Clarence always gets glowing reviews from visitors. I know about that because I process the visitor comments. Clarence likes to talk to people and he is very good at it. He is very friendly and because he enjoys talking to the visitors and helping them, they write nice things about him on the visitor comments forms. Clarence is a large man and carries himself with an air of magnanimity. If it weren't for his uniform, he could be mistaken for a visiting dignitary, or some great benefactor.
Anyway, he came up to say hello as I sat at the information desk.
I mentioned to him that he was very popular with the visitors. I processed the visitor comments and I saw them all. He sure was popular. The visitors thought he was a good egg.
It wasn't the first time I told Clarence about his fans, and he reacted in his usual way. He took it very well, in a relaxed manner, as though it were no big deal. But it was obvious he enjoyed the subject and was flattered. He was pleased in his subtle way. He was magnanimous; one of those likeable, magnanimous fellows.
A woman visitor came up and asked where something was. I said I didn't know. As soon as I said it I knew it was not a very good answer. Luckily Clarence was there.
'Politicians know that there are three things you never say: No, Yes, or I don't know. What you do is just talk, about anything, and feel free to even change the subject,' Clarence said.
The woman liked that answer, and she seemed instantly charmed. She made some comments on the evasiveness of politicians, then walked away smiling.
'Another thing with you, Clarence,' I said, 'is that you are on one side of the coin, while a couple of your colleagues are on the other side of the coin. You are a good egg; these others are bad eggs. They always get negative comments.'
'Don't tell me ... Holland and Fernandez.'
'Yep. What is it with them?'
Clarence rolled his eyes up and gave a tremendous sigh.
'I'll tell you what. When they come anywhere near me, I am off. I get to the other side of the museum. You know the poles? Like a magnet? Opposite sides. They can't be together, they have to be on opposite sides. That's me and them.'
'You know, one of the complaints, a girl went up to Fernandez and asked him if she could go outside and have a cigarette then come back in. Guess what he said to her?'
Clarence closed his eyes.
'He laughed and said, 'Sure. Go out and get cancer, you little bitch. I don't care.' That's pretty cold, isn't it?'
Clarence got a big painful grimace that spread out over his face. These were HIS people, these visitors. He really liked them all, and it was too much, this, the thought that some of his colleagues were treating them bad.
'You know, if I had any say in the matter, I wouldn't keep these people on the floor. Why do the managers keep these people on the floor, dealing with the public? It's quite beyond me, it really is.'
'You are a good egg, Clarence,' I said.