Hi! Welcome! Hello. How are you today?
These are my four greetings to the people who walk in the planetarium. I do startle some of them when I interject these greetings because I’m trying to come off as friendly and warm. Instead, I’m some loud fruit ball that probably seems nice.
The people who walk into the planetarium are all shapes and sizes; different colors, styles and ages. Duh.
Really, sometimes their appearances are the safer to observe because they all have very different personalities. Some of them will make me feel happy that I have this job and others…make me want to run away.
“Iwanttobuythisrocketship, hey! didyouknowthisfrabblegabblegabblebop?”
There’s a man who comes in every once in a while and he talks really fast and changes the subject after speaking two words. I cannot point out the disability that he has. Sometimes, he can be a little too friendly. I think the last conversation he tried to have with me was something about space and porn, and complimented about how pretty I was.
He’s a big astronomy fan, probably a little bit bigger than I. He’s like 70-something with a long, white beard, wearing one of our star shirts that we sell for $15. He forgot to cut off the tags and the “It Glows-in-the-Dark!” sticker when he purchased it a while ago. This time, he wanted to buy a toy rocket ship.
“Whenthisplanetpassesthesunand hey! IwatchedwatcheditonTV.”
I usually nod my head to his conversations. Majority of my dialogues consist of “Oh, okay” and “Uh-huh”. My boss, JoAnne, will be watching from her office with her hands on her hips, rolling her eyes at the ridiculousness.
The Retired Competitors
Sometimes, I’ll have old people walk in and challenge me about my knowledge in astronomy. I don’t know everything, but I am capable of explaining some things.
“How far can I zoom in with the different lenses in that telescope?”
“Sir, I wish I could answer that for you but my associate director will be able to—”
(And then you’ll hear a “hah” coming from under his breath) “But you don’t know,”
At this point, I’m trying to stay calm. I look at him straight into the eye. He knows he made a jackass out of himself and he wants to avoid the situation.
“I don’t, but that’s why I would like to introduce you to my associate director so he can provide you with the correct information,”
And then I guess he felt super guilty about his attitude and immediately changed the subject with a different tone of voice. “Oh, okay so what’s your major?”
The Mean Elderly People (and it’s still your fault)
Another situation I had to deal with kinda consisted with my faults; I was typing away on my computer at the front desk while people were shopping in the gift shop. An elderly lady tapped the top of my computer and said, “Wake up!”
“I…am?” was the only thing I responded with. I was offended and confused at the same time.
“No you weren’t, no you weren’t.”
“I’m sorry, I was typing out my homework,” (MY BAD–SERIOUSLY)
My entire body froze and my eyes just locked on her. Am I seriously putting up with a 67-year-old who acts like a 13-year-old? No, she wasn’t being silly or joking around!
When she noticed my shock, she changed the subject immediately; she took a kids’ astronaut costume off the rack and gushed over it. My eyes were still locked on hers and I didn’t say a word. She approaches me at the desk and asks,
“So what are you majoring in?”
I tell her.
“Oh, journalism! My son used to do journalism. Now he’s just a manager at a hotel,”
Since then, I have not brought my computer to the front desk.
The Walking Storybooks
These are the people who insist standing at the front desk to tell their life story for 30 minutes straight. They’re usually people in their mid 50s that are in deep love or have kids. Very awkward, I must say. I don’t know how to respond to most of them. I do a lot of fake laughing.
“We went to the planetarium when we first met a few months ago and we bought this moon that you can hang on the wall and it lights up. It’s so amazing, and we use it every night…”
The Ultimate Believer
It was a week before December 21st, 2012 the known date for the end of the world. On the same day when the nonstop-talking-disability man came in, a scrawny man with very little hair on his head, with a sweater on, comes in and asks two strange questions.
“Hi…….is there a video class in here?”
“Um, no. You’re at the planetarium.”
“Do you know where the video class would be?”
I simply had no clue about it. I just suggested that he’d check out the library.
“Thank you. Also, I would like to know if I could speak to…a professional about a space related question?”
“I could try to answer!” I happily said.
“Because December 21st is coming up, do you know what time Nibiru would be intersecting our orbit?”
I stare at him blankly.
“Nibiru is an unknown planet in our Solar System and it’s supposed to go through our orbit and collide with Earth. It’s believed that it was the cause of the extinction of the dinosaurs billions of years ago,”
“I very much doubt that will happen, sir.”
I wanted to die.
We have posters hanging up on the walls. Some of them are of the Milky Way Galaxy and the Periodic Table of the Elements. One man came in with his wife and was so intrigued by the Milky Way Galaxy poster. The art of the galaxy on the poster had billions of stars and nebula circling inside it, all the way to the Galactic Center, just like we imagine it. The Galactic Center is actually a black hole and surrounded by high density of matter and large groups of stars, which makes it very bright, like this:
It’s a peaceful picture. I like to look at it sometimes.
It’s peaceful, until, all of a sudden, I’m asked:
“Why is it bright in the middle? Is that our sun or another big sun?”
It almost brought me to tears.
The Nice Mom
Our planetarium hosts birthday parties for kids. I was hosting one a few weeks ago for a 5-year-old boy named Walker, who had an extreme obsession with Spiderman (the family requested red and blue table cloths, his presents were wrapped in Spiderman themes and of course, he had a Spiderman cake).
I helped 10 kids put together their own kaleidoscopes as a craft and helped prepared food, gifts and other settings for Walker’s parents and guests.
Walker’s mother was actually a very nice woman; she curled her long brown hair for her son’s big day and she was very patient and social. While we were waiting for the rest of her guests, Walker and his friends were in awe with the toys in the gift shop. A lady who was another visitor at the planetarium that day were watching the kids play and said,
“It’s so sad what happened to those children in Connecticut,”
Awkward…even though this was the day after the shooting at the time. Nobody really likes talking about it, or even thinking about it.
“I mean, I can’t imagine how the parents feel. It’s so sad,”
Walker’s mother and I just stand there, trying to ignore as she kills the mood. Shut up, lady.
“He shot up all of those babies. So sad.”
K. Shut up.
After ignoring her for a while, she finally walks away. Somberly.
Anyways, I enjoyed serving Walker’s mother. I felt really bad for her, though, when she tried to order pizza and it was a little too late. The pizza business that she called told her that their oven was broken.
But her and I worked together well and she gave me a $20 tip at the end.
This is just a collection of some of my favorite people who walked in so far. By April, it will be a year since I’ve been working at the planetarium. It’s really the best job in the world. You learn so much academically and socially, even though the pay sucks.
Here are a couple of phone calls that I received from customers in December of 2012. NOTE – I face palmed to these questions because they make your brain hurt!:
“Yeah, hi, I have a question for you. I’ve been watching the sun rise and the sun set throughout all of my life; it’s a really beautiful experience. But the other morning when I was watching the sun rise, the moon appeared at the same time as the sun in the sky. Does this have anything to do with the apocalypse?”
“Hello, I was wondering if the planets are going to align on December 21st? Where can I look at this?”
FOR FUN – A freaky question over the phone that my boss, JoAnne had to answer in the late 90s:
“Before the comet, Halle-Bop, impacts the Earth, what do you suggest I do? Should I commit suicide before it happens?”
(Of course, she answered no. This question relates to the religious suicide pact in 1997, Heaven’s Gate).