We have a new contributor to the blog! Please welcome Fraser, one of our gallery assistants.
I have a secret life. I’m a professional gallery assistant and I’m a professional mascot. Being a mascot is like being a superhero: I cannot reveal my secret identity. True, my super power is unlikely to save the world, as it’s waving at children. My training for the job was simple…
I cannot reveal my mascot identity, but here I am dressed as a cinema....
‘Don’t talk, and don’t take your head off.’ they say ‘Else the kids’ll freak.’
Awhile back, I had the chance to combine my gallery work and my mascoting.
‘Will you be my Mummy?’ my friend in marketing asked. ‘Well, yes,’ I say. Secret lives; secret Egypt. Who da Mummy?
Not me, as it happens. Maybe I’m overqualified. The chosen Mummy did a great job, but I’d have laid down more comedy curses.
‘I curse your hat! Oh no…I actually I quite like it. Better than what they’re wearing in the afterlife. I bless your hat.’
Pause. Comedy pause.
‘Your socks, though, NAH!’
Our real mummy is Perenbast the Chantress. We know her through her artefacts, but how well can we ever know her? How well can we ever know anyone? How well do we even know our colleagues?
During launch day, I went for a sandwich with someone I’ve worked with for over a year. We get on well, but our conversation stutters. It just dive-bombs into silence.
‘Hey,’ she says ‘let’s talk about work!’ She’s joking, but it’s true. Outside the work bubble, we don’t say much. Having a communal pint after the launch, we joke about it. ‘We need to work on our friendship,’ she says. ‘I’ll text you,’ I say ‘…about work.’
Maybe it’s because we’re tired. Maybe it’s because I’m more reactive in conversations. I rarely drive them. I like to listen, just listen. If you really listen, you’ll see how often people cut across each other or finish each other’s sentences. Good listeners rarely interrupt. To be one, just don’t talk. Oh, and don’t take your head off.
....and here I am with Postman Pat.
It’s easy to talk about work. Naturally, friendships blossom behind desks and in galleries, but when people move on, rapports can dwindle. I returned to TKMaxx, where I worked for two years. The connections had gone. I don’t know what to say. But you can hardly dive into deep conversation. I once joked about this while serving TKMaxx customers.
‘Would you like small talk,’ I said ‘or …a deep, psychologically demanding, conversation?’ They ponder. ‘We’ll take the deep conversation.’ ‘So,’ I said. ‘When was the last time you cried?’ They laugh. I continue. ‘And when was the last time you broke the law?’ Maybe not that deep, but the customers loved it.
Some customers want rapport, like people meeting mascots. Others customers want approachable reverence, like seeing Museum Assistants. I adjust myself to both. Rarely customers want deep conversations or colleagues.
How well do my colleagues really know me? Even those I socialise with.
I think I’ll take five minutes to chat more, and maybe not about work.
Like I say, I have a secret life.