While sightseeing in London we stopped at The National Gallery. It’s an art museum, and as one who really can’t tell a fresco from a fiasco, the trip was kind of wasted on me. However, Laurel’s enthusiasm more than made up for my lack.
When you enter The National Gallery, there is a cafe toward the right and downstairs. On your way to the cafe, there is a counter where you can buy tour books, maps, and get information. If you are there on the correct day, you will also see Dana.
Dana has curly hair that almost reaches her shoulders. She’s probably in her thirties. And since she had no one there, and since she was offering information, I thought I would ask her if I could buy some coffee in their cafe and then carry it through the gallery. So I approached her, noted her name-tag, and said, “Hello Dana.”
You’d have thought I’d pinched her. She jumped, looked at me with her eyebrows raised and said, “Do I know you?” I told her I didn’t know her but I saw her name on her name-tag and wished to ask her a question. With a face that showed her outrage in a manner uncharacteristic of other British folks I’ve met, she unclipped her name-tag and reversed it so that no one could see it. Now two of us are outraged.
“Dana,” I said, “I had one question, but now I have two. Let me ask my new question first. Why did you turn your name-tag around?” She told me that when I called her by her name it startled her and made it look like we knew one another. I told her I didn’t know her until now and that my name was Steve and since we now have known one another for all of a minute, I would ask her my second question.
Dana was still reeling with the horror that someone knew her name — someone she didn’t know! I said, “You sell coffee in your cafe, but I am guessing that one cannot take the coffee into the gallery. Am I right?”
“No! No coffee in the gallery,” she said with an air of indignation.
I smiled and said, “Thank you, Dana.”
Then I left to see what other odd things might be waiting to surprise me in The National Gallery on Trafalgar Square.
By the way — at first, I thought I had violated a cultural more. Perhaps it’s wrong to call someone by name when they are wearing a name tag in Britain. So, that evening, while the girls were shopping, I told this story to James, a clerk in Primark, asking him if it was a British thing to take offense at being called by the name on your tag when you are working with the public. James said, “No — it depends on the person, I’d say. I believe that was not a British thing — it was a Dana thing.”
So the lesson is, for me, that one needs to be careful not to judge a whole group of people on one person. Everyone has his or her own peculiarities. Some are just more interesting than others.
By the way, if you go to The National Gallery, say hey to Dana — from her friend, Steve. She’s the one with her name tag on backwards.