What Do You Do

I tried to get this story to fit in a tweet and could not make it in 140, so I am writing it here. My wife and I went to the local credit union to open an account. Everything went smoothly until the account manager, who was very nice, asked the following:

Bank Person: What do you do, Lance?
Me: I am an archivist.
Bank Person: A what?
Me: I am an archivist at The Henry Ford.
Bank Person: Could you spell that?
Me: A-R-C-H-I-V-I-S-T.
Bank Person: Oh, just like it sounds.
Me: Yeah.
Bank Person: So, what do you do, put small parts in cars?
Me: Yes, yes I do.

I actually did explain what I do for real, and she said that it sounded very interesting, but I think she was covering at that point. We archivists need a good PR firm…

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “What Do You Do

  1. kll

    That’s one of the pros of being Director. Everyone knows what that is (even if they have no idea what the director of a museum might actually do).
    I’ve had very similar conversations along the lines of:
    Me: Curator
    Them: Creator?
    Me: No Curator.
    Them:????

  2. My sister once had a conversation with her middle school classmates about what I did. It went like this:

    Sister: She’s an archivist.
    Classmate 1: Um…you mean an architect?
    Sister: No! She works with old things.
    Classmate 2: She’s an archaeologist?
    Sister: No…

    She later told me that the teacher also had no clue what I did, though she was impressed that I had gone to grad school for it. I feel like I need to have an index card of all the professions I’m not!

  3. Many years ago, the annual meeting of the New England Archivists took place at a small community college in Massachusetts at a quiet time of the year. The meeting attendees were surprised to be greeted by a remarkably large police presence in an out-of-the-way place, but it turned out that the local forces of law and order thought that the “New England Activists” were about to descend upon them, and were mystified (faintly disappointed?) by whom we turned out to be.

  4. Lance

    Ha, thanks for those stories everyone. It sounds like this has always been a problem :)