You probably do too, if you sit down and think about it.
And Oh! The things people say!
Unlike my father who worked the same job as a mechanic and welder for 43 years, I’ve had more than one occupation; two of them required MUCH association with the general public.
With those careers, it was the usual small talk when meeting someone for the first time:
“So, what do you do Cynthia?”
“Blah, blah. You?”
Meeting someone for the first time now:
“So, Cynthia, what do you do?”
I’m a professional genealogist. You?”
Some of my favorite exchanges are below:
“No dear, I don’t do stuff on TV.”
“Oh yeah! My [insert relative here] is really into that! Got our family all the way back to King Henry VIII!”
“Is that right? Huh.”
“Oh yeah? Well, you know...I’m related to King George. Yeah.”
“Is that right? Huh.”
“Do you do that Ancestry.com stuff online?”
“No I use Ancestry.com offline and other sites online.”
“How do you DO all that?”
“Well Sugar, it ain’t splittin’ an atom with a hammer and a chisel. I follow research guidelines and best practices. It’s just time-consuming, not difficult.”
“I guess you really um...hit a wall at...um...1860, huh?”
“No, my maternal third great grandmother and her family were free persons of color as far back as I have researched.”
“Oh! I didn’t mean to imply....”
“Well, um...how far back do you have them?”
“What’s interesting about it?”
“I mean...um...that’s really great!”
“Well, not for the other branches of the tree. 1860 IS a wall for them.”
“Oh! I’m so sorry!”
At that point I usually break down laughing and tell them I’m just messing with them, but that the 1810 story is true. They laugh in relief and we go on discussing other genealogically related issues. We’re good.
Then there are the really probably good souls, but ARRRRGH! This “we” –not so good. This conversation actually happened:
“I’ve researched personally for over 20 years, but professionally only since 2014.”
“Oh. I’m new. I’m figuring it out. I guess I can tell you this—I was just so upset to find out that [drops voice to a whisper]...my people owned slaves! It really made me sick to my stomach. I...I...I’m sorry.”
“Sorry! I’m really sorry!”
“Have you personally ever owned a slave?”
“What?! Well, NO!”
“Then, what in the world are you sorry for? Dollars to donuts, if you’d have lived 150 years ago and had means, YOU would have owned slaves. Back then, EVERYBODY was doing it. NOW, everybody's blatherin' on about having a 21st century aversion to slavery. Let's move on. Now, what else did you find out about your family?”
She walked away.
Yes, the character flaw made another appearance....
The things we say!