A gentleman of a mature age. At Reception, very critical already. I notice him immediately. I avoid him. I have no desire to meet him. And BANG! Sarah at Reception calls me over. ‘Timothée, this gentleman would like to talk to you.’ Really FAN-TAS-TIC! Oh well, it’ll be fine.
I say hello. He asks what there is to see at the Museum of Communication. So I take him on a short tour of the permanent exhibition. I have 15 minutes left before a planned break with my colleagues. We head over to the Tools section, where there are more than 550 items on display. I tell the dear man the story of the carpet beater. He looks at me. Listens quietly. Until the end of the story. Then he says: ‘So, you’re happy now, are you? You got to tell your little story.’ Stern and unfriendly. Arrogant, even. I look at him. Smile. And say: ‘Yes, you’re right, I am happy. I’m happy with a lot of things.’ He giggles.
We carry on. I tell him about the Zurich mail robbery, the biggest post office break-in anywhere in the world. I want a discussion, not a monologue. But he avoids that. Just listens to me. Until I’ve finished. Then he says: ‘You’ve learnt your little stories really well, haven’t you?’ So arrogant! ‘Idiot’, I think (which is wrong, I know). And then (I’m not someone who likes to be exploited) I decide to turn the tables and tell him how I see things.
I ask him if he always analyses everyone and everything they say. I ask him if he can’t simply surrender to the story and let himself be transported. BANG!
I’ve got him there! He looks at me. I look at him. He’s noticed that I’m not the museum’s puppet! And now he speaks with a hint of melancholy. Yes, he says, he has to analyse everything he hears. He can’t help it. Every person, every statement, every gesture. And he adds: ‘Maybe that’s why I ended up with a brain tumour. I think too much.’
From that moment on, we’re on the same level. With each other, not against each other. We do the entire museum tour together. Talking to each other. Exchanging ideas, discussing things. Criticising together. Objectively. We have fun. Especially him! But so do I. He does let himself be transported. We talk about things together. Openly and honestly.
He came into the museum sceptical, critical and arrogant. He left with a smile on his face. He learnt something, experienced something big. It’s a happy moment for me. We spent 40 minutes on the tour, not 10 as planned. It was wonderful. I gave him something. And he gave me something too, in the way he acted. A smile. Recognition. I’d be pleased to see him again!
Kind regards, Timothée