Saturday, May 13, 2006

Tomato juice: the universal language

While I do speak jive, I don't speak science. Though I've had a crash course this past week. This international science fair brought thousands of kids and their teachers from all over the world to Indianapolis. Walking through the exhibit hall is like going through customs in Science World. It's an introduction to a whole new culture. I can't pronounce, let alone understand, most of the words scrolled across the top of each kid's exhibit. And what do kids with patents like to do for fun? Yeah, that's a league far away from my own.

But that's exactly what we had to try to figure out. Working on the Host City Committee for the fair meant my job was to help plan the socials, the after hours events for the science whiz-kids, their parents, the judges, you name it. The welcome event for over 4,000 was my main charge and so the rest of the week I've just been able to pop over wherever needed and help hand out tickets, answer questions, or pretend to be a bouncer, checking science fair badges instead of ids.

It's been a kind of surreal experience. Not only do the kids speak science, but many of them also speak some language other than English. It's great to meander through an event and hear 10 different languages buzzing around, but there's only so many charades I can do to explain that the Indianapolis canal is not for swimming or that the Kosher meals are in the corner next to the exhibit on the mastodon bones.

Perhaps the most interesting experience came on Wednesday night. The adults were treated to a celebration of Indiana agricultural products while the kids were playing with glow-in-the-dark slime across town. Both events surely had their quirks, but I was just as happy among the soy chips and life-size plywood cows at the adults' event. The crafty event planners on our committee had arranged for free samples of native ag products for the guests to take away. A fifteen bean soup mix went fast, as did popcorn, milled flour, and the wine tasting in the corner. Somehow, though, folks just weren't as excited about the little cans of Red Gold tomato juice.

"We gotta move these," one of the other committee members said. "I don't want to have to carry them back after tonight."

So off I went, meandering through the crowd of judges and teachers and parents with armfuls of tomato juice, begging anyone in my path to "please take one, some, as many as you want!"

Some folks looked skeptical and confused but took a can anyway, somehow resigned to just take the things handed to them and figure out the rest later. Others took a can and then bowed. Some didn't even make eye contact ("Don't look at her, she'll try to give us...tomato juice!!!"). Most smiled shyly and took two or three cans.

By the end of the night, people from every corner of the world were coming up to me, saying (or charading) "Um, I understand you are the girl with tomato juice?" Yup, thanks to tomato juice, the universal language, I was world famous.

So was I surprised when the winners were announced and not a single project had anything to do with tomato juice? Well, maybe only a little. There's always next year.



At 4:43 PM, Blogger Stelle In Italia said...

ooh, was there an exhibit of mammoth bones too? i prefer the groundhog ones...

sounds like you had a good time! i love the fact that you became the 'tomato juice' distributor! you didn't happen to wear your 100% apple juice shirt, did you? that would have REALLY confused people :)!

miss you, bella!

At 7:30 PM, Blogger Stelle In Italia said...

Jack, you're a marketing genius! We'll have to keep an eye out at oviesse for the 100% Puur Tommmatto shirts next season.



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