The New Guy
The concierge caught me with a note on my way into the locker room this afternoon.
Call me right away before you go on tonight.
It was going to be one of those nights. And my evening had been looking so promising. She doesn’t normally work weekends, so, this must be something extra “special.”
“Okay, so, tonight could potentially be a little more complicated than you may be used to so far,” Giselle started in a rush like she was getting paid by the speed of delivery. Her tone suggested she was trying to downplay bad news. “But it shouldn’t be any major intrusion from your normal routine… you’ll just very possibly have some -- uh -- company for a little while… once you lock up,” she managed to sound evasive, even over the phone.
“Company? Since when did we start a policy of allowing guests to stay after hours?”
“Well, he’s not really a patron, per se, he’s actually one of our primary contributors, of a sort… More of a -- bigwig type.”
The hesitancy in her voice was hard to miss.
“Giselle? What are you not telling me?”
I was learning to hate these last minute “oh, by the way” phone calls from the museum’s curator. In my first three weeks on this job, nothing good had ever come out of any of them, and each case of "new directives" or "unusual circumstances" had so far gotten progressively worse from the last.
“Probably nothing. He might not even show up. I should have mentioned this to you sooner, but I’ve been so busy lately, what with the benefit stream and all, but now that it’s under control, I just made note on the calendar that this is his regular day with his kid. We tend to be among his standard -- er, haunts -- for these types of visits.”
Fabulous. I did not take this job because I’m exactly a people person. Now I’m supposed to be babysitting, too?
“You’re not expecting me to try and give some sort of VIP tour, are you?”
Cause that would have disaster written all over it.
This time she sounded amused. Good. That means she’s not kidding, and hoping I’ll do it anyway.
“If anything, he’s more familiar with these works than even I am. You might say he's somewhat -- strongly represented here... particularly in the Renaissance wing. In fact, that’s where you’ll most likely find him.”
“Find him? So he’ll be here before closing then...? How will I know him so I won’t try to broom him with the stragglers? Will he have some sort of pass?”
“Oh… ” she drew in a slow breath, pausing long enough that for a moment I thought I’d lost her. “Well, he has a way of just -- making himself known,” she drawled, thoughtfully. “But we can’t really be certain what time he’ll be popping in, if at all.” Suddenly she was in a hurry again.
“Wait, what? Am I supposed to be looking for him on the perimeter, too? Aw, come on, Giselle, you know I haven’t been trained on exterior duty yet. If this guy expects to be let in, I need to know what door to meet him at and when. I can’t just go leaving entrances unlocked.”
This was getting weirder. Then a thought occurred to me. I switched into formal mode.
“Mrs. Otis, is this some sort of probationary period test?”
She didn’t answer.
“Make sure, whatever you do,” she seemed more intense. “...that if you do encounter him, just be nice. We like having you here, Mr. Jackson.”
Hm. Formal response. And was that... concern? I began to wonder if I shouldn't be more disquieted about how often this spot had become vacant within the last few years.
“Nice. Sure. I think I can handle that.”
What did she mean by that last bit?
“Okay, then, I have to go!”
Wow, noticeably flustered, even... oh joy. I got the feeling if she’d been in the room, she’d have been backing out of it the whole time, and by that point practically turning heel to sprint away.
“Call the service if you need anything -- I’m sure you’ll do great! Tata now!”
And that was that.
So, huh.... yeah. Okay, then, indeed. On with my rounds, I guess. I would be all for avoiding weirdness tonight, if possible.
I know what you’re thinking. And you’re wrong. This is not The Smithsonian, and I am not Ben Stiller. I’m just some guy who needs a paycheck like any other schmuck trying to make a living in the big apple. Security is my trade. I’m not one of those pathetic losers who loves art enough to pick a career just to be near it all the time. Even so, you don’t fall into a sweet gig like being the nightwatchman at The Metropolitan Museum of Art without knowing a few people and pulling a few strings. Out here, it’s all about who you know. You learn to network, make connections, and figure out how to use them, or you don’t survive, even if you’re just a working stiff like me.
I had to explain that to my gal the other day, when she got all up in arms over finding out that Jennifer Aniston had a painting featured at The Met. Neria’s an artist, see. She was sort of my way in… or, actually, one of her professors was. I think she’s jealous. I bet she’d give her right nipple to spend a night at my post. I couldn’t have that, though. I like that nipple. Besides, anyone who’s always going to be drooling over the exhibits couldn’t really be very good at keeping an eye on their surroundings. She gets all excited wanting to hear every stupid detail about my work. I don’t usually have all that much to tell her. Truth be told, I’m probably quite a bit more irreverent than she would want me to be.
Sundays have always been my day to just sort of slough and take it easy. I get in for the 3pm changing of the guard, and the shop closes at 5:30, so I generally don’t have too many tourists to deal with before shutting down, regardless, but usually by Sunday afternoons, most have cleared out before I come on shift. There are just too many other things to be doing on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I guess. Which is all just fine by me. Having to deal with the rubberneckers who hang out at places like this is my least favorite part of this daily grind.
Either they’re way too egg-heady for me, and think they can ask anybody in a uniform to give them ridiculously specific details that practically require a PhD in art history (wouldn’t Neria love that — might have to pick her brain, after all), like wanting me to summarize the sociological transformation of the oil painting as a medium from inception to modern use, as if I could tell the difference between the Baroque Period and Dogs Playing Poker.
Or, they’re so dense you wonder how they found their way out of the toilet without walking into a door. One seriously hot but sadly mentally deficient chick once asked me if the stairs go up as well as down. I told her no, these were the down going stairs only; for the up going stairs, she’d have to round the corner to the next wing over, take the stairs up to the next floor, then follow the winding hall around to her left until she found a small unmarked closet next to a water fountain; we kept the stairs in there, but to use them, she had to get a pass from the front desk to check them out, and for that, she'd need a special permission slip signed by the caretaker of the stairs, whose office was three flights down in the East Wing.
I know could have taken some serious flak for that, but I just couldn’t help myself. It was my third day, and I just wondered how long she’d let me go before she caught on. I never saw a light of perception in her vacant stare the whole time she watched my lips move with her head tilted to the side, though, so eventually I just got bored and gave up, but I was plenty satisfied with watching her walk away. That sight may even have made the effort worth the trouble. Some of the best things to check out at the art museum can't be found on its walls. Though I half expected to find her at midnight passed out with bloody fingers on some sculpture she’d been trying to operate like a vending machine. I imagine someone must have found her and helped her out; I never saw her again. Who knows, maybe she found a portal to a different world, or will be discovered as a skeleton centuries from now drowned in a pool of cement. Just my luck. Well, you know what they say… survival of the fittest and all that.
Anyway. I do get rid of those pesky customers fairly early on. And then it’s just me in this huge place with all this wild shit.
The paintings in this section don’t really do much for me. A lot of round naked women with pale white skin just hanging around outside eating grapes. What the hell was in the water back then that caused all the women’s nipples to be that bright red? And was there no such thing a female whose boobs were actually proportionate to her birthin’ hips, or were the double D’s just not considered attractive enough to warrant painting? Something wrong with the whole culture, there, if you ask me. Way too much fire and brimstone; mostly dead people’s interpretations of religious nonsense from every part of the world. Like everyone on the planet around this time was struck with the notion that we were all going to hell and it was probably because of some broad and a snake, or insert-whatever-other-bizarre-animal-con
Ah, you know what? I just can’t handle looking at it this crap tonight. Bestiality. Seriously. No wonder it was considered the dark ages. I gotta put something else up.
There. That’s a little easier on the senses.
Oh, wait… are those… dicks? Okay, uh, no. That’s just a little too much sausage for my taste. Better switch it out again. Crap, you could hardly tell the men from the women in these. It's a wonder the entire human race didn't die out back then.
Okay, let’s try that. That’s better... I should be safe with cows right?
I’ll put the original back before I punch out. I just don’t want to have to look at it again every time have to pass by this way tonight.
So, anyway, yeah, like I was saying, I mostly I just ignore the paintings, except when every so often, though, some weird random impulse inspires me to alter which ones are up on display for the duration of my shift. Never know what comes over me to make that happen, but, meh… no one ever really complains about it.
It’s the tactile objects I have the most fun with.
I’ve napped on Deskey’s Armchair, had an imaginary game of backgammon with Roentgen’s Mechanics, and banged out some ragtime on an old Upright Harp. I’ve always been more of a movie afficionado than an art nerd, though, so, on shift, I fancy myself something of an actor. When I’m on patrol, the Conquest of Trebizond becomes the Ark of the Covenant, the Helmschmid Mask is The Skull of Yorick, and a Bizarre Sugar Caster turns into a party hat worthy of High Tea with royalty. I’ve been grilled by James Lipton on the Tête-a-Tête, pantomimed a Narnian sacrificial altar scene on the Tobey Table, acted out entire battles of The Crusades as a Turkish Pirate, and performed the cameo of The Roman Centurion in the fanciest armament known to man (a true history buff would have a coronary at my ecclectic disregard for crossing eras).
Come to think of it, I guess I do see a bit of a theme there, but, well, it's just a coincidence... it's not like I've ever really all been that spiritual.
Whoa... what the...?
Just passed through that same section again... someone has replaced the painting I swapped out with -- is that a snapshot? It looks like that cow guy again with some young girl... okay, don't really want to think about what's going on there. How the hell did that happen? Man, this place gives me the creeps sometimes. Well, my relief will be here shortly... maybe he got in early, and that's his choice for that space tonight. Yeah, I'm sure that must be it. Guess I can just lock up on my way out to turn things over if he's already here, then. Heh... looks like I can tell Neria whether you get up at the Met does have more to do with you know than how good an artist you are after all. I should grab a quick shot of this to show her... >click!< ...I think she'll like that.
Well, seems I didn't have to worry about Giselle's bigwig after all... suppose I'll leave whatever weirdness may be involved in that to the next shift. Too bad there was nothing of note to speak of tonight... I was looking forward to finally having a decent story to share with Neria. Ah well. There'll be plenty time enough for more of that to come, I'm sure... all in a night's work.
One more sweep, and then...
LJ Idol | Season 8 • Week 25 - Topic: INTERSECTION 3 – CLOSER
This post has been brought to you by an association with the online writing community forum, LJ Idol.
The "WhipSoup" here represents one half of the collaborative effort put forth by "KarmaChick," the creative team of KarmaSoup and WhipChick.
The challenge was to choose a partner with whom to create an "Intersection" of correlated entries.
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