Unknown City

  • 09:30:17 am on October 21, 2008 | 0

    Rather than telling you about some of the art I saw this weekend, I’ll mix it up and talk about my experience at the art institute. In a museum that is old and well renowned, I had a very disappointing experience with the old, probably unknown staff.

    Walking around the museum with my 70-something grandparents, I don’t think a young, lost student is much of a bother. Further, grandparents or not, I am aware of my presence and know that when asking for help I am sincere rather than demanding.

    The first example was at the ticket desk, where the man behind the counter was a zero, so not unfriendly, but not at all friendly. We walked through the ticket booth and began to look for the European modern paintings (I needed to see one for a paper). We probably zoned and walked in circles for a few minutes before going to a desk to ask for directions. It was obvious that a whole wing is currently closed and the huge signs told us so, but we were still unclear on the details.

    After asking this man, probably in his early 60s/late 50s, my grandparents noticed his bitter attitude and, the patient adults they are, stepped off. But not realizing myself, I asked the deal, got a smirk, asked again, and again. Finally huffing and saying “whatever, I’ll just do it myself,” and frustrated that I let some dude irk me on a Friday with my family, G-ma played the polite card and forced us to tough him out.

    To make this long rant shorter, after a quick bite and run-in with the member lounge woman that hated the idea of someone under 40 entering, we headed back toward the front of the museum, all flustered and surprised at the awful service we had seen. “People in Chicago are usually so nice,” they were saying, “is it really that annoying to ask directions?”

    Actually, it probably is considering the 10,000 paper maps they print everyday and even moreso that no one takes a minute to read them. But low and behold we walked ahead, and someone probably heard what we were saying and walkie-talkied this man, who answered our final question with a huge smile and empathy in our disappointment of some of the paintings we didn’t get to see.

    He was one of those men who probably get everyone to smile before they leave. I think I was almost beaming when I left because I was so relieved to find a friendly helper. But with an entire college of kids and such a highly respected reputation, I was dumbfounded by the snarky staff until – I’ll call him Norm – saved the day.


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