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Saturday, 24 July 2010

May I Help You, Sir?!

Art Museum Channels TSA
By Richard Carreno
Junto Senior Staff Writer Bio
Oops! 'You must check your bag!' barks the pint-sized security guard at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
     I was at the Perelman Building, reviewing the debut of the 'new' Gross Clinic, the Thomas Eakins painting that's been newly restored. I was on my own. Not a press preview. I was like hanging with the paying customers.
     Never mind that on that very same day, I toured the PMA's main building with my bag in hand. But duely admonished by Miss Pint-Sized, I deposited my knapsack with the kindly lad who was making the best of it handling that day's flotsam and jetsam at the check counter.
     But first, on my way out, I see another guard -- he looks a bit more senior, and not as angry, as my midget tormentor in the gallery -- and I ask whether photography is permitted. 'Sure, no flash,' he says. Friendly like. I note that.
     I'm looking at Gross Clinic. Miss Uppity is telling viewers -- nay, drill-sarging orders, again -- 'Stand back! Away from the painting!' Like 10 feet maybe. Jeez, on all days, I didn't bring my binoculars.
     Camera ready? I snapped away.
    'No photography allowed!' the Miss Uppity almost shouts. It's obvious this is her domain. The Queen of Eakins, like.
     'But, but,' I said, 'the head guard told me that photography is OK. Just no flash.'
     'I am the head guard,' the pipsqueak responded. I figure I'm getting Mall-policed.
     'OK, let's get this sorted with the other guard,' I said, in turn.
     Mighty Mouse follows me as I return to the senior guard.
     'No photography,' he says.
     'Hold on, didn't you just tell me that photographs were OK? Just no flash.'
      'They changed the rule four hours ago,' the senior guard said.
      Mighty Mouse, vindicated, smiles.
      'Who changed the rule?' I asked.
      'The captain did,' the senior guard said.
      They have 'captains' in this place?
      I'm pointed in the direction of yet another more senior-looking security official.
      'I'm with the press,' I sort of stammer. 'Examiner.com, and I just want to take....'
      Mas senior gives me a temporary, one-off photography day pass.
      I clip it to my shirt. Miss height-challenged Rent-a-Cop frowns. Not pleased at all. In fact, I sense, she being Royalty and all, We are not pleased.
      I'm thinking. This is not going well. Yes, I have the pass. OK. But this scenario smacks too much of one of those run-away train wrecks that Daniel Rubin, the brilliant columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, has been reporting lately. You know, innocent traveler at the airport meets Transportation Safety Adminstration guard, wherein the moment quickly escalates to what is perceived as a confrontation. Women who get felt up. 'What?! You have liquids?!' Never mind. You lose.
     I know. I'm an old guy, and I have a right knee replacement with a lot of loose change.
     Back to the gallery. Snap. Snap. Miss Midget is clearly seething. I reckon the smoke coming out her nose like a cartoon bullfight bull counts for something.
     The big guy -- El Capitan -- approaches me. 'Who did you say you were with?'
     'Examiner.com. But [I'm nervous now] I also write for The Philadelphia Junto www.Junto.blogspot.com, www.BroadStreetReview.com, and the Weekly Press www.weekly press.com.' I'm impressed that I can remember all the dot coms. But, like, I'm also wondering if I'll need to get Bob Christan, the Weekly Press' editor to get me out of the pokey. Dot com.
     'Do you have a press pass?' the Big Guy says. This is now getting serious. What, I'm thinking, would Thomas Eakins think?
     Actually, I did. A press ID issued by the Philadelphia Police Department. Right there in my wallet. First time I've been asked for that, like, in 20 years. What did I give the Big Guy? My business card. I was so flustered I forgot, yes, forgot the press ID.
An hour later. Not arrested. Not evicted. No telephone calls to Homeland Security.
     Miss Charm-School-Challenged approaches me when I'm scribbling notes on the Agnew Clinic, another Eakins master-work that's in the exhibit.
     'You're not permitted to use pen!' she exclaims. Huh? 'Pencil only!'
     I'm walking out. 'She's our best guard,' El Capitan tells me.