Wednesday 4 January 2012

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Dodging Security at The Met

If you're heading to the Met, I have one very helpful hint for you. You probably haven't allowed enough time. This place is huge, and unlike my hometown museum which brings in one semi-known painting every three months then fills the rest of their display with art from the high school, it's packed with things you don't want to miss. The quality of the stuff they have is so high that it turned me into one of those guys I love to mock on TV. You know the guys who just stand in front of a painting and stare at it, absorbed in their own little world? That was me. I even caught myself murmuring thoughts about the "texture" and the "brushstrokes" of the paintings. If I'd been wearing a beret I probably could have passed myself off as an art critic.

That all came to an end when I brought the camera out though. Let me explain the rules of photography at the Met for you. Unless it's specifically posted, you are allowed to take pictures as long as you don't use a flash. There are security guards posted in every other room or so to make sure this rule is adhered to. Want to have some real fun at the Met? I'll loan you my camera. For some reason, whether or not the flash is turned off, it pops up out of the camera every time you start to take a picture. You can go ahead and take the picture, and the flash won't go off, but it's going to pop up every time, and it makes a very distinct noise - one that apparently security guards recognize. Every time we took a picture there was some security guard making his way towards us to tell us no flash, only to find out that our camera was just teasing him. It provided plenty of fun for us, but I'm pretty sure it drove the security guards crazy.

If I was making their job hard with my camera however, I can only imagine how edgy they would have been if they could read my mind. I think the thing that surprised me the most from my visit to the Met, is how unprotected the art is. I kind of expected the most valuable paintings to be behind glass or at least roped off in some way. It's not like that at all. You can go right up to the painting and get as close as you want, although the closer you get the more a security guard kind of leans your way. At one point I was looking at a Renoir painting when the thought of "How famous would I be if I just grabbed a marker and signed my name in the bottom right corner here?" went through my head. Just as I was mulling over the repercussions of vandalizing a great work of art, I noticed a security guard heading towards me. Impressed that he could read my mind, I backed off a little, only to realize that my wife was behind me taking a picture of the Renoir, and the security guard was heading over to tell her "no flash".

I'm thinking about it. Bottom right is the perfect spot.
Deciding that we'd given the security guards enough to worry about for one day, we left the painting side of the museum and headed over to the Egyptian wing. Same rules applied to this wing in that almost nothing was roped off, but over here there were almost no security guards to be found either. At one point Lori and I were walking along a darkened corridor made out to look like a passage in a pyramid, lined with empty sarcophaguses.
 There was absolutely no one else around, and we were making jokes about how it felt like an episode of Scooby Doo where you expected the ancient Mummy to come chasing us at any moment. I told her that I wasn't worried, since I'd seen plenty of episodes of Scooby Doo and I knew that the correct move when being chased was to jump in to one of the empty sarcophaguses and close the lid. To demonstrate I moved over to the next sarcophagus and pretended to jump in, but (and this is just my luck) I managed to pick the only sarcophagus that wasn't empty. I'm sure it wasn't a real mummy, but it scared the heck out of me and I jumped straight back about six feet. I can't confirm if "Zoinks!" was actually the word that came out of my mouth, or if it was something far less family friendly, but I highly suspect the latter. We made a beeline for the exit, partly because we'd had enough of the spooky corridor, and partly because while laughing at me my wife managed to set the flash off on the camera. I don't know if security noticed, but I wasn't sticking around for that "I knew it" moment.

All totaled we spent about four hours in the Met, and I doubt we got to see half of what was there. Even the stuff we did see I would have loved to spend more time with. If I lived in New York I would definitely have a seasons pass to the Met, but I have to make do with simply promising myself that I'll get back there again. This time I'll allot myself an entire day, and even though we've bought a new camera since then, I might just bring the old one with me again, just for fun.