Art museum new hire has some problems
|Jefferson Lee needed this new job, but he felt awkward and embarrassed just wandering around the art museum. Entering one of dozens of galleries, a group of 20 or so teenagers looked at him. One made a comment Jeff couldn't hear and three others snickered. He could feel the heat rising in his face and turned away before anyone could see his blush. He knew he looked silly in his brown baggy guard's uniform. It was the only hand-me-down the museum had available for his six foot 6 inches skinny frame. He pushed down on the belt knowing the pants had ridden up again revealing his ankles. Forcing his pace to a stroll, Jeff entered the next gallery to escape the teenagers' attention.
He relaxed. This gallery was empty of people. Sixteen horizontally striped paintings hung side by side in a row on all four walls. They were all the same except for their color scheme. Each one focused on a single color such as blue or orange that graduated from nearly white to almost black. Jeff's initial reaction was pleasure. He liked the harmony within and among the group. His next reaction was a frown. Modern art was stupid. His third reaction was to jump when a voice behind him said, "It's upside down, you know."
Whirling around he saw the room was not empty after all. An elderly woman sat on a bench before one of the paintings. "What?" Jeff asked.
"This painting is hanging upside down. Do you see it?" she asked. "I wonder if it is a mistake by the museum staff, or a joke by the artist."
"It's just stripes like the rest. No big deal," Jeff said, and immediately realized he shouldn't have said it. Even though he didn't care for this type of art, he should respect the effort the artist put into it. Also if the old lady took offense, her complaint would get him fired.
She looked at him with amusement. "Have you ever been to the desert and looked at the billions of stars sparkling in the sky? Knowing each one may be a solar system or far off galaxy evokes in us a feeling of the sublime. Art can do the same thing. Look around at the paintings again. They have a power in them. A power to evoke feelings."
Before he could answer her, the head guard stood in the entryway of the previous gallery and frowned at him. "Excuse me, ma'am." Back in the previous gallery, his boss pointed his fully extended arm at a marble statue in the middle of the room. On its head sat a red baseball cap. "Your job Mr. Lee is to protect the artwork in this museum from harm. Can you explain this?"
"Uh, no, sir. I mean yes, sir." Jeff felt sweat prickling his brow. "There was a group of teenagers in the gallery when I left. It must have been them."
"You left while the teens were still in the room?" His boss looked dumbfounded.
"Yes, sir. Sorry, sir."
"Mr. Lee from now on look at the patrons not at the art. All of them are a threat to the treasures we house. See that you act accordingly." His boss walked over and carefully lifted the cap off the statue. "Now go to gallery 3-E. Stick with the group of day care children. Don't let them touch anything. Got me?"
Rushing to gallery 3-E, Jeff was glad to see the 30 pre-school children were herded by four day care employees. Three of the boys were chasing each other and bumped into the wall near a Hudson Valley landscape.
"Stop running!" Jeff shouted at them and gave them what he hoped was face so mean to make them fear his wrath. They did and one started to cry. That started the other two crying.
The head guard found him after the children left the museum. "I got a complaint about you from the day care chaperons. Did you yell at the children?" he asked. “They said you were really mean and frightened their kids."
"You told me to protect the art. I did," Jeff said.
His boss sighed. "Look this can be a really easy job if you can just use common sense. Protect the art but also allow patrons to enjoy it. Got it?"
As the days passed, Jeff felt more comfortable with the job. He was even beginning to notice the different feelings various pieces of art were evoking in him. He was also noticing the appreciation other people had for art too.
Then came the day he heard screams. Running full out, he had only seconds to assess the situation upon entering the gallery. A man with a utility knife was slashing a portrait of a 1700s woman wearing a low necked dress. The slashes were focused on her exposed neck and cleavage. "Shame! Shame!" he shouted as he slashed the canvas again and again.
Without stopping, Jeff tackled the vandal. Struggling on the floor he took a deep cut to his palm when he grabbed the blade. Despite the pain, he didn't let go. At least this way, he knew where the knife was. With his other hand he continuously punched the man's head. Jeff’s angle was wrong, and the strikes were weak and ineffective. Now other museum guards joined the wrestling match. Within in moments the attacker was pinned. His boss said, “Jeff, you can let go now. It’s over.”
Later, the city gave him an award for bravery in the line of duty. Standing on the steps of City Hall in a uniform that finally fit, Jeff felt he had arrived. His boss, the hard to please head museum guard, gave him a thumbs-up while the mayor shook his hand and the audience cheered.