A Closed Loop

The Air and Space Museum at night. From the Mall side.

“The museum is closed,” said the disembodied voice broadcast from the ceiling. I tossed my 3D glasses into the big box as I passed through the exit doors. I walked underneath the electronic gate, a sentry that would beep or screech or burp an alarm if the encoded goggles were still in my pocket.

I was close to holding on to them to set the alarm off. But I had the use the restroom. I found the recycling bin, past the guard station, and dropped my empty beer bottle into its mouth. No popcorn or raisenettes in the museum theatre, but a choice of beers and a hard cider. Weird. But I was on a mission. 

The cavernous voice reminded me, again, about the closed museum. I headed toward the bathrooms. That is until I was stopped by a crisply white-shirted museum officer. There was a shiny ribbon along the seam of her trousers, and she had a shiny plastic badge above her crisp white breast pocket. “The museum is closed.” I nodded. 

“Yup, just need to use the facilities,” I grinned and pointed at them, just nine or ten yards ahead. 

“The museum is closed.” She pointed solemnly the down escalator like the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. The speakers from the ceiling backed her up, “The museum is closed.”

“I just can’t…” I started, but she just looked at me without mercy and pointed with a hint of “no exception” dripping from her pointing finger. “Is there one underneath here?” She silently nodded, her directive arm like a street sign. I stepped onto the moving stairs, away from the closest relief station. 

I stepped off the escalator and turned around. To see a long line snaking its way from the door. The museum is closed, except for the long line for the bathroom. And the other long line for the next screening of the movie. Didn’t seem closed to me. I was walking to find the end of the line as the regular refrain “The museum is closed” played across the PA system. I was shocked by the sudden vibration from my left back pocket. The sound from my phone was still muted from the show. “Hey,” I said after seeing The Big Guy’s image.

“You just walked by us. I’m going to punch someone if we don’t leave now.”

“I need to use the bathroom and there’s a ridiculous line.” (The museum is closed.)

“No seriously. Someone will be punched by me if I stand here another minute.” He was serious. 

“Where you at? We’re gonna need to stop somewhere else, you know.”

(The museum is closed.) “That’s fine. Just turn around. I can see you.” I couldn’t see him, even though I strained to see around the crowd of people who were not getting the message, either. Despite the near monkish chant, “the museum is closed.” I wished it rhymed. Then I saw him on his phone and put mine back in my pocket.

There was another museum cop standing a few feet away from him, offering the news that the museum was closed. “Wait, so are you saying that the museum is closed?” I couldn’t tell if the cop was ignoring or unaware of the sarcasm. 

“The museum is closed,” he replied. (The museum is closed.) I think that this was not the first part of their exchange, and I could feel The Big Guy getting riled. 

“You can’t go there, unless you get in line for those IMAX tickets. The door is there.” He pointed. These folks sure did point a lot. 

“But I want to go there,” I pointed to the exit on the other side. The side much closer to where I parked. 

“The museum is closed.” 

“So I can’t use that other exit?” (The museum is closed.) We were walking to my preferred exit. 

“The museum is closed.” I was starting to understand that punching feeling.

“We can’t leave through that other side?” I was going to scream if I heard that stupid overhead call and response.

“You can go out that way. The museum is closed.”

The Big Guy couldn’t hold himself back, “So the museum is like, closed!??!” The museum police put his hand on his club. (The museum is closed.) He repeated his line, the one about the museum being closed as we rushed each other out of that nightmare.

As we walked past the last of the guard gauntlet, the final line of defense said, “Have a good night,” and I thought that the Big Guy was going to kiss him. Instead he thanked him for not telling us that the museum was closed as we pushed out the door into the fresh, cool night air where we all asked each other the most important question. You know what we asked. It was funny, now.

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