This is something about me. I’m infatuated by buttons. It’s really hard not to press them or try and figure out what they do.
In a hotel in Athens, I found a string connected to a switch high on the wall. A string that had to be pulled, so I pulled it. Nothing. Hmmm
Until 45 seconds into brushing my teeth, the phone rang with a concerned-sounding clerk asking if everything was ok.
Yes, everything is fine.
Oh, because we received notice that the emergency cord was pulled in the bathroom.
No, no. Just brushing my teeth.
My firs time in Baghdad, I found a switch in my kitchenette with an orange light that was on. Wondering what it did, i flipped it. Nothing again. So, I left it off.
The next morning I woke to a cold shower, but didn’t make the connection. I figured I got up late and missed my chance at hot water.
The next day I got up earlier no still had a cold shower, so I called maintenance.
Apparently, there are others like me, because he asked immediately if I’d switched off the light in the kitchen.
Well, turn it back in. My next time through Baghdad. The switch had been labeled.
Which brings me to the Louvre.
Having acquired vast sums of wealth and built cities in the desert, the emiratis have taken to trying to stock them with things to do. So, they made a deal with the louvre to make an Abu Dhabi branch. They’ve spent millions on creating a very interesting space and borrowing louvre treasures. T really is something to see. They’ve put it together in such a way as to tell the story of civilizations and their intersections using art. I highly recommend.
In a corner of the modern art gallery is the sculpture you see at the top. It may represent just how far civilization has fallen, but that’s a different matter.
Look hard. Do you see that big read button? It beckoned me like a siren’s song. And I wandered over. That button, that big lovely button.
There was a security guard standing next to it, so I lunged quickly.
Just kidding. I asked if one could press the button. He said, they press it once per hour. The next time would be in 25 minutes. 20 minutes later, and I was back, having finished seeing the remaining works.
A small group was gathering. Others were asking about the button. Kindred spirits.
Slowly, the guard sauntered over and depressed it with his foot…. Nothing.
“What’s wrong?” I tried not to shriek.
“Well, sometimes it works, sometimes we have to wait a few minutes.”
“What do you mean? Is that part of some modern artistic message? We can’t always get something when we push a button? Cause it’s bullshit if it is!”
He shrugged. He was a security guard from Kenya in a museum far from home. He wasn’t a professor, a docent or even an enthusiast. He did kind of giggle, though.
So, I waited around. Pretending not to care too much, but staying in the same general area. 5 minutes went by, then 7. He sauntered over again. Click. Nothing
It was such a let down. He smiled and shrugged again. “I don’t know. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I guess we’ll have to try again tomorrow.”
I fumed off. Back to my hotel. I pressed every button on the elevator and went to sleep.