As Promised, Tension At The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Holocaust-interior_2344

This post should be an interesting attempt to relay an uncomfortable yet amusing incident whilst still maintaining an a modicum of respect towards the setting. Hopefully, this won’t come off as “yah, so we were at that Nazi place in DC and these bitches…” Knowing me, it probably will. Alas!

The other Mr. Harvey and I were in DC to celebrate his 40th birthday at the beginning of this month. He’s not one for big parties where people look at him (that was actually a concern he voiced once…people looking at him…when he doesn’t have his hijab on) so we thought a quick jaunt somewhere fun would be keen. Plus, we’re both currently unemployed (we’re the American nightmare) and had the time laying around and look, Jet Blue has a deal! Cherry blossoms and new bars in which to get intoxicated and new sidewalks to stumble upon while drunkenly abusing Uber!

Despite it being a birthday trip, there were some tourist attractions we had wanted to see that weren’t exactly going to be the ball pit at Chuckie Cheese (that’s not a gay sex reference). We had both heard that the main exhibit at the Holocaust Museum was a sobering must-see. We got our tickets online for our 1st day there so we could get the horror portion of the other Mr. Harvey’s birthday out of the way.

It’s an interesting space. I wouldn’t call it pleasant because it’s designed to evoke concentration camp imagery with a lot of brick and exposed girders. Another interesting feature? The staff, for the most part, are made up of some really extreme personalities. Most of the service industry members we encountered in our nation’s capital that trip were really friendly, laid-back and warm. I’m not sure why, but most of the staff at the Holocaust Memorial were WROUGHT. Witness our first exchange with the female human that womans the entrance elevators to the main exhibit.

We make our way in-between her velvet ropes (that came out dirty) but Scotty has us pause so we can call up our tickets on his phone. Please note in advance that there is no line behind us or in front of us. At that moment it’s just the Harveys. My husband has been searching and scrolling for maybe two seconds when she attacked.

Holocaust worker: Tickets?

Husband: Just calling them up on my phone here…

Holocaust worker (perhaps she didn’t hear him?): I said, do you have tickets?

Me: He’s just getting them on his phone.

Holocaust worker: Well, maybe you should move over there to find them so you’re not blocking the way, ok?

I look behind me and note the absence of any other people behind us. Just some velvet ropes. Air. Is this a fire exit? My husband, who does not suffer being spoken down to by fools, bitches, or maniacs, jerks his head up from his phone. Sometimes I feel like there’s a rubber band stretched to its extreme in his brain. That rubber band is marked “JUST TRY IT, BITCH.” I myself loathe confrontation. I’m the shrinking violet who nervously laughs when he forgets to hold a door for someone AND RUNS BACK TO DO IT because I want them to know I didn’t do it out of spite. It makes me look like a wackjob but it’s all designed to not get a dirty look or have anyone think “remember that asshole who didn’t hold the door for me at the mall” before they fall asleep that evening.

Anyway…

“I’M CALLING IT UP RIGHT NOW,” he said in a slow, emphatic tone. Oh dear. Before Officer Friendly could ignore that and ask for tickets again in a disgusted monotone, they popped up on his phone. She waved us through towards a bank of elevators with a chubby, indifferent hand. Another holocaust worker shot out of nowhere with blond curls and a peppy demeanor. She was the radiant ying to ticket bitch’s yang. You would have thought she was seating us at a Disneyworld character breakfast. She had obviously never read up on XYKLON-B or what they were making the lampshades with in Nazi Germany.

We were put in an elevator with a large, equally happy family. Mom was smiling widely as they bantered. She was standing directly in front of the elevator’s panel of buttons. Smiling. No button was pressed. Nothing was lit up. Nothing was moving. A couple of dreary pics of German soldiers added to my discomfort from above. Do I…move her? What do I say? Can I get in there? What if she thought I meant her ass? Her ass was almost ON the panel. NOTHING WAS HAPPENING. WE WEREN’T MOVING. There’s no switch outside they can press? It’s hot in here. They’re talking like it’s fine. Is this like the Haunted Mansion and we’re actually going down but it’s so mechanically deft we can’t feel it? Scotty didn’t notice. He’s looking at his phone and reading the walls. Swiss Family Oblivious are laughing and chatting like it’s the cherry blossom festival. THERE’S GONNA BE FOOTAGE OF EMACIATED CORPSES BEING MOVED OFF OF TRUCKS WITH PITCHFORKS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THOSE DOORS. I HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE. I made my move.

“Can I…” I advanced towards Denim Elevator Panel Ass, weakly pointing behind her. She looked at me, and then turned to see why I was invading her space. Her mouth opened wide and she began giggling.

“Oh! OH! We were just sitting here! I’m sorry!”

“Way to go, Mom!”

“Duh, Ma!”

I smiled nervously (“Oh, that,’s ok!’ I shrieked), sweat beads barreling down my ivory expanse of a 10-head. Social anxiety is the fucking worst. Button pressed. Nothing happened.

Nothing happened. We were in a hot elevator with nothing happening. They didn’t even give us a button light for assurance. Was this part of the show? That’s fine, we deserved to suffer. We deserved a portly ticket taker making us feel stupid. We didn’t go through what all those people went through. We deserve to sweat and feel awkward in this hell-avator.

The doors sprang open. Cool air rushed in. The happy Holocaust worker regarded us quizzically. Blonde curls bounced as she cocked her head to the side like a curious toy poodle.

“Well, um, wait? What happened?”

“I guess we weren’t going anywhere…” Denim Elevator Panel Ass Mom offered helpfully. Happy went to get Grumpy. She waddled over with a ring of keys and her usual stank face. Resentfully flipping open a little door on the panel, she shoved a key in, and pressed the button again with a girthy finger.

“This breaks…,” she announced moodily to no one in particular. She was never one for an apology.

The doors shut, the floor shook and hydraulics hummed. Up.

Our second taste of idiots mixed with resentful staff members occurred at the first part of the exhibit. It was a short film on a loop called The Nazi Rise To Power. You file in, bench yourself, and watch and listen as a narrator soberly explains how a sociopath came to power. Unfortunately, the set-up for entrance and exit is the same two openings. And there are no line indicators. The designers probably didn’t plan for the Six Flags Fast Pass Dolt Generation, so clusterfucking ensued. And that’s when we met her. A tall, formidable woman of color. She was not here to make our time at the Holocaust Memorial Museum pleasant. She was there to make sure asses got in the seats, asses got up out of the seats, and new asses came in and were seated. You are just an ass to her. An ass probably attached to a moron.

A crowd had gathered in front of the entrances to The Nazi Rise To Power. Scotty and I, already fatigued from flying, getting around the city, lunch, and seeing the Unabomber’s cabin at the Newseum (that shouldn’t have impressed me as much as it did), kind of leaned against each other. Both of us were feeling the weight of the subject at hand, and the weight of large groups of people talking. And yelling. And talking some more. And taking selfies at a Holocaust Museum. “Besties at Dachau!”

School groups were everywhere. You can’t expect teens on their Honor Society trip to care about anything except whether or not Tina really said that to Ryan and did the bitch know I’m pretty much dating him exclusively!?! Gawd, do you think I’d send a Snapchat of my tits to just ANY guy?!? The cadre of young soccer players behind us and their adult insulted each other to pass the time. I detected Midwestern accents. Scotty’s eyes began to roll. There was a section of our wedding vows that had us pledging to hate everybody together for as long as we both shall live.

The security Amazon, we’ll call her Phyllis, rolled up her sleeves and dug in. I’m pretty sure she spat on her hands first but I could be mistaken.

“Ok, you all need to MOVE BACK. YOU NEED TO NOT BLOCK THE DOORS. MOVE BACK OUT OF THE WAY OF THE DOORS. MOVE.”

At first it was kinda neat to see a woman so into her work. She wasn’t asking nicely. She was telling. Scotty and I, because we’re good do-bees, were just to the side of the doors. Phyllis would love us if she noticed. “Neat” left. Because Phyllis was angry. Phyllis was angry because people were ignoring her. Scotty could care less, he’d just snap at her too if she came at him, but it was my life’s goal to make Phyllis happy at this point. She scared me.

If they weren’t so dumb and entitled and inappropriately halter-topped, I would have felt sorry for the trio of teen queens standing in front of us. Directly in front of one of the two entrances. Junior year, maybe? There was a lot of hair being smoothed behind ears, jeggings, and eyes glued to phones. They chose to ignore Phyllis. TO THEIR PERIL.

“LADIES, I’M NOT GONNA KEEP ASKING YOU. YOU NEED TO MOOOOVVVEEEEE OOUUUTTTTT FRRROOMMMM IIINNNN FRRRRONNNT OFFF TTHHHEEE DOOOORSSS,” Phyllis bellowed.

Here’s what I witnessed. One of the girls looked up at Phyllis, and gave her a blank stare. We’ll call her Mackenzie. Her fellow junior misses, I assume Brianna and Melissa, completely and totally ignored Phyllis. Brianna’s thumb blurred as she texted with someone and Melissa was probably thinking about how to drain the booze in the wet bar without the chaperones knowing. Mackenize looked back at her phone.

Phyllis’ eyes widened. You three are fucked now, I thought, smug in our position in the safety zone. Thomas Harris once wrote about the unnamed emotion in which you are happily anticipating feeling contempt for someone. We still need a name for it because my run-on sentences have run far enough.

“BABIES. I DON’T WANT TO HAVE TO CUSS YOU OUT…”

Phyllis had advanced. She was now in front the teen queens, eyes flashing. Phyllis wanted to prevent fires, riots, and anything holding her back from getting the hell out of here at 5 PM. Having to fill out an incident report explaining why she had to distribute beatings to teenagers that day would definitely fuck with that third one.

“…BUT YOU NEED TO MOVE YOUR BUTTS BACK TO THE SIDE. NOW.”

Brianna and Melissa finally looked up. There was a definite “is she talking to us?” vibe from them. There was a bit of “museums suck.” And, this is probably my liberal paranoia interpreting but fuck it, there was just a hint of “wow, I’ve never had a black person talking to me before. Is this really happening?” They were still stuck tightly together in their Forever 21 clatch. And not moving. I made my eyes really wide just in case Phyllis happened to look behind the iCarlys and noticed me. She had to know that I was on Team Phyllis! I didn’t want her to have to tell me to move my butt. POWER TO THE PEOPLE!

Still not moving.

Phyllis was then torn between the movie ending and people starting to file out (new people at which to bellow directions!) and smiting the dopey. My husband handled it for her.

“That means to step the fuck back!” he barked.

After some sullen hair flipping, the girls slowly eased back. Almost on top of us. I could smell lip gloss and was blinded by the light reflecting off an overbite and then hitting an iPhone screen. It was tense. Phyllis didn’t bother to thank the other Mr. Harvey. She was probably pissed she didn’t get a chance to beat some ass. It was still tense, but there were no riots or tears. The audience in front of us filed out sullenly.

“How was it?” the kid behind me loudly asked them.

***

Phyllis had a couple more moments. Once we were all seated, she announced that anyone under 21 “better get their behinds off the seats and offer them up to the older folk.” You should have seen the confused looks on the faces of the Trophies For Everyone Safety Kids generation. “Let…my…my parents…sit?” I remained frozen. 40 is on the way, and I’ll be damned if there aren’t some luxuries associated with it. Luxuries like “sitting.” That’s about it for the luxuries, I’m thinking. Phyllis had to repeat her command. Some children played dumb and defied her.

“I REPEAT, IF YOU ARE UNDER 21, YOU ARE TO GET UP OFF YOUR SEAT AND STAND AGAINST THE WALL!”

A matronly mom seated behind us felt that it was time to challenge the brusque yet beautiful Phyllis. Her tone and demeanor suggested that she felt she was doing us all a great service. Rallying us against the uppity black security guard lady who had the temerity to tell Declan to get up.

“I think they get it! They’re moving! Ok?”

Phyllis merely smiled.

“Yes, I see that. Thank you.”

I’ve never heard a human actually “harumph” before. I’m proud to say that it was an onomatopoeia-in-motion moment. Cuz’ that mom harumphed like a motherfucker.

***

In our last fleeting glimpse of Phyllis, she was striding by and quickly telling a young lad that “you can’t sit there, sir. Please stand up. THANK YOU!” as she went about her day. I will never forget her. The Holocaust Memorial Museum made me numb with hours-long disgust at man’s inhumanity to man. And despite it being uneasy tension, Phyllis’ rustling of the cattle served as a bracing reminder the world was still turning outside. In here was death. And outside, people were crossing against the light and talking during movies. Never again.

 

 

 

 

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One Response to “As Promised, Tension At The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum”

  1. leilah Says:

    Day-yum–I was annoyed and offended in the ticket line, started getting impatient in the elevator, could smell lip gloss teen resistance in the film room and I swear I could pick out Phyllis in a line up … and I’m typing this 5 hours after I read it (w/o a refresher glance)!! You really have a “Tales of the City”-style book in you!

    Like

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