Get Off My Backpack

Once again, the Peabody Essex Museum wins my heart… burn. For the record, I’m not just making it up when I say that the person in charge of online communications replied pretty quickly the last time I wrote a really scathing Yelp review about my encounter with their over zealous ticket agents. If you to the museum’s Yelp site, you will see similar apologies to many people who reported similar negative experiences.

Here’s the thing: I am a Salem resident. Yes I get in for free and I’m sure after this post there will be any number of people telling me to “get over myself” and the other things that anonymous trolls are likely to go on about. But how I interpret the response I got to my last review, complete with apologies and appeals for my forgiveness, is that the people in charge of PR really do care if one person has had a negative encounter in their museum, especially if they are a Salem resident. Because who are you, faithful reader, likely to trust more when you’re planning where to spend your vacation money? Are you going to trust someone who is paid to tell you how wonderful the place is, or are you going to trust someone who actually lives there and has good reason not to give the place the time of day?

For every nine people who tell me to go F-myself, the tenth person is going to listen and even if only the next one hundred people to read this post over the next ten years are in anyway influenced by this post, it will be worth it. The communications director is going to have to work some serious voodoo to get me to change my one star rating this time.

So what am I complaining about this time?

The backpack rule.

I carry a little side bag. Even in the smaller shops with the most narrow avenues of navigation, no one gives me a hard time about it because of the age old rule of buying what you break. However, even the little bit of weight that is carried in the bag, caused discomfort when I was asked, by a museum guard, to carry the bag in front of me. So for the record, I did try to comply with the rule, but I was incredibly uncomfortable and would have been so if I had stayed in the museum any longer.

Imagine what someone might feel if they had to carry considerably more weight. I know pregnant women don’t have to imagine it, but there could be any number of reasons you would want your backpack on you. Maybe you have medications, medical equipment, or some other necessity on your person that you would need access to as quickly as possible. So checking the bag isn’t convenient, because their baggage area is down on the first floor and you could be up on the third floor when the need arises. But you also don’t want to be physically uncomfortable the entire time, because backpacks have a key design flaw that makes carrying them on your front half difficult and that is the fact that they are designed to be carried on your back!

Why don’t I want to check my bag? Because I have no way of knowing how it’s being treated when I’m not looking. Is it being placed in an area where it’s frequently kicked? Is it being roughly handled? A person who lives in my building, who is also a co-author of local Salem book, once had his bag roughly poked and prodded by one of the security guards I mentioned. As was typical, the security guard made no apology for possibly breaking something vital, for which the museum would certainly not have been tripping over itself to replace.

I actually asked one of the guards why this rule was in place. I would have had a better response verbally supporting Donald Trump’s views of John McCain’s service record. At first my simple request for an explanation to this rule was met with condescension and ridicule. Then the guard gave me a half-assed explanation about how people forget their backpacks and sometimes bump into things.

I tried to point out that if I shifted the weight of my backpack, the risk of bumping into something would be the same. In fact the shift in weight might increase the odds of someone tripping and therefore falling into the very things you’re so concerned about breaking. The lackey just replied with, “The rules apply to everyone.”

Okay, let’s address the logic of the rule. Aside from my observation, if it’s that easy to knock something over in a museum than you probably have failed Museum Set Up 101. In every museum I have been to, exhibits are usually set up so that even on the busiest days it is not possible to accidentally damage items. I assume this is because museums are being trusted with rare and valuable collections of both monetary and historical value and that it is the museum itself that will be held responsible if these things are damaged. If something is that prone to damage than greater care tends to go into protecting it, such as a big glass case and if someone knocks that over, they’re probably committing a felony and your little backpack rule would still be arbitrary.


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