Life as the textile expert at a regional history museum

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Nightmare on Lake Union

It's a special Halloween blog post! 

Two Terrifying Tales
of work life at
The South Lake Union Armory

1. I'm going to kill this tall, blond bitch

One of the larger artifacts going on display at the new museum is a life-size mannequin of a famous Japanese court lady, which was a gift to Seattle from the city of Kyoto. Well, larger is a relative term because we also have an airplane and a few vehicles on display, but she is certainly bigger than a can of salmon or a glue pot. This week we had to take her out of her crate and lift her onto her mount, which required several steps and three people to help.

She is made to look very realistic: glass eyes, eyelashes, real hair, and teeth visible through parted lips.  One of the mount makers said they thought she was creepy, but I thought she wasn't so bad as far as fake people go. But after a while we were all joking around and making fun of her and how much trouble she was giving us with the mount.

When we lifted her for the last time I felt a tug at my neck and looked down to see my necklace caught in her fingers. No, not caught. The chain was being perfectly held in her porcelain hands exactly as if she had grabbed me. "She's got my necklace!" I yelped. The mount makers looked up and stared wide-eyed as I tried to carefully wrestle the chain from between her fingers.

For the rest of the day the head mount maker was eager to tell everyone the story. "Did you hear that the Geisha tried to choke Clara?"

2. Water

At about 10am on Wednesday, the facility manager at the Armory strode into the gallery where we were installing and informed us that the city had shut off our water for about two hours due to some construction on the street outside. Not they were about to shut off our water, they had. That meant no bathrooms for two hours effective immediately. As soon as he said it, you could sense everyone in the room doing a quick mental bladder assessment. Full? Empty? Suddenly full now that I'm thinking about it?

"Well, there are Port-o-Potties in the park outside." Those things? The ones that spread a stink radius five feet deep and haven't been cleaned since Spring? I'd rather we were next door to the Bates Motel. You know they have running water.

The day dragged on. Everyone was grumpy and dehydrated, too afraid to drink anything lest the need become worse. Four hours later, still no water. At 3:00 I demanded an update. "Yeah, so it turns out they turned off the wrong pipe and they aren't sure when it will be back on but probably by morning." This was insanity.

I heard a rumor that our neighbors at the Center for Wooden Boats were hauling lake water out in a bucket and using that to flush the toilets. So I walked over there to ask.

"Hi! I'm from MOHAI! Are your toilets working?"
"Nope. No water."
"Um...I heard something about a bucket?"
"Oh, yeah sure. It's outside."

When I returned home that evening I was dizzy with excitement to be back in civilization. But was it really over? Or would I be forever haunted by the horrors I had endured that day?

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