A comedy of errors

November 11, 2015


I find beautiful, rare jewels fascinating – especially those with a fabled history. So, when I received a free pass to six New York museums from Chase Bank, I decided to visit the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) on Saturday, September 19th to view the famous 563.34-carat Star of India sapphire.


I’m not familiar with the West side of Manhattan so I went on the web for subway info and found that the #1 local on the Seventh Avenue line would be the best way to get to 79th and Central Park West. Generally, I don’t believe in bad omens, but upon arriving at the station I found that the #1 was out -- #2 and #3 became locals. This was the first glitch. It escalated as the day went on.

 When I arrived at the museum I found I was approaching it from the rear. I wanted to walk in from the front because the building itself is very impressive. But each time I walked up a path in the lush, green grounds surrounding it, I could see I was going nowhere so I asked three different people, “How do I get to the front of this museum?” No one knew.

The front of the American Museum of Natural History

Finally I asked a young lady who rolled her eyes and looked skyward. “Well, you’ll just have to go out and start over. That’s 81st Street, so go there and walk towards Central Park." Eureka!

Remember, this was my first visit to AMNH. As I walked up to the stately entrance and through the massive front doors I was absolutely stunned. A mammoth dinosaur or, more precisely, a mother Barosaurus is displayed rearing up to protect her baby from an attacking Allosaurus. It’s an awesome sight.

At the entrance: A mother Barosaurus (dinosaur) rears up to protect her baby (lower right) from an attacking Allosaurus (far left)

I looked around and saw two lines with 50 or more people in each waiting for tickets to enter. After 20 minutes I was at the head of the line only to be told that the “Corporate” counter was across the floor. There was one person there. C’est la vie.

Moving on to the information desk I said, “How do I get to the Star of India?” A kindly lady showed me a map and traced a route through six exhibits. I felt as if I was embarking on a trek to South Dakota. As I turned to leave she warned, “You have to go down to the first floor. You came into the museum on the second floor.”

I started out on this journey and, of course, got hopelessly lost in a sea of pitch-dark rooms and glassed-in exhibits. “Dear God, don’t let me walk into one of these and break my nose,” I prayed. In desperation I retraced my steps and found a lady who looked at my map and said, “Oh, this route is too complicated. This place is 27 buildings cobbled together. It’s a mishmash”. (I kid you not. This is exactly what she said.)

I finally found the Star of India. It’s a glorious beauty. A small sign near it had pertinent information so I pulled out a pad and pencil and started writing. Suddenly, I heard a voice behind me, “Why are you writing? What are you doing?” I replied, “I’m taking notes because I’m a blogger and I’m going to write about this gem.”

That sent the young lady into orbit. “A writer,” she shrieked “Oh wow, a blog – where, what, how.” I mumbled a few brief answers and eventually she moved away. “Thank heaven she’s gone,” I said to myself.

Not so fast. In a matter of minutes she was back with a group of six people and a museum guide who said, “Watch this. The Star of India reacts to light.” Then he turned on his mini flashlight. Lo and behold! The star moved. And with that she shouted, “The Blogger will really have something to write about now!”

No one had the slightest idea what she was talking about.

Epilogue: I would like to report that going out was a breeze. It wasn’t. I got lost repeatedly. When I finally got outside I felt like kissing the ground.

Shaun Nelson-Henrick

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