((Excerpt from, "The Art of Everyday Joe: A Collector's Journal"))
It has happened to me so many times that I now consider it part of any art museum or gallery visit.
Lost again! Why does this constantly happen to me? It actually happened to me earlier today en route to the Mint Museum here in Charlotte, North Carolina. First of all, I visited the Mint Art & Design Museum location right in the heart of downtown. No new exhibition since my last visit. Fine. I asked the lady at the front desk how I could get to the "main" museum.
"It's a bit out of the way, but you'll be fine," she said after giving me a map and a posted note with written directions, in addition to her verbal cues. Okay, let me just admit it. I don't know what it is ... but when people give me directions to somewhere, I just sort of drift off mentally. I don't know what it is. Perhaps it's because in the Midwest and in the South, people tend to direct you based upon monuments. I wish that I had a dime for every time I got directions that began like this ...
"Oh, when you see the Exxon station that’s directly across the street from the elementary school that burned down four years ago because little Toby Smith was playing with matches in the boy’s room, but since then, the school has been rebuilt, turn left … NO, sorry, I mean right!" Okkkaaayyyyy, thanks! It's just too much information to process. So, right then I think, "I'll figure out myself!"
However, this wasn't the case with the Mint Museum lady. She was quite clear and cordial. She gave me everything I needed. "Go down here, make a right onto 7th street," she said, "Continue down past Independence Boulevard to Hawthorne Lane, make another right and take Hawthorne down to 4th street which actually becomes Randolph Road and just follow Randolph to the museum which is right here," she said showing me on the map. "Simple enough," I thought.
"By the way," she said, "This map is not to scale!" Famous last words.
Needless to say, I got lost.
This is where postal, UPS or Fed-Ex carriers are worth their weight in King Tut's gold. I spotted a postal carrier, beeped as she was pulling out of a driveway and asked her! "I'm sorry, where's the Mint Museum?" I said. "I can't find it!" "Turn back here and go down about four blocks, Hon," she said. "It'll be on the right." WONDERFUL. I finally did get there, thanks to the U.S. Postal Service!
Which brings me to this ... I have gotten lost on the way to the Mint, the DeYoung in San Francisco, the Cincinnati Museum of Art and the Miami Art Museum among other art institutions. These organizations are always talking about ways to boost attendance and membership. How about starting with some good, solid directions? Here's what I really mean. All major city airports should have cultural offices equipped with people specifically trained to give visitors RELIABLE directions to tourist sites. People should also know what to expect about parking and admission fees BEFORE they arrive. Using the internet isn't good enough. In addition, cities need to do a BETTER job at posting road markers from every direction that lead people to their cultural institutions. As things stand now, it's WAY too easy for the Everyday Joe tourist to get frustrated and lost on the way to the Mint and just give up. It's easier to take in a movie at a multiplex theater. I've NEVER gotten lost trying to find one of those! Have you?
Back to my own responsibility, though. It's not the Mint Museum lady's fault that I got lost. I need to do a better job at preparing for these art trips ahead of time. I'm also working on listening while I'm actually getting directions.
Still, I have to admit. There's something about getting lost that's liberating ... as long as it's during daylight hours, anyway. Getting lost is the price you pay for being a non-listening, hard-headed, free-spirit. It's not the end of the world. It can be the beginning. Getting lost can actually be an adventure if you don't have any pressing commitments or obligations. I stumbled upon what looked like old downtown Charlotte, which is quite charming and I saw some lovely, old, traditional houses amid pastoral settings. Nice.
So what if I got lost on the way to the Mint? I eventually found it ... and the treasure inside was more than worth the harried hunt.