This spring break my boyfriend Duncan, my two friends Anna and Daniel and I took a road trip down to Atlanta Georgia. Duncan and Anna are going to grad school, so we set out to visit their new perspective homes. After walking around the University of Michigan, and Duncan was shown a detached human foot during a job interview, we set off for Cleveland.
Before going on the trip, we decided to go to two art museums, one aquarium and a children's museum. Because the Georgia Aquarium was so cool, we decided to go to the children's museum in Cleveland.
We set our alarm for 8:30 in the morning. The La Quinta continental breakfast was sparse, but we were ready to make our ticket time at 10:00 AM.
We drive up from the outskirts of the city toward this beautiful Victorian building. A playground surrounded by iron fencing was in front as parents took children out of minivans and placed them into strollers. Our minivan fit right in.
A little delirious from a horrible night's sleep, we walked through the door. A cheery man with a long beard sprouting out of his mask whose vest was peppered with pins opened the door and asked if we were meeting our party inside.
"Nope," I said, "We're just children at heart." This line will haunt me for the rest of my life.
"Alright, just be sure to check in at the front desk," he said somewhat tentatively.
We turned the corner, admiring the authentic and ornate architecture. I pulled out my phone because I had purchased the tickets.
"Do you have a reservation? Oh and thank you for wearing masks," a man behind the counter said.
"Yes! and of course." I slid my phone towards him.
"And are you meeting the rest of your party inside?"
"Nope," I remained cheery, a seed of doubt planting in me. "It's just us."
The man looked at his coworker. "We don't allow adults to enter without children 8 or younger."
"Oh, I'm so sorry." My friends behind me looked at each other.
"It's just a safety protocol. We used to have adult tours, but with COVID we haven't been able to have them." He looked at his computer screen and clicked his mouse. "We can give you a refund."
At this point my dignity had taken a huge blow. I wanted to frantically wave my hands and scream I promise I am not a danger to children! I just want to play with electricity or bubbles and shit!
"Of course we completely understand, and thank you for the refund" is what I actually said.
At this point my friends started apologizing as well saying "we didn't know," "we completely understand," "it's an important policy." Anything to make sure they knew we weren't child predators or support their access to children's museums, but were dumbass college students who didn't know the difference between a science museum and a children's museum.
"Alright, I've given you the refund and I've contacted someone to meet you here."
This may may have been the lowest moments of my life. I was being escorted out of a children's museum. I apparently was not trusted to walk ten feet, out the door, and back into our minivan.
Luckily, this was not the case. They called the executive director of the museum down to give us a tour. She showed us through the museum explaining the architecture and the old white people who lived in it. She took us into the ballroom with a giant play structure as tall as the ceiling. She explained how they kept the chandeliers so that kids new they belonged in fancy spaces.
As we walked through, we all realized that we would not have had anything to do. This was a museum for babies and not an interactive science museum that anyone could enjoy.
Throughout the tour, I slowly started feeling less and less shitty. She took us through staff only areas and even showed us the apartment on the top floor where a retired priest who took care of the grounds lived.
It was way nicer than where I live.
We headed back to our minivan with a mix of shame and gratefulness. I don't know what we would've done if we had to walk right out of the museum.
I generally don't like stories that end with morals, but this has an obvious one. If you want to look at cool interactive science exhibits geared toward a younger audience, look up science museums and not one for children. If you do, you may wind up with a dull shame that won't leave, no matter how much you laugh about it.
Here I am reading this piece at an open mic night that I hosted through Calvin University's Rhetoric Center.