A Mona Lisa Crush
She was expecting crowds when she went to see the Mona Lisa. She wasn't expecting a madhouse.
PARIS, France – I assumed I would spend hours standing in line at the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, and I was fine with that. I would shuffle along a slow-moving queue, chatting with fellow tourists to pass the time, sneaking M&M's from my purse to keep my blood sugar up. After what seemed like forever, it would finally be my turn to file by the masterpiece. I would enjoy no more than a moment or two absorbing La Gioconda's greatness, but it would have been worth the wait.
I was expecting a rewarding travel experience tinged with tediousness. If only it had been that genteel. I found a rude and teeming mob. Un bordel, as the French would say.
If I didn't know any better, I would have thought I was caught in a swarm of paparazzi vying to get a shot of Justin Bieber emerging from a strip club. A throng of people jostled about, most clutching cameras. The more aggressive charged forward with Canons — there were so many Canons — raised in the air, allowing no one to stand in their way. One man whacked a teenager in the ear with his enormous DSLR, which may or may not have been a Canon. I don't remember. Maybe I got hit in the head, too.
But these tourists were jockeying for a photo of the Mona Lisa (an image better captured in gift shop postcards); no one was jockeying to spend time looking with, oh, their eyes. Little wonder the painting stayed removed from the fray, hidden behind a thick layer of glass that kept museum-goers at a distance.
I just stood there observing the disturbing scene. I wanted to shout, "We're in a museum full of beautiful art! Why are you acting like this?"
But I kept quiet because crazy outbursts get you kicked out of museums.
Once I gathered the courage, I slid into the crowd and threaded my way — as delicately as I could — toward the front of the pack, turning around and snapping a few photos, including the one above, of the mob furiously photographing a work of art few of them would really look at while they had the privilege of being in her presence.
To be honest, I didn't get a good look at the painting either. I wound up off to the side of the gallery, and I didn't have the energy — or, more accurately, the jabbing elbows — required to get close to the Mona Lisa.
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